Journalist and producer based in Spain working for UK press. My focus here is safe travel and tourism in Spain. I also cover current affairs, business, architecture and rural regeneration, and work / have worked for The Guardian, BBC, FT, The Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Business Life, Reader's Digest, Evening Standard.
What is being done to protect tourists in Spain? A lot, is the answer. See my overview in The Guardian. The Spanish government released a set of protocols for 21 sectors of the tourism industry this month, with input coordinated by the Institute for Tourism Quality (ITCE) and approved by the Ministry of Health. You can read the draft version here governing hotels (Spanish only). While recommendations only, the organisations that adopt them and pass inspection will be able to carry the Safe Tourism Certified Seal. Despite an argument that one certification standard in Spain adopted by all would make it easier for tourists to understand what measures had been taken, there are a number of alternative initiatives, some specific to provinces and municipalities such as COVID-free Madrid. However, while the certifications have different slogans, they adhere to the same underlying recommendations, and most go the extra mile.
A week later, the EU commission set out a common framework for the Europe-wide tourist industry providing criteria to safely and gradually restore tourism activities and develop health protocols for hotels and other forms of accommodation, to protect the health of both guests and employees. The criteria include testing and contact tracing and sufficient health system capacity in case of emergencies, as well as measures to be adopted across hotels, camping sites and B&Bs to restaurants, bars and tourist attractions.
So once containment is relaxed, contact tracing apps have been introduced, borders opened and flights resume, what precautions can visitors to Spain expect?
Well-trained staff – all staff working in tourism facilities should be aware of COVID-19 symptoms and should be briefed on basic infection prevention and control. Melia is appointing someone to look after guests’ emotional wellbeing at each hotel.
Social distancing – in communal areas, inside and out. Ideally there should be 1.5m – 2m between people, and where this isn’t possible, the use of dividing screens, or masks.
Cleaning and disinfection – everywhere of course, but multiple times a day for frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and door handles, chairs and armrests, table-tops, light switches, handrails, water taps, elevator buttons, bar counter tops.
In reception? – more online or self check-in and check-out to minimise, contact between guests and staff. Otherwise, screens for protecting receptionists from guests and vice versa. Room Mates Hotels are running a competition between designers to create the most attractive screens. There may be place markers to maintain social distancing in reception areas.
Dining – where possible food should be served to the customers instead of self-service at a buffet. Where that’s not possible, there needs to be a limited number of guests at the buffet, and hand sanitiser needs to be used when they come into the restaurant and before and after visiting the buffet. Riu is one of the hotel brands planning to keep their buffet in Spain, but many hotels are providing alternatives including room service and boxed breakfasts.
Gyms – should only open if physical distancing is possible. The use of changing rooms should be avoided, and all equipment cleaned between use by each guest.
Outdoor facilities (pools, beach, playgrounds) – physical distancing of 2m between tables, loungers. Senator Hotels will have lounger staff, checking the distances between them and disinfecting after use.
Lifts – should be shared by family groups only (where possible), with regular cleaning of frequently touched surfaces (elevator button panels and hand rails) and proper ventilation. The Spanish Association of Hotel Directors (AEDH) has been working to digitise hotel services and been providing tools and know-how for hotels to introduce contactless services including app-operated lifts. That innovation and digitalisation needs to continue, says AEDH president Manuel Vegas.
Good information – the EU guidelines stress the importance of signposting (e.g. notices on walls in public areas and rooms) to inform the guests about physical distancing procedures, and of providing material locally on measures to follow in case of suspected COVID-19 cases, how to access healthcare. current guidance by local public health authorities and the specific measures put in place by your hotel.