As the world slowly reopens for travel, new protocols abound, making travel look and feel quite a bit different than what travelers have been used to. “In the new normal,” says Marc Murphy, managing director for the Riviera Nayarit Convention & Visitors Bureau, “travelers are going to prioritize sanitation and exclusivity more than ever when choosing their next travel destination.”

Riviera Nayarit
“A few weeks ago,” points out Murphy, “we debuted the Riviera Nayarit Tourism Wellness & Best Practices Guide, a handbook for destination partners on how they should enhance sanitation and safety standards to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission and be well prepared to reopen in the most optimal conditions. The guide, which compiles protocols delineated by the State of Nayarit, Mexican federal authorities, established international health organizations and the world’s leading nations, serves as a guideline to elevate the destination’s sanitation standards and regain consumer trust to visit Mexico’s Pacific Treasure soon.”

A few of these new safety measures include increasing the frequency of cleaning public areas and high-touch surfaces, requiring all employees wear PPE, and the use of signage and floor markings to ensure social distancing throughout airports, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses in the tourism sector. 

Haramara Retreat in Riviera Nayarit.

Riviera Nayarit, which opened for international travelers on June 15, recently joined the list of global destinations to earn WTTC’s Safe Travel stamp of approval, and they’re not alone in Mexico, joining Jalisco, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.

“Most properties in Riviera Nayarit have been implementing protocols and capacity limits that are established by their parent companies,” says Murphy. “Our Riviera Nayarit Wellness & Best Practices Guide includes recommendations on sanitation protocols for hoteliers to implement in their spa, fitness & wellness offerings.” Murphy stresses that travel advisors “should research beyond hotel protocols and see what the destination is doing as a whole to ensure safe travel. For instance, the Riviera Nayarit CVB is providing destination partners with resources to make sure all local establishments and travel services are educated on the new standard sanitation protocols; the CVB is hosting destination webinars to better advise travel agents on how to sell Riviera Nayarit in this new era of travel; and the CVB is actively seeking sanitation certifications to regain consumer confidence. Additionally, we advise travel agents to confirm with hotels and be well-versed in their cancellation policies, as travelers are prioritizing flexibility when rebooking their travel plans.”

He also points out that wellness travel is no longer just about spas, yoga retreats and activities that aid in mental, physical and spiritual health. “Post COVID-19, the term ‘wellness’ has evolved into a more comprehensive meaning, especially when it relates to the travel and hospitality industry. Now, wellness will also encompass hygiene, sanitation and other measures that allow for peace of mind. Moving forward, travelers will only visit destinations and hotels that have a well-rounded wellness offering and abide by strict sanitation protocols that comply with elements that will aid in assuring tranquility such as socially distant experiences and the like.”

“Post COVID-19, the term ‘wellness’ has evolved into a more comprehensive meaning, especially when it relates to the travel and hospitality industry. Before, wellness offerings mostly referred to spas, yoga retreats and activities that aid in mental, physical and spiritual health, but now wellness will also encompass hygiene, sanitation and other measures that allow for peace of mind.”
— Marc Murphy, Managing Director, Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau

Adding that, “For years, we have earned global recognition for our unique activities, stays and retreats centered around wellness and we believe these will be more popular than ever as travelers begin to seek intimate getaways with tailored experiences that allow for social distancing. In Riviera Nayarit, we are home to numerous boutique properties that offer private retreats, many of which are known for their wellness-centered activities. For example, Haramara Retreat, located in the hippie-chic beach town of Sayulita, offers travelers year-round yoga and meditation workshops on a natural stone platform with 360-degree views of the Pacific Ocean. Another popular option among wellness travelers is Mar de Jade, a haven located in the fishing town of Chacala that offers everything from retreats inspired by ancient Mexican traditions, to meditation sessions and workshops.”

AMResorts
The entire AMResorts portfolio—with many of its hotels throughout Mexico already having reopened—has implemented the CleanComplete verification program, which includes a certification process to make sure rooms meet the highest standard for hygiene cleaning, increased sanitation and social distancing throughout the resorts, express check-out service, and new staff positions have been implemented to oversee that protocols are being kept. Its resorts, which follow Cristal International Standards, the industry’s highest-level certification, was already in place before COVID-19. 

“Travel advisors should go out of the box—for the folks that maybe have traditionally traveled to other destinations, see if their considerations have expanded a little bit. Folks who perhaps are a little bit more adventurous, and have gone to places such as Thailand and Vietnam, might now be looking to stay a little closer to home because of distance or because their budget is a little bit lower. ”
— Colette Baruth, Senior Vice President, Global Commerce & Distribution, AMResorts

“I think the most important part is that the new normal with respect to health and safety has been looked at very in-depth on a multitude of different levels, and so at AMResorts, across all of the destinations we’re in, even previous to COVID, we were already operating with very strict standards under Cristal protocols,” says Colette Baruth, senior v.p. of global commerce & distribution for AMResorts. “I think what’s really important is that we have looked at protocols from the very moment travelers arrive at the front lobby, through the check-in experience, the rooms, the public areas, and restaurants, as well as back-of-house. It’s not just what they’re seeing, it’s a lot of what they aren’t seeing as well, with guidelines that we’ve established.”

For guests heading to the onsite gyms or to use sports and fitness equipment, everything is being sanitized after every use, and fitness trainers are required to wear masks. And, to support immune health, fitness center guests are offered the choice of alkaline water, which helps improve the immune system. Within the spa facilities, sanitizing gel is provided to each guest as they approach the reception. In the hydrotherapy areas, spa staff will wear special footwear that is used only in the hydrotherapy area. Spa amenities, such as robes, sandals, combs, and nail salon utensils are disinfected and presented in sealed packaging to guests. Disinfecting tablets are used to sanitize pedicure stations, and all spa therapists wear face masks to ensure proper hygiene and safety to guests, and non-latex gloves are used to provide nail services, massages, facials and other spa treatments.

“At our buffet restaurants,” adds Baruth, “we are changing the serving protocol, so guests won’t be serving themselves, they’ll be served, and tongs and spoons will be changed every 20 minutes. And for those who are not comfortable with the buffet option, they can opt for a la carte. 

“I think the customer will be very happy with what they receive when they are able to return to our resorts.”

Private spa session at Posadas’ The Explorean Kohunlich in Quintana Roo.
Private spa session at Posadas’ The Explorean Kohunlich in Quintana Roo.

Posadas
“Since the reopening of our properties in June, we partnered with 3M products as part of our Travel with Confidence protocols program for the prevention of the contagion and spread of COVID-19,” says Enrique Calderon, Posadas’ COO. “With more than 180 hotels and resorts under our Posadas brand, we wanted to make sure there was a safe, effective and easy-to-follow protocol plan to provide guests and staff with peace of mind once they’re able to travel again, and this program has allowed us to continue to provide great and elevated experiences for our guests in a worry-free environment. As a plus, all of Posadas’ properties are continuously evaluated by either the Distinctive H norms and/or the Cristal International Standards norms, which reviews the quality and handling of food and beverage. And we’re proud to say that our hotels and resorts have access to a primary doctor who can immediately assist with minor medical needs, while proper procedures and management for any potential COVID-19 cases with guests are also well-defined.”

Calderon adds that, “Wellness has always been a core pillar of our offering across our brands and, with the ‘new normal’ in full swing, we have had to adapt to guests’ needs by understanding that this is a time to recover from high levels of stress and separation from our loved ones. We developed our Travel with Confidence program to provide guests with a wellness-focused approach during their stay, with measures like disinfecting all items entering the resort, providing each guest with a health kit upon check-in with face masks, disinfecting wipes and an information card about the virus, installment of plastic barriers at reception areas, signage throughout the resorts to remind guests of social distancing measures and even reduced capacity at restaurants by 50 percent. Additionally, we also served as a resource for the development of the WTTC’s new guidelines Leading Global Protocols for the New Normal for the company’s protocols guide.”

“After COVID-19, there has been a shift in travelers’ definition of ideal experiences. Because our guests are looking to spend
more time outdoors, experiences such as golf lessons and open-air fitness classes have experienced a spike in popularity.
— Enrique Calderon, COO, Posadas

When it comes to wellness activities guests can take part in under the new standards, Calderon notes that the hotel group is “focusing on taking our wellness experiences outdoors and have received great feedback from our loyal guests. After months of quarantine, travelers are looking to reconnect with nature more than ever so we’ve been very successful at taking them out of their rooms and exposing them to Mother Nature, whether it means taking a kayak tour around our properties, practicing tai chi at our common green areas or taking a yoga class by the pool. We have also focused on updating menus at dining venues to offer healthier dishes for guests looking to detox their bodies and reset.

“After COVID-19, there has been a shift in travelers’ definition of ideal experiences,” he adds. “Because our guests are looking to spend more time outdoors, experiences such as golf lessons and open-air fitness classes have experienced a spike in popularity. However, when it comes to spa treatments and fitness centers, we have had to enforce lower capacity measures to ensure that all guests can experience a safe and clean session while enjoying a spa treatment or breaking a sweat. For guests looking to enjoy a treatment, spas across our hotels are offering sessions upon request in order to prevent guests from congregating at closed spaces like spa lobbies and hallways. Additionally, spa’s wet rooms and areas are temporarily closed, and spa capacity has been lowered following federal guidelines as a preventive measure to keep guests and staff safe and healthy during their stay. At our Posadas hotels, we have also allowed guests to take the spa to their rooms with in-room treatments.”

Under this new normal, travel advisors are invited, says Calderon, to “join our Brighter Days Ahead promotion where the top five booking agents who have a minimum of three reservations made between May 26 and Sept. 30, 2020, for travel between June 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, across our 15 La Coleccion Resorts are eligible winners of an amazing trip with seven of his/her loved ones to one of the collection’s resorts including roundtrip airfare. The award also includes a secondary trip for two people who the agent will nominate, being a healthcare professional or first responder.” 

AIC Hotel Group
“Our guests are excited about returning to the properties,” says Ash Tembe, v.p. of North America sales for AIC Hotel Group. “They are getting really cool experiences…receiving that pampering they’ve been waiting for this whole time,” he says.  

“The more [travel advisors] can set [clients] up ahead of time, the more you prepare them on certain things like the fact that we are trying not to be in the room while they’re in the room to avoid contact, so that affects housekeeping. Anything you can do to prep them will make it easier for all of us.”
— Ash Tembe, Vice President, North America Sales, AIC Hotel Group

AIC Hotel Group has implemented a set of enhanced operational protocols that include antibacterial hand-sanitizing stations, additional signage throughout back-of-house and guest areas, minimizing physical contact and an onsite 24/7 doctor to provide medical assistance as needed. Additionally, furniture placement throughout all common areas and back-of-house has been rearranged to allow for increased spacing; and select services such as buffet and teppanyaki have been eliminated, while in-room dining will now be contactless with enhanced menu options. 

Let clients know that every step of the guest journey has its own set of defined protocols, including luggage disinfection, non-invasive temperature readings via a thermal camera, a pristine check-in process, and strictly enforced hygiene and physical distancing practices throughout the spa, salon, fitness center, pool and beach areas, shows, entertainment and more.

Tembe points out that when it comes to spas, “there are less people getting treatments, all personnel will be wearing face masks, and we’re cutting down on equipment use.” 

Open-air yoga at a Hard Rock Hotel property.

In addition to the aforementioned, the all-inclusive Hard Rock Hotels—with its Mexico properties already reopen—implemented the global Hard Rock SAFE + SOUND program powered by Ecolab, which includes detailed guidelines and protocols followed by all branded properties around the world, while UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya, which reopened
in early June, rolled out the S.A.F.E., safe and friendly environment experience, establishing and reinforcing enhanced protocols. 

And Tembe reminds travel advisors that it’s important they get their clients “ready for their vacation by reading all of the protocols, and what it means. The more you can set them up ahead of time, the more you prepare them on certain things like the fact that we are trying not to be in the room while they’re in the room to avoid contact, so that affects housekeeping. Anything you can do to prep them will make it easier for all of us.”

Health & Safety Protocols Information
AMResorts: info.amresorts.com/cleancomplete
Haramara Retreat: haramararetreat.com
Hard Rock Hotels: hardrockhotels.com/safe-and-sound.aspx
Mar de Jade: mardejade.com
Posadas: posadas.com/en/home
Riviera Nayarit CVB: covid19.nayarit.gob.mx
UNICO 20º87º Hotel Riviera Maya: unicohotelrivieramaya.com/en/info/covid-19 measures-unico