Unlock 3.0 and soon to be effective Unlock 4.0 are bringing in many relaxations in travel restrictions within the country. But are people ready to travel again? The answer is yes, slowly and steadily, and by adapting to the new normal. Long stays in remote places have already been seeing many takers, as city dwellers are switching to "work from someplace else than home". Weekend getaways to luxury hotels are warming up too, with attractive deals for guests to avail. But the question that lies in everyone's mind is how safe is it, especially a hotel stay that is not restricted to one family alone?
While hotels have introduced strict safety and sanitisation measures, we at NDTV Swirlster decided to experience it for ourselves and find out how safe a hotel stay really is. So, on a weekend, we set out for a 2-night stay at the gorgeous Narendra Bhawan in Bikaner, which has been creating a buzz with its new deals and packages. Being away from the usual tourist hotspots, that's precisely what makes Bikaner a great escape from Delhi, Mumbai and surrounding cities. From Delhi, Bikaner is about a 7-8 hours drive and there are daily flights available too (takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes).
While every state has their own rules for inter and intra state travel, a drive or flight to Rajasthan requires no COVID tests. Basic safety rules like wearing a mask are mandatory, and if travelling by flight, then temperature checks, health declarations, having the Aarogya Setu app and wearing the in-flight protective gear are part of the guidelines. Anyone not meeting the health check is immediately taken for tests.
Before checking into Narendra Bhawan, we were sent information on the COVID-19 protocols followed by the hotel and also asked to fill in a Self Declaration Form for COVID-19, which included travel details as well as health status.
Also read: A weekend getaway to Bikaner
Guests arriving from restricted countries or regions are required to share detailed information,as prescribed by the Ministry of Tourism's protocols, prior to arrival. All information required for registration is requested in advance to reduce the time spent upon arrival and make the process digital. Digitised check-out formalities with e-bills and online payments are available on request.
How has COVID changed hotel procedures? Siddharth Yadav, vice president-operations at Narendra Bhawan said, "We have opened up only limited rooms with 25% of our work staff, who are all residing at the property. This ensures we restrict movement out to the city. Guests are accommodated on alternate floors and we are strictly following WHO guidelines on sanitisation. We frequently sanitise all parts of the hotel, luggage, cars and every touch point and also organise COVID tests for the staff. Temperature checks are strictly conducted for all who enter the property and you will find all staff in masks and gloves and maintaining distance."
Here are some of the measures we experienced when we arrived at the hotel:
We underwent temperature checks right at the entrance of the hotel. Guests running a temperature of more than 99*F are not permitted to enter the hotel. They are provided medical assistance and advised further course of action.
Doorman, managers and staff greeted us while maintaining a safe distance, with no physical contact. We all wore masks, which is mandatory and available for anyone who does not have one.
Our baggage was sanitised on arrival. We were told WHO prescribed formulated disinfectants are used to sanitise luggage, rooms, restaurants and the whole hotel property.
Hand sanitisers and disposable masks were available readily at the entrance of the lobby and in various sections of the hotel (lift too). In the rooms, there were hand sanitisers for personal use. Medical kits were available at the front desk, which included disposable gloves, face masks, safety glasses, PPE kit and bio disposable garbage bags.
In true Narendra Bhawan's style of pampering its guests, a neem bath awaited us in our room, which is a natural way to disinfect the body as well as feel rejuvenated after a journey.
In the restaurant, we saw a safe distance between tables. The tables and chairs were sanitised before and after every meal period and after every guest use. We saw no physical menu at the restaurant and in fact discussed our meal options with the waiter.
We availed the spa services too and found sanitisation measures strictly in place. Towels were replaced with disposable linen and the masseur sanitising their hands before and after treatment.
It's evident that safety is at the top of the mind for everyone, and these measures are in place to ensure a safe stay.