#COVID19 FORCES MAJOR CHANGES IN HOTEL OPERATIONS
(Posted 03rd of July 2020)
(Impressions of the Kampala Serena Hotel as reopening day unfolds)
As hotel operations go underway again in Uganda, will guests checking into their choice places find out that a ‘New Normal‘ awaits them on arrival, from the main gate’s security checkpoint to the check in at the reception to the restaurants and the rooms.
The Kampala Serena, now open again – alongside sister operation Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort & Spa – provided ATCNews’ publisher with a text book study how hotels have implemented local guidelines for health and safety alongside even more stringent standards adopted by international hospitality operators over and above minimum requirements needed to get the green light for a relaunch of operations.
Being the most responsive among Kampala’s leading hotels, has the Kampala Serena Hotel allowed ATCNews a look behind the scenes to share with readers the impact the global pandemic has on hotel operations and what guests can expect in terms of ‘novelties‘ and changes.
On arrival at the main perimeter gate are visitors now required to not only wear face masks – otherwise one cannot be allowed to enter the hotel’s compound – but also sanitize hands and have their temperature checked. This is over and above the regular security check being carried out on vehicles and visitors before entry is permitted.
When the car pulls up at the main portico, will all handles and surfaces of suitcases and bags first be sanitized before the porters take the luggage indoors while guests, just minutes after sanitizing hands at the main security gate, are again asked to sanitize before they are guided through the rotating entrance doors – already showing the sign on the floor requiring physical distancing.
Items placed on the security scanner are also sanitized by the guards on duty, using a new spray gadget before going through the XRay machine.
Once inside the hotel lobby are three check in stations available for guests, with marks on the floor clearly signalling the separation requirements – unlike in the past when the reception was often packed with guests, either checking in our out.
Guest details, preferably already given to the hotel when making the reservation, are checked before a key card is handed over – AFTER it has been sterilized in front of the guest with a UV light device – just to ensure that the touch card, which allows access in the elevator to the correct floor and then opens the room door, is also absolutely clean.
Getting into the room does also await a new reality.
A welcome letter explains why the regular ‘turn down service‘ has been suspended though is available on special request. This avoids the added interaction of housekeeping staff with guests.
With health and safety foremost in the mind of management and staff has the hotel also placed a small bottle of sanitizer, hygienic wipes and a face mask in the room for guest use.
As a result of the pandemic, and to meet local health authority guidelines, do some facilities in the hotel remain closed for now, among those the pool, the Spa and gym, the Bambara and Executive lounges but also the Mist Bar, the Explorer Bistro and the award winning Pearl of Africa Restaurant.
Open, 24 / 7, is The Lakes Restaurant though the large and always tempting buffet displays have given way to regular orders from the menu – which guests can scan and read on their smartphone – although the regular printed menus are still available on request and then sanitized after every use.
Tables at the restaurant, indoors and outdoors, are clearly separated from each other, reducing seating capacity by nearly 50 percent, a requirement of local health authorities.
Food is served by waiting staff wearing masks and who are required to sanitize their hands every time they enter and leave the kitchen area.
And about the food – here the Serena tradition of only the best continues.
The breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner quality remains outstanding, the presentation is eye-catching and the taste something yours truly and no doubt many many others in Kampala have been waiting for to sample again for the past several months.
Additional information will be shared over the coming days vis a vis Serena’s conferencing and catering approach, all meeting local but more important the international standards the International Hotel and Restaurant Association and leading hotel groups have developed to ensure the safety and health of their staff just as much as of their guests.