In this exclusive Q&A, Mr. Schaaf, Vice President of Operations at Tafer Hotels & Resorts, takes some time out of his very busy schedule to share what we are doing to keep our members and staff safe.
Firstly, tell me a little bit about you?
Prior to joining Tafer Resorts in January of 2017, I worked as the Director of Supply Chain & Development for Starwood Hotels based in New York where I was responsible for Latin America. My professional background is a very operational one commencing with my first experiences in the Kitchen back in my native Germany and gradually growing in operational positions to General Manager. Since 2004, I have been occupying more corporate driven roles but always very much focused on the Hotel Operation, which is my passion. I have worked in 9 different countries; being able to teach, guide and mentor our associates as well as property leaders to serve our members and guests, is a daily dose of motivation and professional fulfillment.
Can you tell us what the resorts have been doing to prepare for the members to return after the quarantine is over?
As we start to adapt to a ‘new normal’, we have updated all of our current hygiene and sanitation protocols based on the industry standards for resorts operations. These updates include the installation of thermal cameras at the resort entrance to conduct a non-invasive temperature check of each person entering the resort. Anyone showing a temperature over 100°F / 38°C will be directed for a second screening and attended by the hotel’s doctor. In addition, we have equipped housekeeping supervisors with UV lights so they can check all the room surfaces and ensure deep cleaning practices. Housekeeping has been trained to clean high touch surfaces more frequently and continuously.
As well, we have updated our handwashing policy. The Food and Beverage team will be required to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes and whenever necessary. This practice will be overseen by each supervisor and manager.
All staff have been trained to practice social distancing, and to wear PPE such as face masks.
What else have the resorts been doing to prepare for the Health & Safety of our members?
Upon arrival, all luggage will be sanitized prior to suite delivery and guest Room keycards will be disinfected prior to each Check-in. All guests will receive a welcome amenity mask.
We have made the switch from buffets to a la carte menus. All menus will be disinfected after each use. In addition, we embrace technology and all menus will be available via a QR Code.
We have added automatic hand sanitizer dispensers at strategic locations throughout the resorts, such as Reception, Concierge, Lobby, Restrooms, Restaurants, Bars, Pool and Beach areas, which will be checked and refilled regularly.
Guests will be advised to practice social distancing by standing at least 6 Feet / 1.8 Meters away from other groups of people not traveling with them while standing in lines, using elevators, or moving around the property. No more than four guests will be permitted per elevator, except for guests staying in the same room.
Post COVID-19, what will the new guest experience look like?
Our guests and members will notice a difference in certain things around the resort such as all staff will be wearing masks and practice the institutional hand on the heart greeting instead of smiles, for the time being. Social distancing will be promoted and restaurant seating and lounge chairs at the pool and beach will be arranged to ensure appropriate distances. We are talking about adding an assisted buffet service with a chef attending to each guest at the buffet when the time is right. There will be reduced and controlled capacity in the gym and at the spa and by appointment only.
We will adjust these practices according to guidelines from the World Health Organization and other industry sources as we receive updates.
We hope and expect to see a return to more normal conditions as the COVID-19 curve drops, so that there will be no further measures required for social distancing or the use of mandatory masks, but again that depends on the guidance we receive and the revised industry trends.
Safety is a big consideration now because of COVID-19, what are we doing to inspire member confidence that our resorts are safe and clean?
Members can be reassured that we are following Industry leading cleaning and sanitizing protocols, and that we will pay particular attention to the high-touch surfaces identified.
We have already implemented new technologies such as the thermal cameras at the entrances and ultraviolet lights for deep cleaning of the suites.
What happens if a guest or member gets sick at the resort?
There is a protocol in place that if any guest shows any symptoms of COVID-19 such as a fever, cough, shortness of breath or other known symptoms, our staff will immediately direct them to the hotel’s doctor for further evaluation.
The hotel and the member or guest will carry out the specific measures and recommendations that the doctor determines after the evaluation.
How will social distancing affect the normal activities carried out at the resort?
All activities involving high contact such as volleyball, cooking classes and tequila tastings, will be temporarily suspended.
For other activities that are in the open air or are not high contact, they will continue, but the number of participants will be reduced to ensure social distancing.
Again, as we move into the next phase, we expect that these protective measures will phase out and eventually activities will return to normal again.
For guests preferring to order room service instead of dining at the hotel restaurants, are the full restaurant menus available?
Our room service menu is a full menu. Our waiters that present the service will follow the guest preferences on where the service is placed.
For guests preferring to eat in the restaurants, will the maximum capacity be lowered?
We have reduced the restaurant capacity by 50 per cent and arranged the tables to ensure appropriate social distancing.
Will guests and members be required to wear their masks on site or will they be optional?
Guests will receive one complimentary welcome amenity mask when they check-in, but currently they are not required to wear their mask around the property. That decision is solely up to them. We will have an in-house TV channel with health and hygiene tips on handwashing techniques and applying hand sanitizer gel.
What do you see as the future tourism trends?
We will see a more stringent health and hygiene protocol. Guests will expect luxury ambiance combined with quality of service. I think that overall guests will be looking for much deeper experiences with a focus on wellness.
While some travelers will be very concerned about health and safety, I think overall everyone is anxious to get this behind us and look to the future. Human beings are not built to be on lockdown practicing social distancing. We are built for contact. We need other people to be psychologically healthy and to feel alive, and also to conduct business.
Do you see Tafer Resorts moving towards digital check-in and digital room keys for contactless entry?
We are currently evaluating the technology to move away from keycards to proximity bracelets that will allow guests to open the suite door, indicate their meal plan and status and eventually sign their checks digitally. We hope that this will be realized at some point in the future, but currently we haven’t found the exact technology we need.
Is there any official message from you that you would like to share with the members?
We have been receiving questions from members such as: is the pool open, is the spa open, is the gym open. I would like to share with you all that we are officially open for business and offering full services.
We have been preparing every day to offer our members the best and safest vacation experience at their home away from home. Despite this pandemic that has thrown the entire world a little bit off course, we are getting back on track. And we are eager to get back to doing what we do best, delivering the excitement and unforgettable vacations that our members expect.
Remember, we are in this together! We miss you and we can’t wait to see you again. See you soon!