A five-star Ras Al Khaimah hotel has stepped up safety measures as it prepares for a surge in guests during the Eid Al Fitr holiday.
The Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort and Spa is one of 45 hotels across the emirate subject to a rigorous inspection regime to ensure they are abiding by strict guidelines implemented by authorities to protect the public during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The 475-room establishment is operating at 75 per cent capacity in line with rulings issued by government officials.
There is unlikely to be a lull during the traditionally busy period, however, as each room available for Eid has already been snapped up as people unable to take overseas breaks look closer to home for relaxation.
For Helen Jacobe, cluster general manager of both Hilton Resort and Spa and Hilton Garden Inn in RAK, its is crucial to be mindful of Covid-19 measures without detracting from the luxury hotel experience for guests.
“It is a challenge to ensure our guests have an enjoyable experience whilst making sure that they respect the safety measures," said Ms Jacobe.
“We have constant reminders in place, lots of signage and team members constantly reminding guests. However, we also need guests to take a common sense approach to social distancing so that all guests can have a safe and enjoyable time.
“Another challenge is managing our operations and team members given current curfew times. Ensuring we have the right people in the right place at the right time is challenging.”
Regular inspections are conducted by hotel management alongside independent assessments by Bureau Veritas, a global inspection firm.
Upon arrival, guests need to self park their vehicles as valet services were suspended in order to minimise direct human interaction.
“Luggage services are still available under safety precautions and guests can opt-out the service if they wish to handle it themselves,” said Ms Jacobe.
Guests still need to hand over identification documents, such as an ID or passport, upon checking in and sign the reservation papers but from a one-meter distance away from the check-in desk, using pre-sterilised pens.
Staff must wear face masks at all times while guests must wear them when checking in and out of the hotel and if sitting in the hotel's lobby or indoor areas.
"Guests can take off their masks while at the swimming pool, beach and while dining in a restaurant," said Ms Jacobe.
The hotel has ten restaurants and two bars and they can operate at 30 per cent capacity with tables placed one metre apart.
Card payments are encouraged but not mandatory.
“Check-in timing has been changed from 2pm to 3pm in order to give the housekeeping staff more time to clean and disinfect the room before handing it over to another guest,” said Ms Jacobe.
The hotel room cleaning process has been ramped up in keeping with the new safety measures.
“We will be launching a new set of cleaning protocols called CleanStay next month which we have already started implementing,” said Ms Jacobe.
“The new standards will include disinfecting most frequently touched items and areas in the room such as remote controls, electrical switches and door handles, and placing a seal on the disinfected room door.”
In-room towels and bathrobes are also wrapped in plastic bags and sealed to indicate to the guest that they have been cleaned, sterilised and ready to be used.
Around 20 employees were assigned to implement social distancing and safety measures at the hotel’s nine swimming pools and its two-kilometre beach.
Marwan Aridi, certification manager at Bureau Veritas, said that their role is to make sure everyone is doing his job properly according to the required regulations.
“Our inspectors will arrange for an onsite inspection and two unannounced visits at the 45 hotels in Ras Al Khaimah to validate the precautionary measures according to the tourism authority’s guidelines,” he said.
The inspector’s checklist includes ensuring physical distancing measures have been put in place, hotel managers are well informed about the Covid-19 regulations and if the cleaning, disinfecting and hygiene protocols have been updated to specifically address the pandemic.
Nothing is left to chance during the stringent inspections.
Inspectors check the concentration of disinfectant in water for consumption and in pools or spas against international standards.
They also make clear if staff have been trained on Covid-19 preventative measures, including hygiene, use of protective equipment, social distancing and any other local regulatory requirement.
Hotel facilities which meets all the inspection criteria will be rewarded with a certificate valid for six months under the ‘Safeguard Assurance Programme’, an initiative launched by the RAK Tourism Development Authority in partnership with Bureau Veritas.