Last week we reported on the welcome news that hotels in Singapore can now apply for permission to accept staycation guests, providing local residents the opportunity to enjoy a change of scenery without leaving the country, given the strict travel restrictions that remain in force both in Singapore and around the world.
Hotels across the city are now busy making their applications to the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which will be assessed over up to 14 days by the STB and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), prior to approval being granted.
Marketing of staycation offers and bookings will then be permitted.
What hotels need to demonstrate
In their applications, hotels must show that they can achieve the following five key outcomes:
- Ability to meet density requirements.
- Reduce face-to-face mingling among guests, between employees and between staff and guests.
- Ability to disperse crowds and prevent bunching.
- Mandatory implementation of SafeEntry App and encouraged use of TraceTogether App.
- Rigorous cleaning and disinfecting regimes, particularly for high touch elements.
The Phase 2 staycation experience
Once approved, hotels will have to follow a series of new mandatory regulations. Additionally they can consider applying some or all of STB’s recommended practices.
Perhaps it seems obvious, but the first thing you’ll have to ensure before checking in for your staycation is that you’re well.
Everyone who enters the hotel, plus every guest facility within the hotel such as a bar or restaurant, must be screened by staff. This will comprise:
- A temperature check (anything above 38oC is considered a fever).
- A visual check for symptoms including fever, coughing, sneezing, breathlessness, a runny nose, or if an individual reports of a loss of the sense of smell.
Again rather obviously, you can’t take a staycation if you are subject to a quarantine order or a Stay Home Notice (SHN).
You’ll also be required to register your SafeEntry information when entering or leaving the hotel. Check out this excellent guide on how to use the SingPass App like a pro when checking in and out across the city.
Hotels are also recommended to encourage visitors to download and use the TraceTogether App, to enable efficient contact tracing if required.
Properties will have to reduce capacity and inter-mingling in the lobby areas. This will require the mandatory staggering of check-in and check-out timings for guests staying in different rooms.
Capacity of the lobby area will be strictly limited to 1 person per 10 square metres of space available to guests and visitors.
This will allow some of the larger hotels to have many guests checking in or out at once, however properties with small reception areas like Raffles and The Barracks Sentosa might realistically only be able to process one or two rooms at a time.
Our prediction: While you might be allocated a ‘time slot’ for arrival, we think many hotels will simply adopt online or in-room check-in. Similarly, expect a ‘key drop’ or express check-out option.
In addition to the usual details you’ll have to provide on check-in, STB rules also require you to state the reason for your stay. Work pass holders will also have to state the name and contact details of their employer.
“Requiring every guest, before providing them accommodation, to make a declaration as to his or her purpose in staying at the hotel and, where the guest is the holder of a work pass issued under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, to provide the name of the employer as specified in the work pass and the contact number or other contact particular of the employer.”
Singapore Tourism Board
Mask wearing, naturally, will be mandatory for all guests within the hotel, except when in your room or when eating or drinking.
Other fairly logical requirements for the lobby and lift areas include:
- Implementing queue markers with at least one-metre spacing between individuals where queues are expected.
- Spacing all seats at lobbies and other common areas that are not fixed to the floor at least one metre apart, and demarcating alternate seats at lobbies and other common areas that are fixed to the floor as seats not to be occupied.
- Demarcating flooring in all lift lobbies, lifts and smoking areas to limit capacity to at least one-metre spacing between individuals.
- Maintaining at least one-metre spacing between terminals at the front desk.
- At least one staff member or contractor on duty at all times “to ensure the hotel is compliant with the Control Order and the mandatory safe management measures.”
Other recommendations include:
- Suspending valet services.
- Propping open entry doors or activating automated doors to minimise contact with door handles.
- Offering virtual key cards for enablement on mobile phones of guests.
- Implementing cash-free contactless payment methods with soft-copy receipts sent via emails.
STB recommends that welcome drinks, where provided, be served in guests’ rooms instead of at the lobby. At some hotels this will likely coincide with our prediction of some form of in-room check in.
Once you’ve made it to your room, you’ll have to remember to continue to abide by the maximum group size of five persons when inviting any guests. The exception is where your gathering consists wholly of individuals from the same household (i.e. same address).
For example a couple can invite up to three guests (they don’t normally live with) to visit their room. A family of four can invite only one guest (they don’t normally live with) to visit their room, but can have as many guests as they like to their room if they all normally live at the same address anyway.
Note: This is not the same as the Phase 2 allowance for households to receive up to five visitors at any one time. The total group size in your hotel room must not exceed five individuals in total, unless everyone in the group is normally resident at the same address.
Hotels must disperse guests and visitors quickly if the maximum permissible group size is exceeded.
STB recommends that in-room dining is served via packaged delivery of the food, drink, crockery and utensils, left outside the guest room or via autonomous delivery technology.
This is not mandatory, however we expect many hotels to adopt this method to minimise physical staff and guest interaction.
Hotels should also avoid reusables such as cloth napkins and placemats, and instead favour single use items for in-room dining. They should also encourage guests to leave the dining crockery, utensils and waste outside the room after the meal, or return it via autonomous delivery technology.
Mini-bar items should be provided only on request via packaged delivery left outside the guest room or via autonomous delivery technology. Again this is not mandatory, however as it will prevent the need for thorough cleaning of unused mini-bar items between each guest visit, we expect many hotels will indeed adopt this procedure.
Common ice machines and water coolers in hotel corridors are to be deactivated.
STB also recommends that housekeeping services operate on an ‘opt-in’ basis during Phase 2, so if you are staying for more than one night and wish your room to be serviced do check whether you will need to request this.
Instead of the regular daily housekeeping service, hotels can consider providing bags for laundry, soiled towels and bedding for collection without entering the guest room. Clean linen can also be left at the door for guests to change their own bedding if they wish.
Our prediction: Don’t worry too much about this if you have a longer stay. Especially at the high-end hotels, we expect the regular housekeeping service will be offered as usual.
Most hotels have already reopened many of their bars and restaurants earlier in Phase 2, in accordance with Enterprise Singapore’s Safe Management Measures.
These rules will continue to apply when those properties also receive approval to accept staycation guests. Measures include:
- Table and seating management (group size and spacing)
- Queue management
- Crowd management
- Contact tracing
- Health checks
- Cleanliness and hygiene
Self-service buffets are not permitted in Phase 2, so any regular buffet service including many popular hotel breakfast spreads will revert to à la carte format.
One important aspect to remember is that the sales and consumption of alcohol in all F&B establishments is prohibited after 10.30pm daily. This also applies to staycation guests in hotel bars and restaurants, even if those facilities are exclusive to hotel guests.
However, staycation guests can continue consumption of alcohol in their own rooms after 10.30pm.
Club lounges in hotels are already permitted to open under Safe Management Measures.
Swimming pool and gym
Hotels must control access by guests to shared facilities like swimming pools and fitness centres, in order to minimise physical interaction.
Additionally, Sport Singapore’s latest guidelines for Safe Management Measures in Phase 2 must be applied at these facilities.
These include capacity constraints of 10 square metres per person or 50 persons in total, whichever is lower, for facilities that are larger than 50 square metres, to minimise the risk of large clusters forming.
For facilities smaller than 50 square metres, hotels have to ensure that physical distancing measures are observed.
The use of booking systems is encouraged to ensure there is no overcrowding, including in changing rooms.
Our prediction: Booking time slots at the gym or swimming pool for you and your fellow guests is the most likely procedure hotels will adopt. If so, consider arranging this at the beginning of your stay or even in advance of your arrival, so that you don’t miss out. Time limits are likely to apply (e.g. 90 minutes) to give as many guests as possible the opportunity to use the facilities.
Spa and wellness
Many hotels have already reopened their spa facilities earlier in Phase 2, in accordance with Enterprise Singapore’s Safe Management Measures.
These rules will continue to apply when those properties also receive approval to accept staycation guests. Measures for spa services include:
- Encourage appointment bookings, implement queue management and booking system to stagger customer appointments.
- Ensure good ventilation in the premises.
- Assign one therapist to follow-through all treatments with the same customer.
- Refrain from serving food and beverages to customers and remove shared items such as magazines and newspapers.
- All clothing, towels and bedding must be changed after use by every customer (hopefully this was always the case!).
- All equipment must be cleaned and sanitised after use by every customer. Allow sufficient time within operating hours for thorough cleaning.
- Establish a schedule to disinfect common areas and high-touch points regularly (e.g. waiting areas, checkout counters).
- Encourage customers to sanitise hands before and after every service.
- When tools are used to apply beauty products on customers, employees should not dip the same tools more than once into beauty product containers without sanitisation. Single-use massage oil, creams and beauty products are encouraged to prevent cross-contamination.
Our prediction: Available slots in hotel spas are likely to be limited due to reduced capacity and increased cleaning time. Get ready to make your booking in advance of your stay to avoid disappointment.
Hotels with a kids club wishing to be approved for staycations must abide by Safe Management Measures applied by the STB for attractions reopening.
- 25% capacity limit
- One-metre distancing, except within a group of visitors from the same cohort or, where impractical, one metre distancing between groups of not more than five, with no mixing between groups
- Contact tracing
- Rigorous cleaning and disinfecting regimes, particularly for high touch elements
Hotels who wish to use their function areas must ensure that gatherings are limited to no more than five individuals, with the following exceptions:
- Marriage solemnisations are limited to 20 individuals. No wedding reception is allowed.
- Classes and external training provided by permitted enterprises are limited to 50 individuals. Safe management measures must be implemented, including ensuring at least one-metre safe distance between all individuals, or if individuals must be less than one-metre apart, they should be in groups of no more than five, with at least one-metre distance between groups.
- A capacity limit of 10 square metres per person applies for facilities that are larger than 930 square metres in size.
Cleaning and disinfection
As you might imagine, many of the additional regulations for hotels to comply with for approval to accept staycation bookings relate to cleaning and disinfection measures.
In the common areas, these include:
- Keeping the hotel front office, lobby and similar areas in a safe and sanitary condition.
- Cleaning and disinfecting common areas frequently, including high-touch areas such as handrails, door handles, reception counters, and lift buttons.
- Inspecting common areas frequently for cleanliness.
- Providing at all times adequate toilet paper, soap or liquid detergent, litter bins, and clean towels or hand dryers in common area and staff toilets.
- Providing at all times easily accessible disinfecting agents like hand sanitisers, disinfectant sprays, paper towels and wipes for the free use of guests, visitors and staff at common areas, including near high-touch surfaces such as handrails, door handles, reception counters, and lift buttons.
- Sanitising keys and key cards before handing over to guests.
In terms of the corridors, guest rooms and room service, additional requirements include:
- Keeping the hotel rooms, and corridors and similar common areas in a safe and sanitary condition.
- Washing and treating bed linen at high temperature between changes.
- Deep cleaning carpets and upholstery between different guests occupying the room.
- Sanitising room service equipment before and after each use.
- Providing adequate disinfecting agents like hand sanitisers, disinfectant sprays, paper towels and wipes in guest rooms at all times.
- Using hospital-grade disinfectants when cleaning the most frequently touched guest room areas and equipment, including light switches, door handles, TV remotes, thermostats, etc.
- Reviewing and maintaining Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning controls and air quality to ensure high functioning ventilation and air exchange.
Again we would hope that many of these procedures are followed anyway, though we’ve seen some pretty horrendously dirty-looking TV remotes in hotel rooms in our time!
Government-contracted SHN hotels
Many hotels providing government-contracted services to accommodate SHN guests will not apply to accept staycations, however they are not necessarily prevented from doing so.
Hotels with some SHN guests will have to ensure compliance with the following additional requirements if they also wish to accept staycation guests:
- Ensuring that any staycation / leisure guests are not allocated accommodation or permitted to enter a room occupied by a guest subject to a movement control measure (PSHN).
- Allocating all PSHN rooms at dedicated floors or, where possible, dedicated wings or tower blocks that are segregated from staycation guests.
- Bringing every PSHN guest to his or her allocated room in a manner that will ensure that they do not come within one metre of any other guest or visitor.
- Implementing safeguards to better ensure PSHN guests do not leave their rooms, and implementing surveillance to detect PSHN guests leaving their rooms.
- Displaying notices that the hotel is providing COVID-19 related accommodation, and ensuring that such notices are visible to visitors (e.g. patrons of F&B establishments), and non-SHN (staycation) hotel guests.
Hotels will also have to submit a weekly online set of data via a government website, inform STB whenever there is a positive COVID-19 case at their property, and have a response plan in the event of suspected or confirmed infections.
The staycation experience will understandably not quite be as we once knew it during Phase 2 of Singapore’s reopening.
Hotels applying for permission to accept staycation guests will have to demonstrate compliance with a significant list of procedures and checklists to receive approval, many of which will change the experience from that we’re more typically used to.
The most significant changes are the likelihood of having to pre-book use of hotel facilities like swimming pools, fitness centres and spas. That might take a little pre-arrival organisation on your part, and will unfortunately mean your staycation experience is probably on more of a ‘fixed schedule’ than it normally would be.
The STB has a dedicated page listing approved hotels for staycation bookings. Currently it is blank, but you may want to bookmark this one to see which hotels begin to appear on the list.
The first staycation-approved hotels in Singapore are expected to start allowing guests from 18th July 2020.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)