By Nathan Ham
Things will probably look a little different if you are planning on traveling and checking into a hotel in the near future.
At the Best Western Hotel in Banner Elk, workers are doing everything they can to protect themselves and overnight guests and have been doing so since so many things changed two months ago due to COVID-19.
“In late March, we had to close to non-essential guests. They had to provide a letter from their employer that they were doing essential work in the county. It reduced our occupancy dramatically,” said hotel manager Shannon Maness.
Some nights as few as three rooms were booked for essential workers.
Now, with North Carolina and most other states in the country slowly opening back up for business, hotels are focusing on extra cleaning and eliminating as many contact points as possible.
“We have enhanced our cleaning measures. To keep everyone safe, we’ve got plexiglass covering the front desk. We’re not doing stay-over service right now, so anybody staying multiple nights doesn’t get housekeeping, but they do get a bag on their door with extra amenity items,” said Maness. “When they check out, the room is put out of service for 72 hours. We have a fog machine that fully disinfects the room. Then it sits again and we do a deep clean.”
Before guests arrive, Maness says that the hotel staff will contact them prior to arrival and ask that they practice proper social distancing measures when they arrive at the hotel. Families are also asked to send just one person into the lobby to check-in and all they have to do is pick up their room keys as their credit card will have been pre-charged for the stay.
Inside the rooms, all papers like restaurant advertisements or marketing information have been temporarily removed and everything is laundered and totally sanitized after guests leave.
Even with the lack of guests, Maness says that they remained fully staffed through these tough times.
“We have been working on a lot of deep cleaning of public areas and stayed fully staffed working on projects that needed to get done. Things we would normally outsource such as window washing and carpet cleaning, we have been able to do,” she said.
Currently, Best Western is able to rent out 50 percent of their rooms and so far and have been taking a lot of calls to find out if they are open. Most of the people coming up for a quick getaway have been here to hike and take advantage of the outdoor beauty that the High Country has to offer.