Safety is the new luxury.
Story by Sarah Ruppenthal
Bathing suit? Check. Floppy sun hat? Check. Hand sanitizer and a face mask? Check.
Packing for a Maui vacation requires a bit more forethought in the era of COVID-19 — and so does running a luxury resort. No matter which property you visit, pandemic protocols are in plain sight: Plexiglas barriers at the front desk, PPE-clad employees sanitizing every nook and cranny, physical distancing signage and protective face masks. Beyond the obvious, dozens of not-so-visible protocols are also in place, and most resorts are going above and beyond the baseline of mandated procedures to ensure their guests have the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort
“We’ve always looked out for our guests and associates,” says Mark Boettger, director of security, safety and hygiene at the Andaz Maui. “But now the emphasis is greater than it was before.”
Like nearly all of its counterparts in Wailea and Kā‘anapali, the Andaz closed temporarily in late March of 2020 due to COVID-19. Boettger made good use of the downtime and teamed up with Jackie Yulo, their director of health and wellness, to prepare for the day trans-Pacific guests would return to the property. For the Andaz, that day was November 1, 2020, a little more than two weeks after Hawai‘i’s governor, David Ige, implemented the pretravel testing program. This plan gives out-of-state visitors the option to avoid the fourteen-day mandatory quarantine with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival.
In the months leading up to the reopening, Yulo and Boettger stockpiled equipment and supplies, re-trained their resort staff and developed protocols that well exceeded the guidelines set forth by the county, state, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Yulo says their goal was twofold: to keep things as safe — and as normal — as possible.
Some of the highlights of their stepped-up measures include a fully-equipped wellness room for guests or employees with any type of health concern, as well as designated “hot” rooms to isolate anyone who has fallen ill. The Andaz Maui also partnered with a mobile medical unit to administer free and voluntary COVID-19 tests on site. Complimentary bags filled with masks, sanitizing wipes and a travel-sized bottle of locally-made hand sanitizer are distributed upon arrival, and guests have the option to check in and check out using a smartphone, which can also double as their digital room key. (Otherwise, a standard, UV-sanitized key is also available.) Bell service is optional, and for those who opt in, bags are dropped off outside the room to minimize contact. Inside the room, coffee mugs and glasses have been replaced with biodegradable, single-use drinkware, and once a guest checks out, rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized from top to bottom, and are then left empty for a full twenty-four hours.
When it comes to public spaces, all high-touch areas and surfaces, such as handrails, stairwells and elevator buttons, are sanitized every 30 minutes. Tables are spaced six feet apart in on-property restaurants, and disposable paper menus with QR codes are the new norm — just use a smartphone camera to scan and order. Poolside lounge chairs are also placed six feet apart, and if you need a squirt of hand sanitizer, there are more than sixty stations available resort-wide. “Just look to your left or right,” Boettger says. “You’ll find one.”