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Transport and accommodation are getting prepared for the new normal

  • 29 mai 2020 29 mai 2020
  • Royaume-Uni & Europe

  • Aviation

After the outbreak of COVID-19 in our lives, we all have to adapt at a dizzying speed to the new normal and, as we will see, tourism is one of the sectors that has to undertake more measures to do so.

Authors: Azahara García and Náyila Hernández

As the European Commission stated on the 15th of May 20201, the freedom of movement of people is gradually being restored which, together with the beginning of the summer, is expected to generate a revival of tourism in the coming weeks.

Therefore, in this article we propose to briefly review the main recommendations published for transport and tourist accommodation, for which we will mention the Guidelines of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)2, as well as the measures of the SND/399/2020 of the 9th of May 2020 of the Ministry of Health and the guide published by the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, prepared by the ICTE (Instituto para la Calidad Turística Española) at the request of the Secretary of State for Tourism "Measures to reduce the spread of the SARSCoV-2 coronavirus".

Before starting our systematized analysis of both areas (transport and accommodation) we must indicate that there are some elementary guidelines that are commonly applied and that, to a greater or lesser extent, we have already internalized, such as frequent hand washing, avoiding touching the face, maintaining a social distancing between 1 and 2 meters and, when this is not possible, the use of face masks.

Focusing on transport, we must start by addressing one of the most discussed issues, namely safety in aircrafts, which is achieved through the use of HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) air filters, which ensure that the air in the cabin never becomes stagnant as it is mixed with air from outside and filtered by a high-efficiency recirculation system.

In fact, and as explained by the industry in the face of opinions suggesting that seats should be left empty, the use of this type of filter means that no other mean of transport is as efficient in protecting the passenger as aircrafts3.

With respect to the rest of means of transport (trains and buses), its capacity is limited to 50% in order to respect the safety distance and the use of face masks is mandatory.

In addition, employees (drivers or pilots, crew members, etc.) are provided with protective equipment (face masks, gloves, etc.), even in some cases, wearing protective clothing over uniforms and goggles4.

After this brief introduction, we will make an analysis of the different phases of the trip and the most relevant recommendations that affect them, being the fundamental premise not to travel if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough or difficulty breathing).

1. Before the trip: passengers must be informed of possible restrictions and health protocols being put at their disposal. It must also be required the express acceptance of the measures in place.

Carriers, especially airlines, are also advised to collect more information from passengers - which can be used, if necessary, for tracking purposes - and where possible, data should be provided electronically before the person arrives to the terminal or station.

Once there, travellers will have to go through a temperature test that will be implemented at the entry points or through security controls with contactless thermometers.

While waiting, in addition to the installation of safety screens at the help desks, it is recommended that safety distance is maintained by means of visual signs on the floor, calling in the order of 2 to 3 rows at a time to avoid crowding. It should be also remembered that vehicles will be disinfected before and after the journeys.

2. During the journey: in addition to the mandatory wearing of face masks, it must be ensured that passengers do not remain on board a mean of transport without adequate ventilation for more than 30 minutes.

The main recommendations during the journey are to eliminate the on-board newspaper in order to reduce unnecessary contacts between travellers and to avoid, as far as possible, travellers opening their luggage racks during the journey. In the case of aircrafts, it is also proposed to limit hand luggage by increasing the weight allowed in check-in baggage.

In transports providing catering services the method of service will also change, being preferable the use of bento-style boxes, which will provide food and beverages in a more secure manner.

Finally, disinfection kits such as disposable wipes and gloves will be provided to all passengers and crew, especially for long-distance journeys

3. After the journey: once at the destination point, it is recommended that disembarkation is carried out in an orderly manner, with travellers asked not to go out into the corridors until those in the preceding rows have left.

In addition, for international journeys, simplifying border and customs controls through virtual processes or affidavits is valued to minimize contact between people.

As far as baggage collection is concerned, measures are being considered to provide a fast service avoiding crowds and, finally, access to terminals and stations by relatives or friends of travellers is prohibited, limiting access only to people who have travelled or are going to travel.

This is a brief summary of the recommendations during the different phases of journeys that apply to all means of transport and especially to air transport. However, once the destination has been reached, it is questionable whether these measures will also apply to accommodation.

First of all, we must point out that various associations and public bodies are trying to develop internationally standardized guides with measures to be implemented5, as a guarantee mark and certification of the health protocols, thus trying to recover the confidence of clients and tour operators. This is without prejudice to the fact that each accommodation must prepare its own contingency plan adapted to its specific circumstances.

As for the transport sector, we will now make a summary of the different stages of a stay in any tourist accommodation and its recommendations. Obviously, the provisional status in which we find ourselves means that any recommendation is subject to the imminent rules and measures that may be decreed by the Government for the tourism sector in order to safeguard the season, in line with the package of recommendations announced on the last 13th of May by the European Commission6 to safely restore transport and tourism.

1. Prior to the arrival of guests: the accommodation should review the usual cleaning and disinfection procedures, reporting them to workers, suppliers and customers. In this case, and prior to the confirmation and acceptance of the reservation of the customers, it should be reported the security measures adopted by the accommodation and the obligation to maintain a social distancing during the stay with people outside the same family unit. In the information provided, areas that are temporarily closed should also be reported.

A health and safety or risk management committee will be required to define health and hygiene strategies. Among these, they should ensure that common areas - including toilets7 - are kept clean and disinfected on a constant basis, in which disinfectant solution, drying paper or hand dryer should be made available to users and no towels or reusable materials should be used.

It is recommended that accommodation update staff training in POSI (Prevention of Spread of Infections) procedures, as well as provide all workers with certified face masks, protective materials recommended by health authorities.

As far as possible, it is also recommended avoiding decorative elements, magazines, etc. in bedrooms or rooms to eliminate unnecessary risks.

Finally, all tourist accommodations should keep ventilated and clean all closed spaces where leisure activities take place, preferably advising that such activities are carried out outside.

2. At the reception: capacity will be limited and contactless thermometers must be available as well as hydro-alcoholic solutions. It is also recommended to encourage payment by card and to disinfect dataphones after every use.

3. During the stay: guests should try to maintain adequate hygiene, washing their hands frequently and wear face masks when safety distance cannot be maintained. Furthermore, they should not share elevators with people who are not part of their family unit.

In restaurants and cafeterias, different shifts shall be established, buffet services and the use of shared kitchen utensils or household items shall be eliminated and, when this is not possible, protective screens, individual plates and/or sealed single-dose plates shall be provided at all times. In addition, it is recommended to promote the use of "room service" as much as possible.

4. Common areas (waiting areas, gyms, spas, corridors, cafeterias, etc.): safety distance must be guaranteed by limiting the capacity and towels should be avoided (if individual, they will be delivered sealed and washed at 60°C), and hydroalcoholic gel solution must be available for customers.

If safety distance in gyms and spas, or children's play areas cannot be guaranteed, it is recommended to temporarily close these facilities. Page 4 of 4

With regard to swimming pools, beaches, rivers, lakes etc., a CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) report gives a series of indications regarding these areas. Although the report states that infection through water contact is very unlikely, it establishes that in swimming pools and spas, the use of disinfectant agents and the room temperatures of these facilities should be sufficient for the inactivation of the virus or its survival, which does not occur in the same way in rivers, lakes, freshwater and untreated pools, where swimming is not recommended.

In relation with the sea, the report argues that although there is currently no consistent data on the persistence of the virus in this environment, the dilution effect and the presence of salt are factors that contribute to a probable decrease in viral load and its inactivation. Therefore, in this aspect, and in view of its relevance for tourism, we must continue to be attentive to scientific studies that clear up any doubts in this regard.

5. After leaving the accommodation: guest rooms and rooms should be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned, including both the washing of beddings, towels and other textiles in the room at the recommended temperature of 60°C (checking that those not used remain sealed without tampering) and the disinfection of household appliances (hairdryer, telephone, controls and television, coffee machines) and any items with which they may have come into contact.

All these measures seem to require a lot of effort on the part of the traveller and guest, but basically they are limited to guarantee social distancing, hygiene and use of face masks, to safeguard the health of all. It is clear that our concept of travel and accommodation must be adapted to this new reality and, therefore, we hope that the recommendations compiled in this document will be useful and will serve to achieve greater clarity regarding all the information provided to date.

Finally, it should be noted that as With regard to swimming pools, beaches, rivers, lakes etc., a CSIC (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) report gives a series of indications regarding these areas. Although the report states that infection through water contact is very unlikely, it establishes that in swimming pools and spas, the use of disinfectant agents and the room temperatures of these facilities should be sufficient for the inactivation of the virus or its survival, which does not occur in the same way in rivers, lakes, freshwater and untreated pools, where swimming is not recommended.

In relation with the sea, the report argues that although there is currently no consistent data on the persistence of the virus in this environment, the dilution effect and the presence of salt are factors that contribute to a probable decrease in viral load and its inactivation. Therefore, in this aspect, and in view of its relevance for tourism, we must continue to be attentive to scientific studies that clear up any doubts in this regard.

5. After leaving the accommodation: guest rooms and rooms should be thoroughly disinfected and cleaned, including both the washing of beddings, towels and other textiles in the room at the recommended temperature of 60°C (checking that those not used remain sealed without tampering) and the disinfection of household appliances (hairdryer, telephone, controls and television, coffee machines) and any items with which they may have come into contact.

All these measures seem to require a lot of effort on the part of the traveller and guest, but basically they are limited to guarantee social distancing, hygiene and use of face masks, to safeguard the health of all. It is clear that our concept of travel and accommodation must be adapted to this new reality and, therefore, we hope that the recommendations compiled in this document will be useful and will serve to achieve greater clarity regarding all the information provided to date.

Finally, it should be noted that as progress is made in the study and monitoring of COVID-19, these recommendations will be updated and, in any case, we will get used to them, so the horizon towards this new normal will be more familiar to us. In any case, during the process we will have to cooperate to facilitate the reactivation of these important and necessary sectors for our country.

In Madrid, on the 27th of May 2020.

1 Guidelines on the progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity – COVID-19
2 https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/general-publications/covid-19-aviation-health-safety-protocol
3 https://alaspain.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Sabiasque.jpeg
4 https://www.iata.org/contentassets/f1163430bba94512a5 83eb6d6b24aa56/health-guidelines-universal-precaution-kit.pdf
5 Check-list drafted by CEHAT - ITH based on the order SND/414/2020 of the 16th of May and SND/399/2020 of the 9th of May 9 2020 of the Ministry of Health, to the guide published by the Min. of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and elaborated by the ICTE at the request of the Secretariat of State of Tourism "Measures for the reduction of the contagion by the coronavirus SARSCoV-2" and the drafted by HOSBEC "Guide HOSBEC for the reopening post Covid-19 in tourist lodgings".
6 Tourism and transport: Commission's guidance on how to safely resume travel and reboot Europe's tourism in 2020 and beyond
7 Order SND/386/2020 of the 3rd of May requires common toilets to be cleaned and disinfected at least 6 times a day.

Fin

Auteurs supplémentaires:

Náyila Hernández

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