The European Commission has issued guidance for the safe and gradual restoration of tourism activities and for health protocols in hospitality businesses such as hotels and other types of accommodation, including indoor and outdoor areas, restaurants and cafés.
In addition to recommendations and operational considerations for COVID-19 risk management issued by relevant health authorities, namely the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) , EU member states are invited to consider the Commission’s guidance while elaborating relevant protocols in line with their specific national/regional/local conditions.
Following are the guiding principles released by the Commission, which should be considered for developing infection prevention and control measures, and protocols in hospitality establishments:
a) Epidemiological situation
A pre-condition for any touristic activity to resume is that COVID-19 incidence has declined to low levels.
b) Health and safety of guests and workers is key priority
For hospitality services to resume, it is essential that guests using the hospitality establishment and workers participating in the provision of the service follow measures to prevent infection and virus transmission to a maximum. Measures should be clearly communicated, including through digital means, visible and effective, both to guests and to workers.
c) Local arrangements
There should be a constant coordination between local and/or national public health authorities and hospitality service providers to ensure that the latest rules and regulations in a given geographical area are shared, applied and their implementation monitored.
d) Action plan in case of infection
Establishments should have a preparedness plan that includes actions to be taken in case of infection in the establishment, covering the periods from the decision to reopen up to 14 days after guests have left the establishment. A specific action plan detailing the role and responsibilities of staff should be presented to all staff and be made available at all times.
All staff working in tourism facilities should be aware of COVID-19 symptoms and should be briefed on basic infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. Staff should be trained on IPC measures and actions to be taken in case of guests presenting COVID-19 compatible symptoms, or themselves presenting symptoms.
f) Management of staff
Measures that decrease the presence of staff in the establishment should be considered, such as working from home for all staff performing duties that may be compatible with teleworking. Measures decreasing the number of physical contacts and the time of physical contacts between people in the establishment should be considered, including shifts in work, shifts in meal-times, using phones and electronic means of communication.
g) Information for guests
Guests should receive all necessary information in an accessible manner, including through digital means, prior to arrival and in the place of hospitality establishment, on all current guidance by local public health authorities, as well as specific measures that are put in place and affect their arrival, stay and departure.
Guests should be informed through specific signage (information infographics,
including adaptations for visually impaired guests) before the entrance of the establishment of the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, what to do in case they develop symptoms during their stay or within 14 days following departure.
The establishment could also provide leaflets with this information.
Establishments should ensure that the contact details of the guests are available in case they are needed for contact tracing.
h) Physical distancing and hygiene
The establishment should put in place targeted measures to ensure that physical distancing is maintained in communal areas where guests are likely to gather for prolonged periods of time (i.e. longer than 15 minutes), such as establishing a maximum number of guests allowed in each common facility (i.e. restaurants, cafés, bars, lobby). Allocating slots or making available (digital) slot booking for meal times or visits of pools or gyms should be considered.
When physical distancing cannot be fully observed, alternative measures should be considered to protect guests and workers, such as the use of glass or plastic teller panels, wearing of masks, etc.
In principle, a distance of 1.5 to 2 meters should be applied in the communal areas of the whole establishment (except for persons travelling together and sharing rooms), complemented by other measures (e.g. wearing a mask), where this is not possible.
For outdoor areas (beaches, pools, cafés, bars, restaurants, etc.) and outdoor servings, special arrangements should be made to allow for physical distancing and special hygiene measures applied. Indoor areas such as spas and pools should also adhere to strict hygiene measures. Each establishment should carefully consider whether special facilities (e.g. childcare facilities) should remain closed. Larger scale events e.g. concerts should be postponed.
Special arrangements for transport services provided by the establishment, such as shuttle buses, need to be implemented following the guidelines on the progressive restoration of transport services and connectivity.
i) Infection prevention and control measures (IPC measures)
In addition to physical distancing, specific personal protective measures and cleaning and disinfection protocols need to be considered, communicated to staff and guests and implemented.
These measures include:
- Respiratory etiquette: Strict respiratory etiquette should be communicated and followed (coughing or sneezing into a paper tissue or the elbow bend) by guests and staff members. Establishments should ensure the availability of paper tissues and bins;
- Hand hygiene: Hand hygiene is an essential control measure and should be communicated to guests and workers through information infographics at key areas/facilities (e.g. at the entrance, in the toilets, at the cashier, etc.). Establishments should ensure easy access to hand washing facilities with soap, single use paper towels or automatic dryers for drying, and alcohol-based hand rub solutions;
- Use of face masks: The use of face masks by staff and guests should be considered only as a complementary measure, not replacing core preventive measures. Appropriate use of face masks is important and should be communicated to guests and staff;
- Ventilation: Increasing the number of air exchanges per hour and supplying as much outdoor air as possible is recommended, either by natural or mechanical ventilation, depending on the establishment. Increased ventilation of rooms for at least one hour are recommended after guest check-out;
- Cleaning and disinfection: Cleaning of frequently touched surfaces as often as possible (at least daily and if possible more frequently) is key. Examples of these surfaces are doorknobs and door handles, chairs and armrests, table-tops, light switches, handrails, water taps, elevator buttons, bar
counter tops, etc. Staff should be informed of and perform the procedure of cleaning after check out, as well as regarding the treatment of cleaning equipment, waste management, laundry and personal hygiene following cleaning;
- Potential infections among guests or staff: In case of a suspected case of COVID-19 among guests or staff members whilst at work, the implementation of the action plan described in point d) should follow relevant guidance from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and national and local health authorities, with regard to: the isolation and distancing measures to be applied to the potentially infected person; the procedure, based on national law, to notify the medical services in view of medical advice, testing or potential relocation to a medical facility; the procedure, based on national law, to notify the local public health authorities and potential contact tracing activities; the necessary cleaning and disinfection procedures to be performed; the necessary cooperation and information regarding fellow guests or staff members who may have been in contact with the case at the establishment from 2 days before and 14 days after the onset of symptoms in the case.
Member states are encouraged to share this guidance with competent authorities and regional/local level, while tourism stakeholders, such as professional associations and online tourism platforms are encouraged to disseminate and raise awareness of this guidance.
The Commission’s guiding principles and the general recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, can be downloaded below: