In this new Covid world we live in, we’ve all heard lots of references to the “new normal” but what does it mean and how is it reflected in the luxury hotel experience? Our Portugal Sales Manager Mariana recently went to Areias do Seixo, one of our favorite coastal properties an hour’s drive from Lisbon, to find out and we also spoke to partners at Vila Vita Parc in the Algarve and Six Senses Douro Valley who recounted their experiences of reopening their hotels a few weeks ago.
A Much-Needed Escape
After months of lockdown, sharing a glass of wine with owner Marta and other guests around the fire was a magical experience.
Like almost everyone all around the world, Mariana experienced months of lockdown from her home in Lisbon and was eager to escape when Portugal began to reopen in early June. She says “it was my first hotel experience since Covid hit and I thought it would be strange or even awkward to stay in a hotel under the so-called new normal but in truth, it felt great to be exploring again! And for those seeking connection (while social distancing of course) after months of lockdown, sharing a glass of wine with owner Marta and other guests around the fire was a magical experience.”
During lockdown, hotels had time to put new protocols in place and to update their approaches to health and safety to meet the challenge presented by Covid. For example, Mariana reports that she was able to send passport details and other information by email to the hotel in advance of her stay for a speedy – and safe – check-in.
At Vila Vita Parc in the Algarve, International Business Development Manager, Melissa Puebla says some of the actions they’ve taken include “reducing capacity by 50% in their main restaurant and changing the distribution of furniture in the hotel’s communal areas.”
Many hotels and other tourism providers have acquired the new “Clean and Safe”, safety hallmark developed by the Portuguese tourism authority and as Nicholas Yarnell, General Manager at Six Senses Douro Valley, explains “we’re making sure that we follow all government guidelines and implement the suggestions from the Portuguese health department.”
All staff now wear masks, breakfasts are served a la carte rather than buffet style, and as Melissa says, “there is alcohol-based disinfectant available in almost all the corners of the resort”.
An Experience that is Even Better Before
With an enforced hiatus, hotels have had time to reflect on guest experience and make changes as required. At Six Senses Douro Valley, Nicholas tells us “we are doing everything possible so that the guest experience is even better than before. We have added complimentary activities to the weekly activity schedule including new and exciting workshops and experiences with lower density so guests can enjoy a higher degree of personalization.”
He goes on to say: “guests can have a customized minibar set up in their room from our mini gourmet deli, or enjoy picnics in the forest, where we have set up rest nests, hammocks, picnic tables and deck chairs.”
A Unique Opportunity
Several months of closure during lockdown has presented hotels with a unique opportunity to refresh certain elements of their offer. At Six Senses Douro Valley, Nicholas tells us this not only included renovation of their Earth Lab and Open Kitchen, and refurbishment of their villas and apartments, but also painting the entire building inside and out, “it looks and feels like a new hotel!”
At Vila Vita Parc, chefs at the two Michelin Star Ocean Restaurant took the opportunity to refresh the menu, adding authentic Portuguese dishes and sourcing new local products for guest to savor and enjoy.
Smiles Return (behind masks of course!)
Our biggest desire was to make sure guests felt safe after the experience of the last few months, to make sure they have a great stay, and above all to see their smiles once again!
After so many months of lockdown, all our hotel partners in Portugal have been delighted to reopen and to welcome guests back. Melissa explains, “the closure was a first in Vila Vita Parc’s history, so on reopening (on June 16th), our biggest desire was to make sure guests felt safe after the experience of the last few months, to make sure they have a great stay, and above all to see their smiles once again!”
Contact the Madrid & Beyond team to book your next vacation in Portugal. Apart from special negotiated rates, we are able to provide a whole range of added values at properties including complimentary upgrades and other welcome amenities.