Reopening insights

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By George Leposky

As cities, counties, and states around the U.S. relax various stages of their coronavirus restrictions at various times, property-management firms with multiple timeshare-resort clients in multiple locations are challenged to keep up with all the changes.

In a Timeshare Board Members Association webinar on June 4, 2020, TBMA President Shep Altshuler interviewed Paul Carney, VRI Americas’ senior vice president of resort operations, southeast region, and Alex S. Chamblin, Jr., Capital Vacations’ senior vice president of operations, about the complexities of resort reopening.

Chamblin said that reopening dates should be established based on the lifting of state and local restrictions, with a 10-to-14-day window of notice to ensure that the resort is properly prepared to receive owners and guests.

“Keep in touch with the staff,” Carney added. “Give them as much lead time as possible.”  During that time, train or retrain the staff and determine that supply and service vendors (including housekeeping, laundry, and security) can support the re-opening date.  The training should intensify staff education on bacteria and viruses, including both blood-borne and airborne pathogens. Hand sanitizer should be placed at strategic locations around the property and refilled regularly, and high-touch locations such as stairwell railings and elevator buttons should be sanitized throughout the day.

Also advisable is posting signage to remind owners and guests of the six-foot social-distancing requirements. “CDC signage is important,” Carney said. “It’s not you the manager making an independent decision.”

Chamblin mentioned an “aha moment” – how to address ice machines with scoopers.

“Make sure the police, fire, and emergency teams know you’re open,” Chamblin advised. “Also work with the health department and other local government agencies—and cultivate long-term relationships.

“If you have restaurants next door, ask if they will be open. Also keep up to date on shop openings, and whether people are allowed on the beaches,” he urged.

Brian Rozier, operations manager at Canada House in Pompano Beach, FL, said he has been updating such community information and posting it weekly on the resort’s Facebook page.

No surprises

“Confirm that no surprise changes to the rules will occur,” Chamblin said. Some states want arriving visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test.  Some have pushed back their reopening dates. Steven Gilbert, board president of Lea Casa in Kailua-Kona, HI, reported that Hawaii’s lockdown had been extended to July 31.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County at one point had different shelter-in-place rules from the rest of the state.

The island City of Sanibel in southwest Florida wasn’t allowing entry to residents of Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. After a conversation with the Sanibel police department, the restriction was eased so residents of western New York State where the infection rate was low could come, even though residents of the New York City area remained persona non grata due to the high infection rate there.

Some Sanibel resorts were making pre-check-in calls to owners and guests, verifying who was coming and from where, advising of island stores open and closed, and suggesting that arrivals shop on the mainland before crossing the causeway to the island.

Carney said many resorts are collecting text numbers so they can keep their clients informed of changes on a continuing basis. “Owners and guests are from 50 to 2,000 miles away,” he said. “All they know is what they see on the news, and half of America doesn’t believe the news anymore.”

Waivers are controversial

Some resorts have been requiring owners and guests to sign waivers absolving the resort of responsibility if they contract COVID-19 while in residence.  Altshuler said that resorts should consult their legal advisers about doing this.  Carney said, however, that attorneys may not recommend the use of a waiver “because of the negative issue it brings up.”

Resorts also are trying to streamline their check-in procedures to minimize the amount of paper and collateral being handed out. “Everybody has been super-creative on check-in,” Carney said. “Some now do it at a drive-through window. You call when you’re in the parking lot. We’ll go and unlock your door.”

If contactless check-in isn’t possible, the check-in stations should be at least six feet apart, with Plexiglas shields between them.

While in residence

Recommendations for guest unit procedures include:

Clean and sanitize any unit to be occupied no more than 48 hours before guest arrival, giving special attention to high-touch areas. Remove all reusable collateral. Make it disposable or available electronically.

Clean kitchen items and plates, glasses, etc., between guests—or provide disposables.

Place additional linens in a see-through plastic bag. If your resort is offering a towel/linen exchange, do so in separate sealed plastic bags for dirty and clean linens.

“If maintenance is necessary during an occupant’s stay,” Carney said, “everyone has to leave the unit. Nobody can be there when the work is getting done, to minimize contact.”

Health clubs and fitness centers may open if local authorities permit, with sign-up sheets to avoid overcrowding, and a schedule that allows for cleanup time before the next group of people can enter. If your resort’s gym is closed, where can occupants go to walk? Is the beach open?

Carney noted that many resorts don’t have staff to clean larger amenities, such as bicycles, paddle boats, and racquets. “Tell owners and guests to bring their own racquets,” Chamblin suggested.

Chamblin recommended using Zoom for virtual board meetings as much as possible, to avoid requiring the members to congregate in a physical space.

Security concerns

“Our [property-management] staff is becoming security,” Chamblin said. “A number of boards have brought up the question of added security, especially during high-occupancy times. We don’t want to put staff in harm’s way.  In Myrtle Beach, as soon as the restrictions loosened, it has been a free-for-all.”

“Security is a location-by-location decision,” Carney said. “We haven’t seen the need for additional security thus far. It wasn’t necessary over Memorial Day. It will be interesting to see what happens over the July 4th holiday.”

Carney also noted the importance of keeping supplies locked up while waiting to be used. “Owners and guests aren’t immune from taking supplies home with them,” he said.

George Leposky is editor of TimeSharing Today.