Resort managers improvise and plan to reopen

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(May 1, 2020) The Timeshare Board Members Association invited managers of legacy resorts to a conference call on April 30 to discuss their resorts’ operations during the COVID-19 shutdown, and their plans to reopen as the pandemic recedes.  Twenty-eight participants attended.

Paula DiPaola, board president and manager of Magic Tree Resort in Kissimmee, FL, and Cindy Thomas, general manager at Stoneridge Resort in Blanchard, ID, led the discussion.

The call coincided with an announcement by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that most of Florida would begin to reopen in May. At Magic Tree, the resort will be open to Florida residents, but people arriving from anywhere else will have to remain in quarantine for 14 days.  They can go in and out the door of their unit during that time, but they can’t use the resort’s lobby or other facilities.

Stoneridge has a similar plan, based in part on Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s guidelines.  During stages one and two of the resort’s four-stage plan, people traveling from outside of Idaho must self-quarantine for 14 days.  The recreation center will reopen for limited use in stage two and for more general use in subsequent stages—with precautions to maintain social distancing to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

At each resort, the objectives are to keep owners/guests and team members safe.

“Take the guidelines and fit them to your resort,” DiPaola advised.  Magic Tree’s Play Station 4 and gym facilities were closed, but the movie theater stayed open with four seats between people “unless you’re married,” she said.

New technology

Some resorts have invested in electrostatic sprayers.  The machines, which cost $700 to $1,000 apiece, put out a disinfectant spray that is supposed to kill more than 99 percent of bacteria and viruses.  Housekeepers strip a room, and then spray it. The spray remains on the countertops, TVs, and other surfaces.

Another innovative device is a no-contact thermometer, which front-desk personnel point at arriving owners and guests.  If an individual being scanned in this manner triggers a red light, he/she won’t be allowed to check in.

Many housekeepers now wear disposable gloves, masks, and in some cases shoe covers. After cleaning each bathroom, bedroom, or kitchen, a housekeeper bags these garments for disposal and puts on new ones for the next room.

Locating the required quantities of gloves, masks, and shoe covers can be a problem.  Participants in the call reported success in acquiring them from Amazon, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart—sometimes in stores, and sometimes online at 2 or 3 AM.  One manager said she ordered Lysol in bulk for delivery at the end of June. Where a distillery has begun to make hand sanitizer, nearby resorts have been able to buy it in bulk.

Some resorts replace and clean their shower curtains after each occupancy.  “What about cleaning blankets every time?” a participant asked.  Others said they hadn’t thought of that.  “Don’t let anybody go into a room and shake out a blanket,” a participant cautioned.

Other bedding-related adjustments include replacing cumbersome duvets and comforters with a standard sheets-and-blanket arrangement, using washable pillows, and managing mid-stay linen exchanges by giving owners and guests their clean linens and towels at the door instead of entering their rooms.

One manager says her housekeepers now put all of a unit’s dishes through the dishwasher as part of the turnover routine between occupants as a protective measure, even though normal dishwashing chemicals don’t sanitize the dishes to federal standards.

Alternative accommodations

Some resorts where owners were shut out during the mandated shutdown are now offering those owners alternative accommodations.

“Our [Magic Tree] weeks are floating,” DiPaola said. “If owners cancel within 14 days of arrival, we can reschedule them before the end of the year on a space-available basis. We’re also encouraging them to deposit their weeks, and the exchange companies are taking those weeks.”

Stoneridge is booking shut-out owners back into Stoneridge by using their internal exchange program and buying back space-banked weeks based on availability. And as long as low occupancy allows, they are also letting each room sit vacant for a week after check-out and after a housekeeper cleans it. “We’re taking liberties with inventory due to the COVID-19 situation by moving people around,” Thomas said, “and we have the ability to access extra association inventory because of COVID-19.”

“We’re also discontinuing anyone being able to enter an unoccupied room [in advance of staying]. We’re taking a picture of every room and attaching it to our software.”

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