The Challenge Is Starting From Zero

By Jesús Aguado

The engine that runs San Miguel de Allende is at a standstill and it has impacted thousands of families. More than 90 percent of hotels are closed, as well as restaurants, artisanal shops, wedding events—everything has stopped. Some of these industries hope that a scaled reopening of tourist-related businesses will start in July. If that were to happen it would be in a very controlled way to protect staff, locals, and tourists.

In fact, the damages are incalculable. El Consejo Turistico (the Tourist Council) does not have general figures for the economic damage as yet. But Guadalupe Álvarez, a wedding planner in the city, has stated that in this industry alone the loss has been calculated at 600 million pesos. In light of the situation, Laura Torres Septién, head of Consejo Turistico, and Edgar Zamudio, chief operating officer, have met to discuss how “the renewal of San Miguel” might be accomplished.

“It will be like starting from zero, launching San Miguel—one more time—as we are destined to do. It will be a coordinated effort. We are reviewing this with the Secretaría de Desarrollo Turistico (Tourist Development Office) because Guanajuato will have to be launched as well. We will have everything ready for when they tell us the moment has come and we can go out and start up,” said Torres.

In order for San Miguel to remain in the public eye and looking toward the hoped-for future visitors, Consejo Turistico has begun filming and disseminating videos about the places, people, and experiences that San Miguel offers. Torres stated that Iniciativa Privada (Private Initiative) is also working on a campaign it will launch shortly. Those dedicated to the hotel and restaurant industries are working on a protocol for getting back to work. Sergio Spínolo, president of Cámara Nacional de Industria de Restaurantes y Alimentos Condimentados (CANIRAC) San Miguel, confirmed this. Within this framework are guidelines for how hotel check-ins will be done, maintenance of guests’ health and welfare; particulars about cleaning of rooms, and an overall preparedness of the staff for these new protocols.

“We want to offer tourists safety; we are concerned for their health. We want the place they visit—the restaurants, the shops—to be sanitized. But we also want the workers to be safe,” said Torres.

The opening will be slow

“I’m optimistic and I don’t think the closures will go beyond July. In June we’ll see what we can start doing, but we will always follow directives from the authorities. We will be ready for the opening. Tourism has not been considered essential, however in Guanajuato it’s the axis for agriculture, cattle farming, and shoe making. Lodging, food, restaurants, shops, and activities need to function to be able to sell to those who use these services,” added Torres.

“The governor is clear that we [tourism] are essential. He is in solidarity with us and acknowledges that we are the most impacted industry. Tourism will have to be helped in order to rise; we are thousands of people who depend directly or indirectly on the industry. We will not be the last to reactivate, and we’ll determine how to do it,” she explained. Torres is hopeful that weddings will be the spark that ignites and reactivates the economy of San Miguel, because when tourists come they will require all the associated services.

“I hope that by the end of the year the panorama will be better and that things will have normalized. However foreign tourists, because of flight restrictions, may not come until next year. We’ll be betting on regional and national tourism.”

Careful expenditures

Torres said that because of the drop in tourism these last three months, the four percent tax intake from lodging would be low. The money collected this year will have to be used toward opening and on into the middle of next year; it will have to be approved by the Secretaría de Finanzas (Finance Offices). “We have to be prudent with each peso,” said Torres.

Because of this, it is expected that the Independence and end-of-year festivities will be spectacular, but with restrained spending.

We’ll see in June

Jorge Olalde, president of Asociación de Hoteles y Establecimientos de Hospedaje (Hotels and Lodging Association) of San Miguel told us that some hotels are open. This, however, does not mean that they have guests; they are open so that the personnel can continue with maintenance.

“Around 20 hotels are continuing to operate in San Miguel, but there are no guests. The rate of occupancy is not even two percent. I have never seen this in San Miguel. Ninety percent of the establishments are closed. Some continue to operate, but are closed to the public. We are waiting for the start of activities, which we hope will be announced,” said Olalde.

He also stated that the two percent occupancy rate is due to those visitors who have come to San Miguel in search of adventure. “They are people who want adventure and need lodging. But there are dozens of limitations now. There are no tour operators, restaurants, bars, outings…at the moment we do not see a reopening this month. In June, we’ll see. The situation could get extended and we don’t know at the national level what will be decreed and what actions will follow. Nobody dares to announce a date for reopening,” Olalde added.

When the guests arrive

Every hotel will greet visitors with specifics about safety. Visitors will be evaluated and will be asked to use hand disinfectant and a face mask (which will be provided by the establishment) and they will be instructed in its proper use.

Valet services, taxis, and shared rides for guests

  • Guests will enter a hotel through open doors, automated doors, or doors operated manually by an employee.
  • Hotel employees will not open car or taxi doors.
  • Bellboys will be provided for guests needing the service and the cart where the suitcases are placed will be disinfected after each use.
  • Valet services will be suspended until further notice.

Guest arrivals in hotel vehicles

  • Service vehicles will be cleaned thoroughly before and after each use.
  • No more than four guests will be allowed inside an SUV, and no more than two in a sedan.
  • Guests will not be allowed to sit in the passenger seat

Use of elevators by hotel guests

  • An employee will disinfect all the panels and buttons regularly, at least once an hour.
  • Signs will be placed to explain all current procedures.
  • No more than four passengers will be allowed per elevator.

Complementary toilettes

  • Each guest will receive a packet of accessories during check-in that will include facemasks, hand disinfectant, and a card delineating COVID-19 procedures.
  • Each room will have a spray disinfectant and/or towelettes for the use of guests (subject to availability and out of reach of children).

Cleaning products and cleaning procedures

  • Our hotels use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved products and follow the recommended protocols. The products we use are effective against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
  • We are working with our providers to guarantee an uninterrupted supply of these products and personal protective equipment for the employees.

Public spaces and common areas

The frequency of cleaning and disinfection has increased in all public spaces. There is a particular emphasis on those surfaces that are frequently touched. These include reception counters, elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms, room faucets, locks, ATMs, cashiers’ windows, electronic games, gym equipment, dining surfaces, and rest areas.

Guest rooms

The same protocols for cleaning and disinfection are followed to clean the guest rooms, with particular attention to those areas that have the most contact, such as TV remote controls, seats, toilet handles, door and furniture handles, faucets, night tables, telephones, control panels in the rooms, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks, and floors.

Laundry

All bed sheets and clothing items are changed daily and are washed with hot water according to the measures instituted by the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC). Dirty laundry is placed in bags in the guest rooms to keep contact to a minimum before it’s transported to the laundry.

Interior areas of the property

The frequency of cleaning and disinfection will increase in high-traffic areas within the property. Emphasis will be placed on employees’ dining areas, entryways, uniform changing rooms, employees’ bathrooms, dumb waiters, kitchens, security scanning areas, employees’ desks, and conference rooms.

Shared equipment

Shared tools and equipment will be disinfected before, during, and after each shift, and at any time that any of these pass from one employee to another. This includes telephones, radios, computers, and any other communication technology, credit card readers, kitchen utensils, engineering tools, folders, cleaning supplies, clocks, and any other articles that are used by the entire complex. There will no longer be sharing of dishes and cups in employee kitchens and cafeterias.

Reuse of guest rooms

In case of a presumed case of COVID-19, that particular guest room will be retired from service and will be placed in quarantine. The room will not be used again until the case has been confirmed or cleared. In the case of a positive result, the room will be subjected to the accepted protocol for cleansing under the direction of a licensed expert and following the protocol dictated by the health authorities.

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