San Miguel has a lower number of COVID-19 infections compared to other municipalities with similar populations in the state of Guanajuato. “[This is] because good decisions were made,” Jorge Olalde, president of the Association of Hotels and Lodging Establishments, told us.
However, as cases continue to increase, Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal of San Miguel has urged the public to wear a face mask in public if they do not want to return to confinement.
Consequently, the city council decided to declare San Miguel in an “inter-phase” between 0 and 1) and to allow hotels to open to 40 percent occupancy on July 15.
These decisions were made at the city hall session of June 29, during which—as a means of reviving the city’s economy—the 12 members approved hotels accepting reservations effective June 30. Hotels that have the required municipal Primero la Salud (Health First) certification were given permission to start operating on July 15.
During this session, the council also voted to allow online reservations “exclusively for hotels,” and asked the state to help with blocking private home rental sites until August.
The mayor said that “it pains us that there are deaths, and we are concerned that a larger outbreak could occur with a higher mortality rate.” Because of this, he said to tourism service providers, “Today, more than ever, we value the meaning of freedom in these new conditions; we must take care of ourselves and look out for others to normalize life and restart the municipal economy.”
Vineyards to open without harvests or foreign visitors
Laura Torres Septién, president of the Tourist Board of San Miguel, agrees with the government’s decision [to reopen], and said, “It is something we have been waiting for. By the time of the reopening hotels will have been closed for four months. Entrepreneurs are needed to propel the economy. Many people were fired, and we hope they will be rehired. The livelihood of so many depends on the hospitality sector—restaurants, shops. Hopefully they will do very well.”
Septién explained that while hotels have been closed, they have not been idle. They have used the time to prepare for health protocols and to disinfect.
“We hope we can receive tourists safely and above all take care of them, but also take care of the people of San Miguel. We want the people who arrive to have all the protocols to protect their health.”
Even though no mention has been made about reopening outdoor tourism, Septién feels that people will be eager to resume outdoor activities after the confinement. Although guests will return to their lodgings early—restaurants will close at 10:30 p.m.—Septién explained that there will always be something to do. Visitors “can go for a walk, have a glass of wine, eat something.” Adventure tourism—such as horseback riding and other outdoor activities—and the vineyards are expected to open at the same time that hotels do. It is hoped that by July 15 they will have their Health First certifications and will be able to provide services.
“With the reopening, everything will begin to operate. The vineyards will not have massive events; they will be able to host fewer people in their restaurants and beautiful spaces. Just as with tour operators, we do not expect large groups. There will be small groups—a family of four, a couple, or a few friends. Tourism will not be massive and there will be little advertising. The city will open gradually, but we do not want tourists to concentrate in the Historic Centro. There will be activities outside Centro,” added Septién.
She said that foreign tourists will not be coming because of restrictions on air travel. This includes visitors from Tijuana, who would arrive by plane. “What we will see is regional tourism— people who love San Miguel and want to come to their favorite restaurant or for an outdoor activity. [For example], going to a vineyard is not an activity that involves being in contact with many people,” said Septién. She noted that at present, events involving more than 10 people remain suspended.
The priority: protect Sanmiguelenses
Jorge Olalde, president of the Hotel Association, indicated that the great responsibility now is to protect the guests as well as employees and suppliers. All of this will be done by applying the health protocols issued by the health authority.
“We must have municipal certification. The hotels that open will have to have not only the Primero la Salud certification from the municipality of Allende, but also Guanajuato Sano, which is given by the state and endorsed by the World Travel and Tourism Council. The organization (Guanajuato Ministry of Tourism) gives this certification to the hotels that have carried out the mandated sanitary measures in the midst of the pandemic.”
Olalde made it clear that for now only the lodging part of hotels will open, not hotel swimming pools, spas, or group meeting spaces. “Our primary goal is to host guests,” he said. He said that the hotels in San Miguel have not been open, while in the rest of the state they are. The commitment now is to inform visitors about the mandatory use of face masks and to keep them well informed about these regulations.
The number of infections in cities such as Silao, Irapuato, or Romita, with populations similar to San Miguel’s are three times higher, according to Olalde. “We will do our best; we will be responsible so that the people who manage these activities can safely realize economic income,” he concluded.
Inside guest rooms
Among the sanitary measures for hotel rooms approved by the government are the following:
Once a guest checks in, they will be told that in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, no hotel staff will enter the room during their stay unless the guest specifically requests it and signs a letter waiving the lodging establishment’s responsibility.
Hotels must allow a 72-hour interval between one room occupancy and the next. This includes a waiting period of at least 24 hours before cleaning and sanitizing the room.
In the rooms, a regimen for cleaning and sanitizing will be carried out in all areas. Towels, sheets, bed covers, and pillows will be replaced with clean ones after each guest occupancy. Sanitizing applies to staff keys, door handles, furniture, remote controls, temperature controls, and telephones. The housekeeping staff must have protective wear. Cleaning of toilets and garbage cans, as well as the disposal of waste, will be carried out under strict security controls. The entire room will be sanitized before it can be reoccupied.
The cleaning, disinfection, and sanitization of hotel facilities must be carried out in accordance with the procedures implemented by each establishment. It must use the Triple Bucket Technique recognized by the Federal Government Health Secretariat for the prevention of COVID-19 infections.
Specific attention to sanitary measures will be paid to the following areas of the rooms: desks, countertops, tables and chairs, telephones, tablets and remote controls, thermostats, cabinets, handles and hardware, doors and doorknobs, bathroom vanities, bathroom accessories, and hardware, windows, mirrors and frames, lights and light controls, cabinets, hangers, and other amenities.
There will be a specific disinfection protocol for equipment and materials used by housekeepers and other personnel, as well as for replacing supplies and materials necessary for security measures and complying with operational and hygienic measures by all personnel.