BTB explains Gold Standard Program for hotels
The Philip Goldson International Airport is set to reopen on August 15, and Belizeans are concerned over the protocols put in place to keep the country from importing more covid-19 cases. The Belize Tourism Board (BTB) explained today that there are strict requirements put on hotels who want to host international visitors. According to Misty Michael, the Director of Marketing and Industry Relations, there is the Gold Standard Recognition Program in place to ensure the safety of tourists and locals. This program has a 9 point checklist, and only hotels that have all 9 requirements will achieve Gold Standard. These hotels are the only ones that will cater to foreigners. Michael explained more about the requirements.
Misty Michael, Director of Marketing and Industry Relations, BTB: “For hoteliers to be recognized as a gold standard property there are nine requirements that they would need to meet and some of that includes appointing a program manager and that person is kind of like the liaison between the property and the Ministry of Health and the guest in the event that there was a suspected case or a guest were to fall ill with the virus and they are also in charge of ensuring that the enhanced protocols are carried out the way that they should at the property and that the employees across the property are trained. The program includes the deployment of technology within the hotel and that includes things like incorporating online check in and checkout, contactless payment methods, daily health monitoring of guests, enhanced cleaning throughout the property, the implementation of hand sanitizing stations across the property so really it’s looking at how do we enhance the health and safety of hotels so that not only are guests but the tourism workers feel confident that they are safe working in these establishments.”.
There are other measures in place for when the PGIA reopens. Notably, tourists won’t be able to roam the country freely but will be required to remain at their hotel.
Misty Michael, Director of Marketing and Industry Relations, BTB: “The reopening in August is a limited reopening. Hotels that are approved to reopen will have to achieve the gold standard recognition as well as apply for reopening and to qualify for reopening the properties need to be full service and what does sorceress mean? Full service in this instance means that the property has an on-site restaurant and bar, they have a pool or beach access and that they have guessed entertainment or other activities like a spa, watersports that sort of thing. With the limited reopening we’re opening with somewhat of a safe corridor so guests that do come in this initial phase will be restricted to the property that they’re staying at unless they are accompanied by an approved tour operator for a tour; they will not be allowed to explore the country feeling as we have done in the past and this initial phase while limited is to ensure that the protocols are being put in place gives us an opportunity to try it and to tweak them as we go online to make sure that everyone is protected as best as possible. Initially we don’t anticipate it to the anything that we are unable to handle this is of course what is typically the slow season for tourism. We will initially start off in August with only two airlines. On August 15th we are expecting a fight out of Houston Texas from United, American will have their first fight on August 18th from Miami and then Delta will return on September 3rd.”
The tour operators who cater to the tourists will also need to achieve gold standard from the program.
Acquiring a Gold Standard Certification Ahead of the Reopening of the P.G.I.A.
The clock is ticking for the reopening of the Philip Goldson Airport to international visitors on August fifteenth. Today, the Ministry of Health reviewed the protocols in place. Hotels and resorts are also putting final touches from a nine point list to ensure that visitors feel safe and stay healthy. The Gold Star Certification Programme requires that properties operate under special COVID-19procedures that begin at the front desk and include dining as well as accommodation and services by hotel staff. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
There are a number of large properties that are in the process of concluding training and putting in place the necessary requirements for their resort or hotel to be certifiably ready to receive international visitors when the Philip Goldson International Airport reopens on August fifteenth. That’s a little over three weeks from now, but is a critical move to ensure health and safety.
Karen Bevans, Director of Tourism
“Travellers now are choosing destinations based on health, safety and cleanliness. For us to ensure that we deliver that and Belize remains on top of list for destination of choice, we have to ensure that we deliver on those factors.”
…to do so, there are a number of guidelines that tourism stakeholders, including hoteliers and tour guides, are undertaking to ensure the safety of visitors. A Gold Standard Recognition Programme, outlined by the Belize Tourism Board and the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation in coordination with the Ministry of Health, has a nine-point checklist that must be satisfied for the classification.
Leandra Flowers, Revenue Manager, Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza
“Some of the nine-point checklist includes having social distancing markers, installing sanitization stations, having a response plan and most importantly it involves the training plan that these entities are having because we can have all the products in the world, we can have all the sanitization stations, but if our employees are not adequately trained as to why these procedures are important, then we are doing it in vain.”
“All those are protocols to be implemented to make the industry as safe as possible. We feel that if stakeholders continue to operate the way they are and attend the training sessions, clarify any points they may have and take the necessary action; we feel that we are in a good position.”
At the Best Western Plus Belize Biltmore Plaza, a final step – the installation of signage and decals around the property – is being completed before its application for certification can be submitted. There are, however, new processes attached from checking in, to the dining experience as well as housekeeping services.
“We have created our own internal response plan in lieu of COVID-19 that addresses all the different procedures and protocols that all our departments must take—from the front desk down to our admin and accounting departments who are at the backend of the hotel industry. At the Biltmore what we are doing we are deploying technology or ‘amping’ up our digital marketing. What we are doing now is sending them pre-arrival sign in sheets. So they would fill in all their information and send that back electronically and we will input all the data and we have an online payment method now. For the restaurant we are strictly adhering to the six feet apart social distancing as well as when it comes to the sanitization. Before we would sanitize or wipe down the tables whenever a guest would leave, but in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic, here at the Biltmore, we are sanitizing tables and utensil every hour. Our housekeeping department has been the most critical when it comes to the training aspect of it. Our housekeeping department can be the most trained, but it can be one small area that they miss and it can be an error, per say. So when it comes to our housekeeping department, we are using only F.D.A. approved products and when it comes to the training of our staff, we have provided them with proper P.P.E.s when it comes to the masks, the gloves, face shields and we have an adequate supply. We have recently purchased a fogger which would be used to go into t e room whenever a guest would exit. The fogger would fog out the room and then the housekeeper would go in and do the adequate supply of sanitization also.”
A number of smaller hotels and bed and breakfasts have not been able to make the requisite investments at this time, due to the economic impact of COVID-19. But they are nevertheless working towards providing a safe environment for guests. Meanwhile, others have opted not to open to international tourists. Director of Tourism, Karen Bevans says that the Belize Tourism Board, which is leading the introduction of new restaurant and hotel guidelines, is working with all stakeholders.
“Not everyone will be ready. And if you are not ready, let’s wait and let’s work together to get you ready. So we respect if you say that you are not ready. We prefer that than for you to be open and operating and we create further problems. So not all stakeholders will be ready; we respect them saying that. You may have employees who are in a position of maybe high risk, high risk employees. You may say let’s wait; I don’t want to risk my employees. Again, we respect that and we want that because we don’t want to risk our employees, we don’t want to risk our stakeholders, we don’t want to risk the Belizean people. So if that is the situation, let us know and you remain close until you know you are ready. There might be other properties who want to open, but the training is not yet there. Again, we respect you to say, I will wait until all the training is in place. It is best for us to do that so that everybody is prepared when the travellers get here that we deliver on what we are marketing. We want to deliver a safe and healthy environment.”