Got FOMO of those with exemptions to trot the globe in 2020? It might be time to put that jealousy back in the box.
Why? Though heading abroad right now might inspire envy while you’re away, it may also inspire pity when you get back.
From one Sydney hotel being scrapped from the coronavirus quarantine program for being ‘filthy’ to five-star hotel guests being forced to endure meals that would make even the most hardened cattle class passengers cringe, hotel quarantine has proven to be a lottery.
As Jaynee Wehbe, global sales director at TRIANGL, who earlier this year was granted an exemption to travel to Ibiza and Italy on business (and returned to Australia last week), recently showed us, even in a relatively luxurious hotel, there are a number of challenges Australian hotel quarantine (a legal requirement for anyone entering the country right now) throws up.
Though her posts are somewhat tongue in cheek (she clearly recognises it’s The Sheraton Grand, not Guantanamo), they provide interesting insights into the everyday challenges of hotel quarantine in Australia.
They also show how Australian hotels are missing a golden opportunity to show the world what they can do. Especially given everyone is on Instagram right now, soaking up more content than ever, you’d think they’d want to strut their stuff.
Not only that, but given the dearth of activities for The Quarantine Bound to do during their 14 days in limbo, it was more than predictable that hotel guests would be sharing their meals on social media – for the world to see.
Unfortunately, as one of the most gelatinous scrambled eggs we’ve ever seen, posted to Instagram by Jamie shows, food presentation does not appear to be at the forefront of Australian hotels’ priorities right now.
While much of the fault can be attributed to the pandemic (something out of both Jaynee and the hotel’s hands), it still feels as though Australia’s hotels are missing out on a golden chance here (as you can almost guarantee that every bored isolation-ee will be Instagramming every single meal).
Of course, presenting food on a tray, a la Nusa Dua’s floating breakfast, in the middle of Sydney’s CBD, during a pandemic, isn’t an option. It makes perfect sense hotels would be presenting cuisine in sealed packages or boxes. However, rather than investing in presentation and sending a culinary f*ck off to the world (off the top of our head, a glass case would be highly ‘grammable), hotels are dropping off meals in plastic bags.
Adding to the argument that hotels would be well advised to leave customers’ jaws swinging with saliva (rather than punch drunk with horror), is that the post-pandemic era could be hotels’ great opportunity to claw travellers back from restaurants.
“Will things will have to change post-pandemic? I’ve been in this business a long time [and] the whole concept was people never liked to eat in hotels.”
“You just didn’t think you could have a good experience, you didn’t think you would find cool stuff, you didn’t think you would find good bartenders.”
However, according to Mr Lombino, this could now change: “Over the next 12 months [tourists are] really going to be looking hard at everything – where you’re staying, what you’re eating, what you’re drinking and the cleanliness level [of places you’re dining and staying in].”
“I think people are going to feel a lot safer [in hotels].”
“Hotels that do it well are actually going to see a renaissance – back to the good old days (20, 30, 40 years ago) when all the best restaurants were all in hotels. They moved out but they have an opportunity to come back,” Mr Lombino told DMARGE.
“We don’t pay rent for the restaurant and bar – it’s all within the footprint of our hotel – we don’t have separate gas bills and electric bills [and] we have shared back of house services with book keeping.”
“We can afford to have more staff, we can afford to have higher quality products, we can charge less coming out of this thing because we’re not carrying so many of those fixed costs. I think we [the hotel dining industry] have a chance to win back some of that trust and loyalty from consumers and guests.”
Sydney hotels are undoubtedly doing it tough during these trying times, with occupancies this year dipping well below 10%, according to Tourism Accommodation Australia. So on the one hand, it’s totally understandable establishments are not breaking the bank to impress returning travellers.
On the other, for those that can afford it, we can’t help but think this is an opportunity gone begging. Until then: keep dreaming of Capri…
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