The WAY Forward...
In truth no one is quite sure! But we do know that when we re-open it won't be the same as before, at least not for some time. We expect to have less than half of our rooms available and dining and drinking areas will have to be rearranged to follow social distancing guidelines.
We as a family have been offering hospitality for more years than I care to remember...and hospitality is all about being nice to people, bringing people together and creating a warm welcoming environment. This is contrary to all we know about COVID-19 and the need to socially isolate, distance ourselves from our fellow man and form small insular pods!
For us it goes against everything we know, and we still want to offer a warm welcome and great service otherwise we don't feel it's worth opening. We don't want your time with us to feel clinical and solitary. Our initial thoughts and plans are to open with some rooms at each hotel on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis and invite guests to stay for two nights or more. This way we can care for all your needs and offer a personal service whilst adhering to all the necessary conditions. We won't rush into opening if we can't offer decent levels of service, catering and hospitality.
We are busy putting procedures in place to increase cleaning, ensure guests and staff have easy access to sanitisers throughout the hotels and making as much as we can contactless, thank goodness we are dealing with this in a time when technology is advanced as it is!
We will of course adhere to all legislation, ensure our staff are trained in this new style of hospitality and we will expect our guests to follow suit whilst with us and not visit if they are unwell. Just as importantly we will only open when the local community are happy to welcome visitors from outside the area. We have always played an active part in our villages and we want to ensure we behave responsibly for our local customers as well as those from further afield.
Many of our actions will be decided by national leadership - I am not sure what the government are doing but we have to abide by what they say, and we must be grateful for their leadership along with our great NHS and the British love of joining a queue and being naturals quite often at social distancing! In our local leadership - the Way family, Anne, Becca and I - we will put the safety of guests and staff first and at the centre of our decision making.
In the meantime the staff who haven't been furloughed are very few but keeping busy. Becky Edwards who was in charge of finance across all 4 hotels, and was perhaps looking forward to the pleasure of looking after 2 has instead found herself learning all about furlough and it's many complexities and communicating that to our staff. Michell and Miguel at The Porlock Weir Hotel are living in and caretaking the property as if it were their own. Joe, Jill with a G and Beth make up a small commune of two women and one man at The Luttrell Arms. Gill in normal times is the office administrator but now finds herself in charge of housekeeping and weeding. Joe the handyman has made full use of an empty hotel and has been busy decorating areas that in normal times would be hard to access without displacing customers, such as the lounge as well as the reception office and corridors. Beth one of our cheerful receptionists has in addition to her usual tasks been busy Facebooking, weeding and dusting! The hotels are in good hands. Unfortunately Anne and I haven't been furloughed and although not at the hotels we are busy working from home, although we are also dusting and weeding!
One thing that concerned me that I heard on the radio today was that people who talk loudly (which Anne is always accusing me of doing) tend to project up to 40% more water particles and hence potentially the virus, so I suspect I do need to talk more quietly and/or wear a mask! Hopefully this won't be used against me!
Until we all meet again please stay safe and let us know if you have any bright ideas for the way forward...