As shutdown orders and travel restrictions swept the world in 2020, businesses in most industries suffered significantly, especially revenue losses. However, few were impacted by the pandemic more severely than the hospitality industry, with the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) reporting November 2020 that 71 percent of hotels believed they would be unable to stay open another six months without additional federal aid. In the face of an unprecedented crisis, hotels were forced to get creative, pivoting their business strategies and implementing measures designed to maximize safety and peace of mind for guests and employees alike.
Like most other hoteliers, Steve and Connie Segner—the owners of El Portal Sedona Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Sedona, Arizona—were initially concerned about how they would weather the COVID-19 pandemic. But in keeping with their long-standing commitment to creating a relaxing, personalized experience for each guest and their pets, the Segners quickly adapted protocols that would enhance safety and minimize unwanted contact, while still providing guests with a much-needed escape from the stress and fear that have been pervasive throughout the pandemic.
With only 12 rooms, an open-air courtyard, and plenty of common areas where guests can unwind, El Portal’s layout is naturally conducive to social distancing. In addition, the Segners swiftly implemented a variety of measures designed to ensure a safe and sanitary environment. For example, they made hand sanitizer and masks available to guests, and required masks to be worn when social distancing was not possible in accordance with the latest advisories from the Arizona Department of Health Services and the WHO. Common areas—both indoors and out—are now disinfected multiple times per day, while rooms are only cleaned upon checkout, and guests’ requests to minimize unnecessary contact between guests and staff.
One of the biggest changes for El Portal has been the implementation of a contactless check-in process. Upon arrival, guests encounter an area with welcome packets that contain their room key, directions to the room, and a book written by the hotel’s staff with information on Sedona’s many restaurants, hiking trails, and other attractions. When guests depart, their checkout statement is emailed to them unless they request a paper copy. For those who are comfortable interacting with staff and have questions about the Sedona area, the concierge is available to offer guidance. Special hikes and walks were set up so guests could avoid the busier trails, be safe, and feel good about getting out of doors. The large, private courtyard was set up with tables and chairs spread out to observe social distancing protocols, the Wi-Fi range was increased helping people to easily work from the covered patios, encouraging them to feel at home, alone yet not alone.
Another major change was to stop breakfast service to prevent groups from congregating in close quarters. The hotel also made special arrangements with local restaurants for breakfast delivery and take-out to minimize the effect on guests, and provides cutlery, plates, and condiments so they feel they are eating a regular meal. The “hospitality alcove,” where guests can help themselves to beverages (including beer and wine), has remained open 24 hours a day, and additional snacks such as yogurt, protein bars, granola bars, and healthier snacks were added for no charge.
Aside from the many steps that El Portal has taken to ensure the health and safety of staff and guests alike, the hotel has unfailingly strived to provide a slice of luxury, a haven during uncertain times. As noted by Candace Carr Strauss, president and CEO of the Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, “The pandemic robbed us of our connection with family and friends, our customs and traditions. Unique lodging properties throughout the pandemic that provided personal service and a curated experience filled that void for many who continued to travel.”
With travel rebounding from the pandemic, El Portal continues to take pride in offering guests a clean, distinctive lodging experience as they explore all that Sedona has to offer. As a AAA Four Diamond recipient that has also been ranked one of the country’s top pet-friendly hotels, El Portal is dedicated to providing an extraordinary stay in unpretentious luxury for guests and their pets. For more information, visit https://elportalsedona.com