It’s no secret that the pandemic knocked India’s travel industry for six. At Indian Excursions Co, we’ve retained a positive outlook and been grateful for this rare downtime to reevaluate our processes, improve our itineraries, and better the overall Indian Excursions Co experience. And we weren’t the only ones: our trusted hotel partners seized the opportunity to regroup, understand and prepare for what will be India’s new normal.
We’ve maintained a close relationship with our suppliers throughout, monitoring closely the safety precautions they’ll be implementing when the doors reopen to international travellers. While it’s a given things won’t be quite as they were for a long time to come, it is possible – and safe – to explore this extraordinary country in the era of India’s “new normal”. Here’s what to expect:
“Having spoken in depth with our hotel partners, I conclude the use of technology is a crucial instrument in welcoming guests safely in the ‘new normal’. From QR code menus to contactless check-ins.” – Madeleine Hann, Co-Founder. “In addition, all the hotels speak of frequent sanitization, social distancing, protective gear, temperature checks, medical assistance on hand, and adhering to all government and WHO guidelines. There’s even special immunity-boosting dishes and beverages being introduced on menus!”.
In detail, here’s what guests can expect from our recommended hotels during India’s “new normal”:
India’s new normal for arrival, check-in and check-out:
- You’ll be greeted with a traditional “namaste” (folded hands) on arrival with appropriate social distancing.
- Hand sanitizer and face coverings will be available for your use on entering the lobby.
- Your temperature will be tested on your arrival by a member of the hotel staff. Anyone running a temperature higher than 99°F will be met by the hotel’s resident doctor and advised on the further course of action. This goes for anyone and everyone entering the hotel; from guests, to staff, to visitors and guides and drivers.
- Your luggage will be sanitized on entering the hotel, as will the baggage tray used to scan your hand luggage.
- Sanitizer will be provided in your room. On request, PPE can also be placed including a face covering, safety glasses, and disposable gloves.
- You’ll be asked to provide certain details in advance of your stay, to shorten the check-in experience (Indian Excursions will sort all that out on your behalf).
- You’ll be asked to advise the front desk at least an hour before you intend to check-out, to ensure social distancing in the lobby. When you do check-out, you’ll be offered an e-bill rather than a traditional paper receipt.
India’s new normal for housekeeping:
- Touchpoints in the lobby and other public areas will be continually sanitized. This includes countertops, elevator buttons, door handles and railings etc.
- Floors will be mopped with disinfectant every two hours.
- Signage will be placed in the lobby to ensure social distancing.
- Hand sanitizers will be available at all counters, restaurants and guest rooms.
- Unused room linen will also be sent to laundry on departure.
- Guest rooms will be deep cleaned in accordance with government and WHO guidelines. Extra attention will be paid to door handles, remote controls, flush handles, faucets, counters and floors.
- Soft furnishings – including pillows and shower curtains – will be cleaned after every departure. Heavy curtains, headboards and rugs will be cleaned as well.
- Glassware in the room will have been cleaned to at least 80°F before check-in.
India’s new normal in restaurants and bars:
- Tables will be reconfigured in line with social distancing norms.
- Staff will wear PPE.
- The hostess’ desk will be sanitized every 30 minutes, or after every use.
- Entrance doors will be left open during meal periods.
- Reserved dining hours will be maintained for senior citizens.
- Tables and chairs will be sanitized before and after every meal period, and after every use.
- Electronic menu tablets and credit card machines will be sanitized after each use.
- Equipment such as coffee machines, ice crusher machines, cookie containers and tea selection boxes will be sanitized after each use.
India’s new normal for in-room dining and pool service
- In-room dining trolleys will be disinfected after each use.
- Service staff will wear PPE, maintain a safe social distance, and greet guests with a “namaste” (folded hands).
- All dishes will be covered with a cloche.
- Canned beverages will be opened by the server, only on request of the guest.
- Pool loungers and umbrella stands will be sanitized after each use.
India’s new normal for the kitchen:
- Kitchen staff will enter the kitchen in a clean uniform each shift and wash their hands prior to entering the kitchen. Kitchen staff will wear protective face coverings and disposable gloves.
- All staff movement in the kitchen will be clockwise to reduce cross traffic.
- All surfaces, tabletops, ladles and knives will be sanitized after each use.
- All fruits and vegetables will be washed in 50 PPM chlorine before entering the hotel as well as the kitchen.
- Grocery packets will be sprayed with 100 PPM chlorine or quarantined away from the main building. Meat, poultry and seafood will be washed and sanitised thoroughly.
India’s new normal for the fitness centre:
- Hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and disposable masks will be placed in the fitness centre for guests’ use.
- All equipment including yoga mats will be sanitised after every guest’s use. This includes the TV and music system remotes, and headphones.
- All touchpoints, including doorknobs, switch plates, thermostats, minibars, etc. will be sanitised after each use.
India’s new normal for the swimming pool:
- Chlorine levels will be monitored every 30 minutes and maintained at 0.8 – 1 PPM.
- Handrails, lounge towels and pool loungers will be disinfected after each use.
- Floating tubes and balls, provided upon guest request, will be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised after each use.
- Pool furniture will be arranged to ensure that a safe distance is maintained between each.
- Towel basket will be sanitised before placing fresh towels with no more than two fresh towels per basket.
India’s new normal for laundry:
- Laundry staff will wear face masks and disposable gloves.
- All laundry hangers, laundry bags, wicker baskets and basket liners will be sanitised before and after laundry delivery.
- Separate canvas bags will be used to transport soiled and fresh linen from guest rooms to housekeeping and laundry to avoid cross-contamination.
“The Oberoi Group has always prioritised the health and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues with exacting standards of cleanliness and hygiene. I take this opportunity to assure you that we have used this time to implement even more detailed measures, in keeping with World Health Organization and Ministry of Tourism guidelines. Our hotels have always been recognised for their meticulous Housekeeping standards, visible to our guests from the moment they enter. Each one of us now stands committed to being industry leaders when it comes to guest and employee safety as we are confronted with COVID-19.” – Mr Vikram Oberoi, CEO of The Oberoi Group.
How are hotels making it easier to travel after coronavirus?
India’s tourism industry fully recognizes the need for flexibility when planning travel in the age of coronavirus. That’s why the majority of our preferred partners have significantly relaxed their cancellation policies; from a previous 30 days before check-in to a more realistic 48 hours. Accordingly, we, Indian Excursions, are passing on that flexibility to you as far as possible. We’ve detailed a blanket “Flexibility Promise” on our website, but please know it is always our goal to go above and beyond this. We are on your side, here to support you.
What measures are Indian Excursions Co taking?
We are not encouraging travel to India until January 2021 onwards, and have been in touch with our existing bookers to discuss their options. In the majority of cases, our existing bookers have chosen to postpone their arrangements (free of cost) to next year and we remain flexible to the situation if in case travel in 2021 isn’t feasible. For others who opted to cancel, we’ve worked tirelessly to recover funds paid on their behalf to hotels and airlines and are in the process of reimbursing them.
When we look at 2021, we are committed to ensuring our guides, drivers and representatives wear the appropriate PPE and maintain social distancing guidelines. They’ll be thoroughly trained in washing their hands and maintaining a clean environment. Your vehicle will be deep-cleaned each day.
Your driver will undergo a Covid-19 test prior to your arrival. On request, we can place a protective screen in your vehicle between yourself and your driver.
Before the pandemic, our guides would meet you at your hotel and accompany you in your vehicle to the first site. Now, we’ll arrange separate means of transportation for him/her and they’ll meet you at each monument instead of accompanying you in the car.
We’ll focus on experiencing the best of Rajasthan more exclusively – think private museum tours and intimate folk performances, versus bustling market places and crowded monuments. As specialists in the area, we know Rajasthan inside and out and are confident we can deliver an equally immersive and authentic experience, if not a better one while maintaining social distancing.
We propose it would be wiser to focus on a select few destinations rather than rushing about across the country. This will reduce the amount of time you spend travelling and will afford a more relaxed pace to see the sites at your leisure and at the quietest times of the day. It’ll also carve out time to return to your hotel for lunch to ensure the highest standards of cleanliness. We also imagine we’ll be focusing more on road-based itineraries, rather than connecting too many dots by train or by air. We can always discuss destinations with lesser drivetime to avoid bathroom breaks on the road.
Nothing is more important to us than the health and wellbeing of our guests, though it is also paramount that you enjoy your time in India to the fullest. As a responsible tour operator with a proven track record, you can rest assured we will never encourage you to travel unless we believe it is safe to do so, and should circumstances change along the road we’re here to support you in making the necessary rearrangements.
We’re confident it’s possible to travel to India safely in 2021 with the support of a trusted tour operator. Admittedly, it will be a different experience to what we’ve offered so far, but that doesn’t mean it will be any less enjoyable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get back out there and see the world? On the flip side, we appreciate that for many of our guests, a trip to India is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that they’d rather hold off from until the dust has well and truly settled on Covid-19. If that’s the case, we can always start to plan and discuss ideas, with no expectations. Whenever you’re ready to get stuck into the planning of your next trip, we look forward to hearing from you.
For inspiration, we recommend browsing through our Top Hotels in Rajasthan for 2021.0