For the hotel industry, the coming months will be a harsh test. The government's aid – EUR 4.7 million – will not be enough for everyone. Minister for Health's idea of a state-paid accommodation program for self-isolating persons has given some hope.
Like clean towels and bed linen, modern disinfectants have become an integral part of hotel equipment today. The head of the Wellton Riga Hotel & SPA Hotel, Anželika Mažeika, demonstrated a quartz lamp used to disinfect rooms.
“This is what we use every time to clean up after a guest who was here in self-isolation,” Mažeiks said. This is not cheap: it costs over €300.
Hotels have learned and changed a lot this season to work safely in the new circumstances. Restaurants and SPA centers no longer work. Breakfast is room-service only. For employees, masks are mandatory and are recommended for guests as well. Even the minutest details, such as checking in keys, has changed – it happens contact-free, throwing the key into a box. “Then the reception department employees remove the keys from the boxes and disinfect them before we use them again,” Mažeika said.
Compared to other years, hotel workload has fallen by 80%. Therefore, entrepreneurs held on to Minister of Health Ilze Viņķele's entry on Twitter about the possibility of providing state-paid self-isolation rooms in hotels. 20 hotels have already confirmed their readiness to participate in such a program, which together could provide accommodation for at least 800 people.
"Rooms offered for self-isolation would be a win-win situation.
We would have an income to cover our expenses. The epidemiological situation would benefit because there are households where you cannot really isolate," said Jānis Naglis, president of the Association of Hotels and Restaurants.
However, the government is refraining from making any promises.
“I think that if the situation develops badly and the health sector starts to lack capacity, this program could be started in the future because hotels are ready for it and their interest is high,” said Economics Minister Jānis Vitenbergs.
In the meantime, the Welfare Department of Riga City Council is already offering the possibility for low-income residents of Rīga to self-isolate in hotels.
“The social service can be contacted, but each case will be assessed individually whether the person really has no means to pay for the stay,” explained Lita Brice, spokeswoman for the City Council.
Until now, however, only two people have used the possibility of isolating themselves in the hotel at the expense of the municipality.