For many people, The Great Lockdown Experience of 2020 felt like Groundhog Day.
We wore the same clothes every day, saw the same faces, became well versed in Netflix’s back catalogue and walked so many laps of our neighbourhood we became friendly with every dog in our postcode.
So when I was invited to have a staycation at a nearby hotel just as restrictions eased, I almost wept with joy at the prospect of a change of scene. Sure, it was only three suburbs away, but the idea of waking up somewhere had me clicking my heels with glee.
When I discovered you could watch movies from a private hot tub on your balcony, I almost had to breath into a paper bag.
I was also fascinated to see what it’s like staying in a hotel in a post-coronavirus world.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at Element, Melbourne, was contactless check-in. While there was still a human being at reception (in Tokyo some hotels have replaced reception staff with robots), there was no room key handed over. Instead I was asked to download an app that meant my phone could be programmed as the room key. Then all I had to do was ensure I didn’t lose my phone that afternoon, which let’s face it, is not out of the question.
The hotel was also incredibly quiet. We didn’t encounter another guest for the duration of our stay. The restaurants and the couch-filled lobby area were closed due to Victoria’s restrictions, so what is usually a space with a bit of atmosphere was like a ghost town.
What the lobby did have though was a hand sanitiser station, with a full array of artisan hand sanitisers for guests to select from. Who would have thought that this is what 2020 would bring us. Isn’t life a wild ride?
As we’ve previously mentioned, they’ve really upped the ante with cleaning processes in hotels in the post-COVID world. We noticed staff wiping down contact points like lift buttons and handrails every time we left the room.
Another quirky development at this particular hotel is the introduction of little al fresco ‘meeting igloos’ that can also be used for drinks with a small group of friends or colleagues.
For the time being, gyms are a thing of the past. As such, hotels are having to get creative with alternative fitness and wellness offerings. This particular hotel is offering bikes (including some zany tandem numbers) that you can borrow and get a bit of exercise on the nearby Yarra River bike paths … or ride directly to the nearby Grand Hotel for a pub meal, which would be my recommendation.
Speaking of food, that is one of the big changes we noticed. One of the great joys of staying at a hotel is the food and beverage element, (because as we all know, holiday calories don’t count).
But the offering is a bit limited in this immediate post-COVID world. It’s feared that buffet breakfasts will become a thing of the past and during our stay we couldn’t order room service, as the restaurant was closed. Instead, the concierge was on hand to facilitate food orders from Uber Eats (and give some helpful local recommendations).
The in-room mini bar had also been banished for hygiene reasons. Instead, there was a “pantry” in the lobby that you could buy items from and take back to your room.
This actually worked out well for me, as I’m less likely to inhale two cans of Pringles, a Snickers bar and four small bottles of Smirnoff if I actually have to look a human in the eye as I’m purchasing them.
Simone Mitchell was a guest of Element, Melbourne.