How hotels are preparing for visitors in a world of Covid-19 – Interview with Sam Luciano of the Fort William Henry Hotel

In this video, Sam Luciano shares information with us about the Warren County task force that is working to help the region get ready to open safely for tourism. He also shares how the Fort William Henry Resort is handling housekeeping, disinfection and safety.

 

Here are some of the highlights from the interview:

  • The Warren County task force’s focus is to get the county ready for businesses to open after phase one is over.  The county will be putting together video seminars to help the tourism operators make sure all necessary plans are in place.
  • Sam’s first move was to survey his guests to learn what matters most to them. The hotel’s number one concern was safety.
  • Sam details how he will be outfitting his housekeeping team and how the hotel will use UV-C units for disinfecting. The UV-C light the hotel will be using is the same technology that is in use in many hospitals. Learn more about UV-C at the National Institute of Health.  Using UV-C light is a serious endeavor, therefore we caution those thinking about using UV-C light to research its pros and cons and be trained on its proper use.
  • He further details the hotel’s cleaning and disinfecting procedures and the wait time from when a guest leaves a room to when it will be ready for use again.
  • The resort will be using ProKure and MediClean to disinfect common areas.
  • He shares the activities that people are most interested in are “sun activity” based: hiking, sitting on the beach, boating, biking, motorcycle rides and sitting by the pool.
  • The resort will be videotaping the cleaning procedures to share the measures that they are taking to keep people as safe as possible.

Links to top resources for the hospitality industry:

Complete Video Transcript

Sara: Hello, this is Sara Mannix, and I am here with Sam Luciano, from the Fort William Henry resort. Hi, Sam.

Sam: Hi, Sara, how are you doing today?

Sara: I’m doing great. Sam is not only the president of the Fort William Henry resort and conference center, but he is also a world champion power lifter.

Sam: Thank you.

Sara: And I would love to– can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, some things like that?

Sam: Thanks, Sara. Originally from the area. I’ve been with the Fort William Henry Corporation for 35 years. I started out as a night auditor, for those that are seeking a career on the corporate ladder. Been a wonderful career. I’ve relished every moment with the Fort William Henry. It’s been a great company to work for. And we live in a absolutely beautiful area, the Lake George region of upstate New York. It’s a fantastic place to grow up, and certainly, to work every day.

Sara: Well, thank you. It is a beautiful area. So you’re on the COVID-19 task force for Warren County?

Sam: I am.

Sara: Great. Can you tell us a little bit about what’s going on? What should hoteliers be thinking about right now? What are your big concerns, and how are you addressing that?

Sam: So yes, we do have a task force in Warren County made up of a lot of the leaders in Warren County, and also some of the top hoteliers from the area. And basically, the task force is to get the county ready for the opening after phase one is over, the opening of business, being able to accept transient guests and groups again. So the task force was put together to demonstrate to the governor and Albany that we are prepared for this opening, and we do have a lot things in place for the safety of the guests. The task force is getting down to being able to do video seminars, et cetera, to help the smaller operators, some of the mom and pops, to make sure all their plans are in place so everybody’s safe and protected. At the Fort William Henry– us personally– what we’ve done is we’ve taken a number of measures. We actually started with a survey to our guests– many of them, tens of thousands of guests. And we asked them seven key questions. And those questions helped drive the plan that we put together. And we looked at both safety and security from a guest perspective and from a staff perspective.

So what we’ve done is– I’m going to start with housekeeping. When a guest checks in, they go through the normal protocol. We have Plexiglas screens. We have the credit cards not being handled, cash not being handled. When the guest goes to the room, they will not receive daily housekeeping service. We have put together two teams of just disinfecting employees. Their only job, their only role with the company, is to disinfect a number of areas. They will go in on a daily basis in full protection, full mask, shield, 13-inch gloves, Tyvek suits, booties, everything. They’ll go in and they’ll replenish the towels and remove the garbage, unless the guest wants any other service while they’re there.

Upon checkout, the room will sit for 24 to 72 hours. And what we’re finding is 24 hours is sufficient. And then one of our disinfectant team will go in with a UVC device and activate it for 20 minutes. Are you familiar with UVC, Sara?

Sara: No, I’m not.

Sam: UVC is ultraviolet technology. It was actually invented by Westinghouse in 1933, and they perfected it. It’s used in hospitals. UV rays– when you go to the beach, you protect yourself with sunblock. These units– UVC is like that sun ray on steroids. And the C part of it stands for static magnetic electricity. What it does, it bonds the material to the surface– what’s not sitting on the top– so it gives a higher kill ratio to viruses. UVC is measured in nanometers. The units we got clean 800 square feet. Our average guest room is 400 square feet. So we’re overkill. And everything that we put in place along the way was overkill for a very specific reason. So these machines emit 280 nanometers. They kill the coronavirus, and they kill SARS, they kill MERS. The kill rate on those is around 235 to 254 nanometers. And it’s a 180-degree broadcast, so we get everything.

The way UVC works is the light actually goes through the cell wall and changes the DNA and the nuclear acids that are in the cell wall. And it makes them so they have the inability to reproduce. And it kills the cell in a matter of a short period of time. So we know by what we’ve studied on the coronavirus that just waiting 24 hours to enter the room is going to eradicate a lot of the virus. By putting these units in, that’ll definitely take care of any other concerns. When the 20 minutes is over, our team member leaves, and housekeeping comes in and does their normal routine to clean the room. Then they will leave the room, and then a team member goes back in. And we have UVC wands. They will do all the new amenities, the toilet paper, the shampoos, et cetera. And again, all the high touch areas, the telephone, the remotes, the desk.

When they depart– I have one, but I won’t get out of my chair to show you– but a sticker will go on the door that’ll say this room has been sanitized by Sara Mannix on May 1st. And what that does is– the dialogue with the front desk– when you look down our hotel, if you look down that hallway, you’ll see these stickers all the way down. That means that that room has been sanitized, and nobody’s entered it for your protection.

Sara: That’s great.

Sam: On top of that, all these UVC units we put in the maids’ closets at night. All the fresh terry and towel that is prepped to go in the guest rooms will be UVC’d. All public areas will be disinfected every hour on the hour. The pool be disinfected every hour on the hour. ATM machines, door handles, et cetera, are all being attended to.

Sara: How accessible are these UVC machines, and where do you get them?

Sam: We have just obtained 10 of them through a number of companies that sell them. Larson is one of the bigger ones. We got them early, if you will. They’re a little bit harder to get right now. There’s about an eight-week lag in them. But there are many companies that sell them.

Sara: So we need to get the word out to people that they need to get them now, right?

Sam: Yeah. We’re also using a product called MediClean. It’s a hospital-grade disinfectant. So we wouldn’t be able to do the UVC in our lobby, because there’s too many windows. We will be using chemical disinfectants in some of the areas.

Sara: Well, that’s great. It’s great to hear that it’s not all chemical disinfectants too. Because a lot of people have reactions to that.

Sam: That’s why we didn’t go down that road.

Sara: What else is the task force doing, and what are your thoughts on going forward?

Sam: The task force is working a lot with government and with each other. Now we were talking yesterday– we have a lot of challenges ahead of us, not just with what’s happening right now with the economy. As you know, Saratoga racetrack will be non-fan base this year. That’s a really big deal. Right now, the attractions are having difficulty opening if they don’t have a set date. That’s a really big deal. So as a team and as one unit in Warren County, we’ll tackle these problems. Again, a lot of this comes from surveys. Warren County’s in the process of organizing and sending out a survey to their database to get answers on, do people plan on travel? When do they plan on traveling? What do they want to see when they do travel? All of the important questions to ask.

Sara: That’s fantastic. That’s great. I’m looking forward to seeing those results and what’s happening there. So what are you doing to prepare for opening? How are you thinking about marketing? How are you thinking about getting the word out? What are your plans for that?

Sam: So the surveys that we did, the number one thing that came back– two things came out of the survey that I thought were astounding. We sit in Warren County. And it’s one thing to sit here and have the amount of cases that we have had. It’s a whole ‘nother thing to be from our top marketing area in New York City. The first question I asked is, have you or your family members or anybody you know had coronavirus or been affected by coronavirus? Me personally, I don’t know anybody who has it. None of my family members, none of my colleagues. Thank god, I don’t know of anybody. That’s not what came back in the survey. 50% of the survey came back and said, yeah, we’ve greatly been affected. Our family members have been, our friends have. We know somebody’s brother or uncle or co-worker that’s been affected.

And the other thing that came back in the comments of that survey is they are scared. And if we’re going to come to you, you have to be safe. And what was surprising is not only do we have to guarantee safety, they wanted to make sure that our staff was safe. You asked about marketing. The marketing message from Warren County right now– and I can talk about the space I’m in today– has to resonate that we are very safe and clean for you to travel to our properties, and to Warren County.

The other thing that came out was the activities that they want to do. And it was clear they want outside, hiking, boating, biking, motorcycle rides, sitting by the pool. It was all the outdoor activities. Not surprising, because you probably saw the White House briefing. Sunlight was one of the things, sunlight, warmth, and humidity actually bring the half life of coronavirus down dramatically. So that really told us we need to do packages, hiking with box lunches, things by the pool, bike rides, organized outside trips. Some other good suggestions were people who were familiar with Prospect Mountain, but they were a little bit older. And they said, can we hike down it? Can you bring us to the top and we’ll hike down it with a box lunch? And I thought that was a great idea.

Sara: Yeah.

Sam: So our marketing efforts are going to are going to be experienced-based, primarily outdoors right now with promotions, social media. And also, we’re going to be videotaping our staff going through the cleaning process I told you. Because that has to resonate with people planning a vacation. They have to know they’re safe.

Sara: That’s a great idea, so something like fortwilliamhenry.com/clean or cleaning procedures or something like that? I think that’s a fantastic idea to show them what you’re doing. I mean, it’s a slippery slope. You can’t promise somebody is going to be safe. But you can say this is what we’re doing, right? Because of the liability of making promises, of course, nobody can promise, right?

Sam: We want to show them that the measures that we’re going through.

Sara: Yeah.

Sam: You know how this coronavirus is. I mean, we wipe down a space now, if we come back in an hour, we will have missed 50 minutes of it. But we are definitely stepping up our game, big time.

Sara: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s going to be a world with coronavirus for a while, so we have to learn how to do our best with what we have, right?

Sam: Absolutely, absolutely.

Sara: So this is fantastic. I really appreciate you coming on to talk about the coronavirus. And do you have any other advice to impart related to the virus?

Sam: To the virus? With us, we’ve been engrossed with this since early March, really. We watch every webinar. We sit in every seminar. We’re involved with the Best Western hotel chain. They offered a lot of support materials. So we keep on that really as much as we can every day. It’s a big part of our lives right now. Things are changing every moment, and just trying to keep up with it.

Sara: Thank you. Do you have any places that you recommend people look at and watch?

Sam: There’s a number of websites that I’ll have to send you. Be happy to.

Sara: Oh, that would be great.

Sam: – that we keep up with. And again, the brand’s offered a lot of support as well.

Sara: Right, I’ll put those in the show notes. I appreciate it.

Sam: Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Sam: Thank you. All right.