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The U.S. hotel industry is pursuing what the U.S. government should have considered from day one of the pandemic: a comprehensive, national preventative measure against the spread of coronavirus.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association Thursday pushed for vital travel safety practices at hotels amid rising coronavirus case counts in Sun Belt states that initially led the U.S. hotel industry’s recovery.

The AHLA’s new “Safe Stay Guest Checklist” outlines key practices for guests to travel safely in U.S. hotels during the pandemic. Measures include requiring guests to wear masks in all public areas, utilizing contactless check-in and payment features, and opting out of daily housekeeping during a stay.

The announcement came one day after the organization lobbied the Trump administration, the National Governor’s Association, and the United States Conference of Mayors on a standardized mask mandate across all 50 states.

These moves come in response to the variety — and sometimes conflicting —coronavirus precautions issued by state and municipal governments across the U.S.

“It’s getting quite confusing for the guests who are there, people who maybe want to be a guest, and employees,” AHLA CEO Chip Rogers said. “We thought it was necessary to add this list of things a guest can do to stay safe to the Safe Stay guideline.”

More than 20 U.S. states have mask mandates while some face covering orders have arrived at the local and municipal level. But Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Wednesday night striking down cities from enacting their own mask mandates, despite an ongoing case surge in the southern state.

The AHLA’s mask push is a heightened focus of the organization’s Safe Stay cleaning and workplace protocol introduced in late April to incorporate coronavirus preventative measures into the hotel industry. While the plan originally recommended wearing face coverings in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the initial Safe Stay plan placed more emphasis on hotel employees wearing masks as opposed to guests, who were recommended to abide by social distancing guidelines.

As more hotels across the U.S. have reopened from coronavirus-related shutdowns, the AHLA has gathered further information on how to improve its safety program.

“As we see what is taking place as guests come back, we hear stories certain guests are uncomfortable when other guests aren’t wearing masks. Employees are uncomfortable in that situation,” Rogers said. “The last thing we want to do is put an employee in a place where they have to referee that kind of situation.”

The Safe Stay plan is constantly reviewed and updated, according to the AHLA’s website. But the organization’s chief executive says its latest Safe Stay update isn’t directly tied to the case surge in places like Florida and Texas.

“The motivations come from experiences we hear from guests and staff members, and some of those experiences may stem from those case spikes in states,” Rogers said. “But I wouldn’t say it is directly tied to it.”

Along with the organization’s call for a mask mandate, push for contactless hotel features, and housekeeping opt-out plan, the AHLA also emphasized potential travelers should stay home if they have, or recently had, any coronavirus symptoms or were in contact with anyone who had contracted the virus.

The move garnered support from the CEOs of major hotel brands like Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott.

“To help enable safe travel amidst the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, we need to come together as an industry and promote clear guidelines, which for the foreseeable future include the wearing of face coverings in indoor public spaces and practicing social distancing,” Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said in a statement.

The AHLA’s renewed safety push comes while most hotel companies have each rolled out their own heightened health and safety measures to give guests the confidence to return to travel and booking stays. But executives with each of these companies Thursday emphasized the need to rally around common best practices when it comes to guest and employee safety amid the ongoing surge of new cases across the U.S.

“Health guidance is clear on wearing masks and it is a simple step everyone can take when in public spaces of hotels to protect themselves, each other and associates,” Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement. “We’re pleased to join with the industry to create consistency and collectively support our communities so we all can travel more safely.”

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Tags: ahla, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery

Photo credit: The American Hotel & Lodging Association this week announced key measures to combat coronavirus at hotels, emphasizing the need to wear masks in public spaces. Gustavo Fring / Pexels

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