On March 15, 2020, with the sweet sounds of Mardi Gras playing me and my friends out, I exited Universal Orlando Resort’s parking garage not knowing when the next time I’d be able to return would be.
These past few months of closure, while some of us have been hard at work perfecting Irish Soda Bread, a team at Universal has been hard at work preparing us for our phased reopening that began on June 1st.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to meet with four of our executives about the reopening process and what it’s looked like in four key areas — operations, food and beverage, entertainment, and hotels.
I spoke with the senior vice president of operations for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando Resort, David Bartek, all about updates to the hotel experience. Here’s what I learned.
KATIE: What has the process been like for you and your team to prepare for reopening?
DAVID: From the day we temporarily suspended operations at all of our resort hotels, we started working on the reopening. It has been an evolving process, constantly focused on the latest guidance from the CDC and state and local officials. Throughout these past few months, we’ve worked to ensure that the health and well-being of our guests and Team Members always remained our priority. We introduced hundreds of new standards and protocols in our hotels — from temperature checks of guests and Team Members to face coverings and to enhancing our already stringent cleaning practices and installing signage that reminds our guests to socially distance.
KATIE: How have Team Members responded so far to all of this?
DAVID: Our Team Members have been amazing. They have stepped up and shown great resilience and commitment. We rolled out a series of training videos that went through all of the key areas — from how to properly wash your hands, wear a face covering, and other guidance from the CDC. We have ongoing training that focuses on protecting yourself and others, proper use of PPE, work safety, and cleaning protocols. All of this has been very well received and embraced by our team.
KATIE: What types of conversations, both internally and externally, have prepared you and your team for reopening?
DAVID: We continue to talk about the shared responsibility we all have in this for the sake of our community, our business, our guests, and each other. We’ve also been transparent about the many protocols we have in place. When a guest asks us what we clean with, we share with them that we are using an EPA-approved cleaner and disinfectant that’s effective against emerging viral pathogens and coronavirus. We are also now leaving guest rooms vacant for 24-48 hours, before thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting that room. These protocols and conversations are incredibly important as we work to instill confidence in our guests in the new environment we are all navigating.
KATIE: What are the top things guests need to know about the operational changes in your area of Universal?
DAVID: First off, as I mentioned, all of the changes we have made at our hotels are in the interest of guest and Team Member safety and well-being and have been informed with guidance from the CDC. Just as important, I want our guests to know that even though so many things may look different in our hotels right now, the most important aspect of what we do is the same. That is to welcome our guests like family when they come to experience our incredible destination. In addition to that, we’re also offering several contactless experiences throughout the hotels and we encourage our guests to text with us through Chat Your Service. This service will be explained to them at check-in and allows guests to easily text us a request or question.
KATIE: What can guests look forward to now that hotels are open again?
DAVID: Many of their favorite experiences are back — a leisurely lap around the lazy river at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort or a great poolside meal at Hard Rock Hotel. So many guests shared with us about what they missed the most and we’re thrilled to get back to creating those experiences they love.