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Thinking of Going Back Into the Pool? Read This First

If sitting poolside or doing a few laps is part of your Labor Day weekend itinerary, there are a few things you need to know first.

This summer, travelers swapped their passports with road maps and improvised to fight the pandemic blues. Hotels started opening up, with new safety and hygiene protocols to keep guests safe. In fact, the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) shared a Stay Safe guide that includes cleaning practices and safety precautions for hotels. And with Labor Day fast approaching, travelers may have their eye on getting one last (or first) swim of the season before the door of summer closes.

And why not? For travelers, priorities have changed. According to TripAdvisor’s new report, 86% of consumers say that cleanliness is important while booking a stay, “with the provision of hand sanitizers and sealed amenities, the frequency with which rooms are disinfected, and the use of temperature checks for employees and guests all now cited as top considerations,” the report noted.

The post-COVID-19 hotel stay may look very different—from mask-clad housekeeping to contactless check-in—but it still has its charms. One of the major draws for people, especially after months of being cooped up at home, is the pool.

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To be clear, the CDC has no report of the virus spreading through swimming pools. A chlorinated pool should be able to kill the virus, so if a hotel pool is well-maintained, it is low risk.

It is, however, other guests you should be concerned about.

Pools normally have people swimming together; even in hotels, there could be a crowd in the water at the same time. In the pool area, frequently-touched surfaces such as sunbeds and handrails also pose risks.

A shot of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore at sunrise.anek.soowannaphoom/Shutterstock

So if you’re thinking about doing a lap in a hotel pool, you must know new policies adopted by hotels to keep guests safe and what precautions you must take.

New Pool Protocols

Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore has reopened with a list of guidelines that include limited capacity at the hotel, social distancing measures, and deep-cleaning and sanitization in private and public areas.

Located on the rooftop, 57 levels above ground, the infinity pool of the hotel is often seen on Instagram feeds with people swimming at the edge—it’s one of the best spots to capture panoramic views of the city. Now only a few can soak here at the same time.

The new guidelines include limited pool sessions for hotel guests, along with social distancing in the pool areas. Also, hotel guests will need to make a booking in advance to get their one-hour-per-day on the rooftop. The website also reports, “Enhanced pool water quality and operating parameters, with water sampling conducted four times daily, and increased frequency of circulation cycles and backwash.”

In the pool area, frequently-touched surfaces such as sunbeds and handrails also pose risks.

At Andaz West Hollywood, in Los Angeles, the rooftop pool is open from sunrise to sunset, with pool chairs sanitized between use, six feet of separation between guests, and limited capacity. At all Hyatt properties, there’s a trained Hygiene Manager and the frequency of cleaning has increased—sanitizers and masks are available at the properties; social distancing signage has been put up; and the app can be used to check-in, check-out, and order food.

Halfway across the world in the Maldives, The Residence Maldives is taking similar precautions at The Beach Club. The 42-meter infinity pool is cleaned daily and readings are checked thrice a day to maintain the pH and chlorine levels as per World Health Organization standards. Social distancing signage reminds guests to keep at least one-meter distance from others and seating is limited.

What Are Other Options?

Two words: private pools.

Did you know that there’s also an Airbnb for pools that’s gaining popularity in these COVID-hit times? Swimply was pitched as an idea on Season 11 of Shark Tank and now it has picked up in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The company has grown 2,000% this summer!

With this contactless app, you can book a pool in your neighborhood (New York showed 58 listings upwards of $30 per hour) and the owners list all amenities (including bathroom access, WiFi, barbecue, tables, etc.) and specify maximum capacity. But here, too, you should check with the host about safety precautions they are taking and inquire about the frequency of use and chlorine levels.

If you want to limit contact with other guests, you should also look at villas and apartments with their own pools. Resorts in the Maldives have always offered top-of-the-line experiences, and a private plunge pool is something that will remain a hit for the coming months.

Kandima Maldives, which claims to have one of the longest pools on the island nation, offers private infinity pools in its villas. Neeraj Seth, Director of Marketing Communication & Public Relations, says, “We have always witnessed a higher demand for villas with private pools, and villas equipped with swirl pools have also been popular options for guests. Having said that, yes, there is a slight spike in the number of bookings we are receiving for the accommodation with private pools and swirl pools, keeping in mind the privacy and safety they offer to a couple or a family.”

There is an additional emphasis on cleaning public and private pools at the resort, while it also has a fully-equipped medical facility on-site with certified doctors and an isolation ward.

There is an additional emphasis on cleaning public and private pools at the resort, while it also has a fully-equipped medical facility on-site with certified doctors and an isolation ward.

At the newly-opened Camp Sarika by Amangiri in the Utah desert, there are just 10 tented pavilions, catering to 30 guests in total, all with their own private plunge pools. The middle-of-nowhere experience gives you plenty of space to be with nature and be socially distant—this is a perfect COVID-19-era experience.

In addition, the campsite also has a sun deck and pool, which now has enhanced safety procedures, including PPE use by staff and sanitation of pool beds and pillows after every use. Julien Surget, General Manager, Amangiri, says, “With the seating layout already generous in space, we have not had a need to revisit the seating arrangements (we only have nine pairs).”

What About Face Masks?

The rules about face masks are not consistent. It is best to check the state laws (here) and hotel guidelines to know if they’re mandated or just encouraged.

The Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows by Hyatt. The company’s site states that all of their hotels in the Americas will require face coverings within indoor public areas and when moving around in outdoor areas for the foreseeable future.Credit: EQRoy/Shutterstock

Some U.S. states have ordered it, while others such as Utah and Arizona don’t have a state-wide rule. In Nevada, face masks are required in all public spaces, so The Venetian Resort in Las Vegas has updated on the website that guests are required to wear them in the pool area.

In a video address, Marriott International announced that it’s making face masks mandatory in public areas. Hyatt also made it a requirement in all hotels in the Americas. Whether the hotel specifies it or not, it’s a good idea to wear a mask in public spaces and to maintain social distance inside and outside the pool. Should you wear a mask in the water? The CDC says no because it’ll make it difficult to breathe if it gets wet.