Travel as we know it has changed drastically – no more spontaneous weekend getaways to nearby international cities, people are wary of long-haul travel and border closures means travellers are pretty limited with where they can go. While this is all necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the urge to travel is still there. Staycations are on the rise, so when the opportunity came for staying in a hotel during Covid, I was intrigued.
I’m spending time during the pandemic in Koh Samui in Thailand, a beautiful, paradise island off the south gulf of Thailand. It’s a great place to be right now, with lots of open spaces and outdoor dining options, but after a few months in the one place, the chance to have a slight change of scenery was welcome. I was curious about how much the hotel experience will change due to social distancing and safety measures, but I was pleasantly surprised…
Staying in a Hotel During Covid-19 – What’s it Really Like?
First things first, whether to travel domestically or not depends on the country. Thailand has currently had no community cases of the virus for over 100 days, so domestic travel feels ‘safe’ to indulge in.
I didn’t have to travel on any public transport to reach the hotel, as I have my own bike on the island and it was just a 45 minute drive from where I was staying. Even though Thailand’s airline have strict hygiene protocols, the idea of a staycation with my own transport was much more enticing than flying somewhere else for a weekend. Excited to stay in a hotel for the first time in months, I hit the road to the south of the island…
Avani+ Samui turned out to be the perfect retreat
Avani+ Samui is a seaside hideaway, right by Phang Ka Bay of Taling Ngam on Koh Samui’s southwest shore. Steps away from an untouched, secluded bay, guests can choose from 25 guest rooms, 27 private pool villas, or six beachfront pool villas. Driving along the lush jungle-y roads to reach the resort, you’ll catch views of the bay as you pull into the hotel.
So far, so normal. Holiday vibes are per usual…
The hotel has thought of everything to put guests at ease
The first thing I noticed when entering the hotel lobby was the hand sanitiser at the entrance. While this is common everywhere in Thailand (shops, restaurants, cafes etc), it’s the first time I had personally seen it in a hotel.
Avani+ Samui have plenty of signage highlighting the resort’s heightened hygiene and sanitising standards to ensure the health and safety of guests and team members. Digital check-in and check-out is available, so contact can be kept to a minimum. All staff wore masks. Front Office use UVC sterilisation boxes to disinfect key cards, stationery and other high touch objects. The restaurant and bar also use this for the pens you use to sign the cheque. Very clever indeed.
The room includes cute little tubes of personal hand sanitiser with the Avani+ logo on them. The resort’s ‘AvaniSHIELD’ program also says that the housekeeping team has begun testing a cleaning method with UVC light as an extra layer of protection after cleaning which is proven to kill germs and bacteria with 99.99% effectiveness.
Have any doubts about the safety and hygiene of hotel rooms? This is one hotel brand that is really getting it right. I thought that maybe the focus on hygiene and ‘rules’ would make a hotel stay a stress, but it’s anything but. You can really just relax and know that there’s nothing to worry about in terms of safety.
Private villa rooms with your own pool mean you can relax in peace
Avani+ Samui has beautiful guest rooms in the main hotel area with seaview balconies, but I stayed in one of their pool villas. Tucked away with a private swimming pool and pretty outdoor area, this is the perfect option if you want your own ‘space’ during your stay. The room is spacious, with super high ceilings, Nespresso machine, rain shower, plush bathrobes and a Bluetooth speaker. Rolling out of bed and going straight for a dip in your pool is simply heaven.
There’s also other larger beachfront villas, perfect for couples or families.
Compared to other ‘traditional’ hotels where you might bump into guests in the corridor, the pool villas feel nicely secluded. They’re perfect for social distancing and just lounging around in peace.
It was extremely quiet, but that made it feel even safer
For a Friday night stay in July, it was extremely quiet. I think I only saw about 6-8 other guests during my stay, but that was actually part of the charm. No jostling for deckchairs at the pool, or waiting for coffee at breakfast. In a time of social distancing, hotels being less busy is a blessing. Fewer guests means a more special experience. Staff all throughout Avani+ Samui were lovely too, saying how happy they were to see some guests start to stay again.
I went on the hotel’s longtail boat trip to Koh Madsum, a small island that’s home to wild pigs. It’s complimentary for all guests and the perfect activity to enjoy the beautiful scenery near the resort. There’s also plenty of other outdoor activities to choose from, such as beach yoga, stand-up paddle-boarding, mountain biking, or just lounging by the pool with a cool drink. Yep, I count that last one as an activity!
There’s an in-house spa and fitness centre too, but I didn’t get the time to check those out. Judging from the rest of the hotel, I would imagine the spa treatments are top notch.
Did I miss the breakfast buffet? Not at all!
While the breakfast buffet is usually a highlight of hotel stays, I promise you won’t miss it! Here, the buffet has been replaced with à la minute food preparation focusing on freshness, safe food handling and Avani’s zero waste initiative. Menus are available digitally or via QR code on a smartphone. You can order all the usual brekkie options from a menu and get staff will bring the items straight to your table. Staying in a hotel during Covid is actually even better than before.
For social drinks at the resort, there’s a scenic rooftop bar for sunset viewing and a mega-cute cocktail cart by the pool where you can enjoy a drink or two during Happy Hour. I took my second cocktail back to my pool villa and had the perfect chill evening watching TV in the huge kingsize bed. Now that’s what hotel stays are all about.
Even though far-flung travel is out of the question for now, it’s places like Avani+ Samui that are helping to fill that gap. You don’t need to fly or travel for hours to enjoy a getaway. Booking a staycation is the perfect way to support your local economy and chill out at the same time. Forget about what you’re missing out on, and focus instead on discovering new places in your own region that you never would have visited before. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? And at Avani+ Samui, it’s less of a cloud and more a bright, sunny burst of paradise.