When South Africa went into lockdown on the 27 March, leaving only essential services operating, businesses such as hotels and accommodation establishments closed their doors. But there were some that had to remain open to service existing guests along with those from other establishments that were unable to travel home due to varied reasons. One such place is Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, and here is a look inside a hotel in lockdown:

“We’re three weeks into lockdown with another two to go, and the overall mood is positive ,” says Nicol Carelse, Guest Relations manager at the hotel. “Everyone who is here did not envision this unfolding as it has but we are all in the same boat, so we’re navigating through it together.”

The hotel, just as all other, are not taking new bookings for this period, but it has become home to a number of guests from surrounding hotels and other establishments around the city. Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront is also accommodating other guests sent by their respective embassies when South Africa went into lockdown and they found themselves unable to return home.

Clinton Thom, General Manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, notes that every precaution has been taken to ensure that these guests are protected from the risk brought by Covid-19.

“We have strictly implemented health and safety measures as recommended by the World Health Organisation,” says Thom. “And while guests are free to walk around the hotel and treat it like their home, social distancing is practiced at all times.”

Carelse has nothing but praise for the staff who are locked down with the guests, who she says “have been absolutely amazing during this time”, taking a turn at doing everything from answering phones to cooking breakfast – even those not part of the chef team.

“Everyone who is here has volunteered to stay here for the entire lockdown period, and they have gone above and beyond to ensure that guests are looked after during their stay. We’re all wearing many different hats and no roles are the same. For example, all HODs have a chance to make staff breakfast, while our husbands and partners who have been able to lockdown with us here at the hotel are helping to take care of the grounds and the garden between their own work schedules.”

Over the last three weeks, hotel employees have been constantly conceptualising new initiatives and ways to entertain the inhouse guests. They created a cosy library nook with a selection of books for guests to choose from, implemented a bingo evening for entertainment, created special menus, celebrated special occasions with guests – and more.

When asked about their lockdown experience, employees responded very positively.

“For everyone, this really has begun to feel like a home away from home. Guests and employees interact with one another every day, and we have all grown quite close,” Carelse says.

“This experience has really taught us about multi-tasking, but also about patience, kindness and great teamwork. We’ve really enjoyed bonding with one another over this time, and making the guests feel like part of our Radisson family.”

While she says they are all missing their families and their everyday lives, and are looking forward to getting back to  what is likely to be a “new normal”, they are happy with their decision to stay on for the rest of the lockdown rather than swap out with another team. This not only ensures that there is little risk of outsiders entering the hotel, but also means that the guests in lockdown “won’t have to adjust to a new team of people”.

Guests have also responded positively to being in lockdown at the hotel. One guest, who has since returned home to Germany, noted that it was very tough to say goodbye as everyone in the hotel – employees and guests – had gotten to know one another and bonded like a family.

This may be a tough time, and no one can predict what the landscape will look like when we emerge on the other side, but for now the local hotel industry is continuing to impress with that warm South African hospitality that SA is known for.

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