What it’s like to stay in a hotel in the Netherlands in the pandemic

I checked into the Best Western Plus Hotel Groningen Plaza this week (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

No cash payments, Plexiglas barriers at the check-in desk and one person in the elevator at a time.

This is the new face of hoteling I experienced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

I am currently based in the Netherlands and we are allowed to travel around the country freely, taking into account social distancing measures and avoiding groups larger than three people.

There is a 1.5-metre rule here as opposed to the 2 metres stipulated in the UK and the 1.8-metre buffer in the U.S.

My boyfriend and I decided to visit some family friends in the pretty university city of Groningen, north of Utrecht, where we are based, in a bid to find a change of scenery after weeks of isolating in our apartment. 

I was surprised to find that the hotel restaurant was open for dinner and breakfast (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

We weren’t sure if hotels would be open, but on Googling, we were surprised to find more than 20 places open for business including homestays and bed and breakfasts.

We settled on the Best Western Plus Hotel Groningen Plaza, located on the outskirts of town.

The hotel’s facilities, including a restaurant and swimming pool, caught our eye and on telephoning the 121-room property we were told both were open – which we were surprised by, especially as all restaurants elsewhere had been ordered to close until June 1. 

We nabbed a parking spot next to an electric car charging point close to the front door.

Coronavirus and tourism in the Netherlands, the rules:

  • Avoid busy places. Leave if you notice it is becoming difficult to keep a distance of 1.5 metres
  • Only use public transport if there is no alternative. From 1 June it will be compulsory to wear a non-medical face mask on public transport
  • Public venues such as museums, concert halls and theatres are closed
  • The heads of the Dutch safety regions are authorised to close sites (such as holiday parks, campsites, beaches, shops and parks) and to introduce local emergency legislation. Communal toilets, washing facilities and shower facilities at campsites and holiday parks are being closed
  • Stay 1.5 metres (2 arms lengths) away from other people
    • This applies when you are outside, in shops and at work. It does not apply to family members or other people that you live with
    • Keeping a distance of 1.5 metres reduces the chance of people infecting each other
  • All bars, cafés and restaurants have been closed
No cash payments were accepted at the hotel for hygiene reasons (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

In the lobby, there was a hand sanitiser stand next to a sign with government-recommended hygiene rules, including regularly washing your hands, coughing into your elbow, no handshaking and keeping a 1.5-metre distance from fellow guests. 

At the check-in desk, there was a Plexiglas barrier and the receptionist, who wore disposable latex gloves, informed us that we could only pay using card as no cash was being accepted for hygiene reasons. 

On speaking with the lady at the desk, she informed us that the hotel never shut during the coronavirus outbreak and it had stayed open to host workers from the business centre and staff from a nearby hospital emergency ward.

Apparently, there were around 20 rooms booked out the day we checked in but she revealed that it had been very quiet in the previous weeks with only around five people in residence at a time.

Thanks to it being so quiet, we were able to upgrade to an executive king room for an additional €15 on top of the €82 base price, complete with a bathtub and views from the 7th floor – the hotel’s highest floor.

The executive king room Sadie stayed in at the hotel (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

We also booked breakfast (€16 per person) and made a dinner reservation, excited at the prospect of eating in a restaurant again. 

On wheeling over to the lift, a notice informed us that only one person could take it at a time, but as a couple, we both crammed in there with our racing bikes.

The room was clean and spacious, with a desk, armchair, double wardrobe and large bathroom decked out with a shower and a giant tub.

There were no notices in the room regarding coronavirus. It felt like a normal hotel visit – you could almost forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic.

We called down to reception about using the swimming pool. They said it was possible for two people to book in advance to use it but unfortunately there was a children’s swimming lesson in progress that afternoon. Going for an impromptu splash wasn’t an option.

Diners in the hotel restaurant were spaced out with ‘reserved’ signs on every other table (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

Instead, I took a soak in the tub and then we made it back downstairs for a 6pm dinner. 

There was a hand sanitiser stand outside the spacious tropical-inspired dining room and a chalkboard detailing a reduced evening menu. 

On walking into the restaurant, it was nice to see a couple of other tables occupied – a family in one corner and an elderly couple on the other side of the room.

There were ‘reserved’ signs on every other table preventing people from sitting there so diners were well spaced out. 

We opted for a table next to the window and a waiter wearing black latex gloves came over to help us out. 

There was a granola bar at the hotel breakfast buffet (Sadie Whitelocks)

The service was swift and friendly, but at a distance, with plates and drinks left for us to collect on a neighbouring table. 

There was a fish, meat and vegetarian option to choose from on the main course menu and the waiter explained that more dishes were going to be added over the coming weeks as a ‘normal service’ gradually resumed.

On the drinks front, soft drinks, wine and spirits were available but cocktails were off-limits for the time being.

We left the restaurant at 9:30pm before it closed at 10pm.

We returned to the dining room the next morning for breakfast and I was surprised to find a buffet selection.

One of the hand sanitiser pumps in the hotel with government health recommendations (Picture: Sadie Whitelocks)

There were strips of red tape on the floor warning diners to keep a 1.5-metre distance as they spooned up granola, reached for baked goods and scooped up scrambled eggs. 

The busiest spot was the coffee machine and people politely waited for each other to finish getting their caffeine fixes before advancing to make their own.

More: Travel

Checking out of the hotel at midday was as swift as checking in but I noticed there were around six people who looked like tourists on their way in, which signalled that maybe things were picking up.

I asked the receptionist what the biggest changes had been at the hotel before I left. She replied: ‘Not too much has changed, we’ve put in certain measures to keep people safe. There is hand sanitiser everywhere, I even have two bottles here.

‘It will be good to welcome more guests soon. It’s been very strange with just five people here or less staying some nights. But it feels like things are getting better slowly.’

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