Thursday, October 29, 2009

How Swine Flu Affects the Innkeeping Profession

Sven and I went to the skin doctor today. While at the Harwich office, where we have waited up to three hours at a time in the past, it occurred to me the H1N1 virus could be floating around the facility. A little voice inside my head took up the mantra, “Wash hands, wash hands, wash hands!” When I venture into public places now, I always keep an eye out for the restroom. If an innkeeper becomes sick with swine flu, he/she must turn guests away.

I concluded over a month ago that Rule One is to stop shaking hands. Sven and I like to meet guests at the door. A firm handshake creates a positive impression and adds to the homey atmosphere of our bed & breakfast. Now a friendly wave across the yard will have to suffice. This change, called “social distancing,” proves harder to put into practice than one might think. Extending my right hand to greet guests has become a reflex.

Rule Two? Wash Hands. Wash hands after that unintended handshake but also after a trip into town for provisions or to the library. I’m not crazy about instant hand sanitizer and wash my hands more often than ever. Since most places offer soap with fragrance, parabens and God-only-knows what else, I have started carrying a small bottle of Trillium Organics liquid soap around in my purse. (See Trillium’s neat page called Toxins Avoided here.)

Rule Three? In this unusual flu season, innkeepers need to stock up on green cleansers and use them with more assiduity than ever in case a guest may already have H1N1. Infected people can infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick.

If a guest cancels a reservation due to swine flu, should the innkeeper reimburse the deposit? I handled such a situation last week by allowing guests to reschedule. Giving folks such leeway does represent a loss of income. But swine flu is a valid reason to stay home. So, I adjust accordingly.

For a more detailed, legal view on how to behave during the swine flu outbreak, go here.

We have only one reservation for November, and this, I think is due to the arrival of winter. People are once again cocooning. The best way to avoid H1N1 is to stay home.

What new behaviors have you adopted to beat the risk of swine flu?