Even during a global pandemic, Okada Manila earned its five-star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide. But what’s it really like to stay outside of your home right now?
With the summer months fast approaching, people are thinking about all the vacations they used to take around this time of year. Except this year—just like the last—not a lot of people are flying out for leisure. It’s going to be a while before borders around the world open up, before we can travel safely again. In the meantime, staying in the country isn’t just the easy option: it’s likely the safer one as well.
And sure, some of the old traveler’s hotspots like Boracay and Palawan have opened up since late last year, letting people in a few at a time. But due to the downturn of travel, these places have since started encouraging long-stay tourism. It’s easy to see why this has become appealing, given the much longer process it takes to fly in and out these days. Work-from-wherever is the new standard for most people, and there’s no reason the office can’t be at the beach at this point.
But if you aren’t keen on flying or going for a long drive, you might want to look at staying in the city instead. And this is where the leisure resorts come in: they give you a sense of being someplace else without taking you out of your comfort zone. Okada Manila, in particular, has got this whole thing down.
The luxury resort has recently been awarded the five-star rating by the Forbes Travel Guide for the second year in a row. Normally, being awarded the five-star category would already have been a tremendous achievement. But since it takes a great deal of effort to earn every single star, that goes double during a global pandemic, when actual lives are on the line.
“These 2021 award winners are a testament to the resiliency of the hospitality industry,” says Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide. “During an unprecedented time, these top properties adapted to numerous adversities all while maintaining high service levels and ensuring the health security of the guests and staff.”
Walking into the resort, you see that it has some of the most stringent procedures when it comes to handling the current situation. Before you even enter, a camera takes your photo, a thermal scanner checks your temperature, and you then walk into a disinfection chamber. And should you decide to stay for the night, they take you in for a nasal swab test to detect symptoms of the coronavirus. When everything checks out, that’s the only time you get to go to your room.
It adds quite a bit more time to the check-in process, but you can’t be too careful at a time like this. And being honest, the extra assurance that everyone staying in the hotel tested negative does a lot to put you at ease, even if you may never actually see them during your stay. That peace of mind is what you’re really going for when you’re staying outside of home for the first time in a while (which was the case for me).
At the table where they give you the testing forms, I’d made a comment to one of the staff about all these new steps you need to go through. About how it’s a bit like going into a sterile facility, with the disinfection chamber, the facial and thermal scanning and everything. The one manning the table told me that it was really something that the resort invested a great deal in. And, later on, I would get to see that for myself.
In January, Okada was awarded the VERIFIED® certification badge by digital health leader Sharecare, together with Forbes Travel Guide. What this means is that the resort is equipped with industry-leading protocols and gear to face the pandemic. And this isn’t just some shiny badge. As you go around the place, this is something you actually get to experience.
Along the halls—whether in the casinos or the restaurants—you can see people fussing over doorknobs and handles and panels, disinfecting the spots which are the most likely or be touched by people. And from time to time, you’ll see robots roaming around the halls, spraying disinfectant in the air.
It all sounds like you’re walking into the future, and maybe you are. This is probably what the future of the hospitality is going to be like, what it’s going to take to keep safe. At least, for now, because we could be looking at months or even years before the pandemic completely dies down. In the meantime, we’re going to have to take a little more time to check in. But in the times we live in, this isn’t an inconvenience. More than anything, it’s actually a comforting thought.
Aurelio Icasiano III has been in media for 14 years: as a television producer and writer, travel correspondent, book editor, and as editor of an internationally-awarded men’s lifestyle magazine. He runs an electrical construction company by day but spends all too much time thinking about the next story.