A small group of around five tourists who have so far been unable to return home are in lockdown at Whangaparaoa Lodge in Little Manly.
Lodge owner Troy Clarry says hotels are playing their part in the coronavirus crisis, and could end up making rooms available to people fleeing domestic violence or to quarantine New Zealanders still returning from overseas.
He says some are at the lodge because they were already staying there before the restrictions came in, and after many ups and downs, it became less likely they would be able to get flights out.
“The ones from Europe have given up, but there are a couple hoping to fly out to the USA and UK today,” Troy says.
Those that remain at the lodge are from Germany, the UK, Switzerland and France.
It includes a couple who were sailing a yacht in the Pacific, and ended up coming into Gulf Harbour.
“They were caught unawares, as they didn’t know anything about Covid-19,” Troy says. “When they came in, around mid-March, they were told to self-isolate.”
Troy says to make the lockdown work, the guests have been given their units as standalone apartments – their ‘bubble’ – and they are doing everything for themselves including cooking and cleaning.
Troy worked in big hotels in Asia during the SARS pandemic. He says he started rolling out self-isolation procedures at Whangaparaoa Lodge three weeks ago including high level sanitising and changing procedures for staff. The measures included taking all the cooking gear out of the rooms and cleaning it thoroughly, before putting it back.
Although accommodation is considered an essential service, there are currently no staff working at the lodge and they will only be brought in if they are comfortable to do so, and it is absolutely necessary.
“It may look as though our priority is our guests, but actually the health and wellbeing of staff is number one,” Troy says.
Guests now communicate with the Lodge owners by WhatsApp or text.
“If they need anything like towels, we put them on a table outside their room. But there is not a lot of contact with us and everyone maintains the required distance,” Troy says.
Because the couple from the yacht is self-isolating, Troy does their shopping whereas the others can go to the supermarket themselves if need be.
“We are charging our weekly rate, which is less than half price, because it seems like the right thing to do,” he says.
Recently a broken toilet led to a number of careful procedures around access for the plumber, including removing the guests from the room while the plumber worked.
“The plumber is crazy busy right now,” Troy says.
He says support and advice from organisations such as Hospitality NZ have been a great help in making sure all the right procedures are in place.