7 iconic screen hotels judged on Covid-safety

Last updated: November 14, 2021

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After looking at the steps that so many real hotels take to improve their Covid-safety measures, we’ve decided to turn our attentions to a few of our favourite fictional hotels, from TV and film, for a lighthearted look at how they too might address the threat of Covid and improve their Covid-safety measures for guests and staff alike.

So please journey with us from the likes of Fawlty Towers and the English Riviera to the glories of The Grand Budapest Hotel and the Greek island joys of Villa Donna in Mamma Mia - and other iconic screen hotels. We look at how each of them might up their Covid-safety game and improve the experience for Covid-wary guests.

Fawlty Towers

Torquay’s Fawlty Towers is a classic example of a family-run middle England hotel. But the peace of the English Riviera is often punctuated by an overly boisterous owner, the decor is classic and homely but ultimately lacks taste and any cohesion, and the shambolic mis-management is exemplified by the overuse of a bell to summon the less-than-diligent staff.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • Hygiene practices are reprehensible; plates are swapped at dinner, dropped fruit is cleaned with spit and thrown at neighbouring diners
  • Hotel owner Basil Fawlty is a Covid-safety menace, guilty of repeated distancing violations, generating aerosols and respiratory particles through chaotic yelling sessions
  • High-frequency touch points are everywhere

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • The owner’s chaotic management style leads to a scarcity of guests, making social distancing that bit easier
  • Live-in guests are perhaps the hotel’s biggest source of income and are easier to manage than those who come and go

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • Anger-management classes to limit the proprietor’s fits of shouting which will, in turn, limit the spread of aerosols and general ‘spray’ around the hotel
  • The tired decor is extremely stuffy and gives the impression of bad ventilation and a lack of cleaning
  • Ageing furniture should be removed and the windows opened to allow for better air circulation
  • Masks should be worn by guests and staff at all times
  • High-frequency contact points should be removed, particularly the reception bell and the lobby newspapers

The Grand Budapest Hotel

A whimsical and luxurious study in social distancing, the mountaintop Grand Budapest Hotel has isolation built into its vibrant, perfectly proportioned brickwork. But while the location is ideal for those seeking social isolation, we’ve found that some of its practices leave much to be desired.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • Overcrowded lifts
  • Indoor smoking
  • Maximalist interiors lead to numerous high-frequency touchpoints
  • Staff* indulging in after-hours affairs — breaking distancing rules
  • No mask requirements

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • Hosing down guests is a particularly zealous hygiene practice, but very effective
  • Fully booked-up dinners are made safer by the cavernous dining room with every table suitably distanced

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • Limit the number of guests but don’t rely solely on a declining tourist industry
  • Wear masks: purple ones to match the hotel’s livery
  • Provide protective screens to keep the amorous concierge socially distanced from the elderly ladies
  • Create social distancing markers, using the elegant Art Deco lines to maintain the desired aesthetic.
  • Open the windows: alpine air is safer than second-hand cigar smoke

*But extra marks for quick thinking goes to the Heimlich manoeuvre-performing concierge, who broke Covid distancing regulations to save a guest from choking, proving that, though limited, there are acceptable scenarios in which a staff member can break the rules and save lives.

Villa Donna (Mamma Mia)

This dilapidated yet charming Mediterranean villa is perched on an outcrop above the sea on the Greek island of Kalokairi, a decidedly beautiful, and quiet, if fictional spot. It would make for a perfectly sublime Covid-safe holiday destination if not for the propensity to host large and disruptive, social distance breaking, wedding parties.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • Feelings are often expressed via an ABBA cover band when simple conversations of a more intimate kind would in most cases suffice
  • Weddings at Villa Donna far exceed the legal maximum number of guests (15)

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • When the spring of Aphrodite buried beneath the hotel courtyard erupts, the assembled guests are provided with a spontaneous hand-washing opportunity. Good hygiene helps to reduce contact transmission
  • Dining is al fresco, which helps reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 to fellow diners that can occur when the right ventilation, social-distancing and other Covid-safety measures are not in place for indoor dining

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • Stick to the legal number of wedding guests
  • Ban the ABBA cover band to minimise the transmission of aerosols
  • Masks should be worn by all including any aspiring vocalists

Kellerman’s (Dirty Dancing)

Ideally situated in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, Kellerman’s would, in normal times, be a perfect vacation spot for New Yorkers escaping the city. But the repeated and flagrant breaches of social distancing rules and Covid-safety best practices make it a hard sell for Covid-weary travellers.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • Non socially distanced dance lessons are a hazard for viral spread
  • A jovial group celebration may well be ‘the time of their life', but it will soon be their last if they all contract Covid
  • Secret parties are a legal nightmare
  • Patrick Swayze

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • The huge open-air golf course offers Covid-safe pursuits for all guests
  • Patrick Swayze (but in PPE)

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • Masks for everyone
  • Continue the dance lessons, but pivot to line dancing and non-touch variants
  • Provide protective screens
  • Replace dance schedules with rigorous cleaning schedules
  • Fire Patrick Swayze – an all too obvious vector for the spread of Covid — or refer to the above

Overlook Hotel (The Shining)

A remote high-alpine hotel in Oregon, the sublime Overlook Hotel offers a view-laden refuge for all travellers. The only guests thus far are apparitions, resulting in a significant reduction in the risk of aerosol spray and airborne spread of the virus for any future guests of the Overlook.

This paucity of both guests and staff helps it score well on social distancing but the caretaker can be both grumpy and heedless of basic hand-washing practice so there’s still room for improvement, though his enthusiastic announcements are rarely missed.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • The caretaker sleeps in the food storeroom and eats the food stored there. This is a classic example of bad hygiene
  • The caretaker continually displays a poor standard of hygiene, most notable in his hands as they are often covered in blood
  • Elevators full of blood make it difficult for guests to properly make use of them.

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • The telepathic communication that goes on in this hotel is good Covid-safety practice. By not using ones’ mouth to speak, fewer infectious aerosols are released into the air
  • Although most of the doors are closed, the caretaker puts effort into breaking them down with an axe. This helps ventilate the hotel and prevents the spread of Covid by aerosols
  • Isolation and mountain air are perfect for social distancing during the pandemic

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • More evidence is needed on the possibility of transmission via apparitions but so far so good
  • The caretaker should shift his focus from murder and axe-based ventilation to a more codified Covid-safety practice
  • More doors should be liberated with an axe to help ventilate the hotel in place of the above
  • Zero is the perfect number of guests and the hotel should not allow more guests in the summer months

Best Exotic Marigold (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel offers an oasis of peace among the buzzing streets of Jaipur for just a small collection of guests, making social distancing a simple task.

Its attractive outdoor spaces and ample ventilation make for safer air, though a talkative manager, inadequate amenities and unreliable plumbing is a cause for concern for travellers hoping to continue their social distancing while in India.

Black marks: Issues to resolve

  • Handwashing for the full 30 seconds is difficult given the broken plumbing. Guests are sometimes forced to replace taps themselves
  • Shared mopeds and tuk-tuks, while good for ventilation, make for less than ideal hotel transportation
  • Guests often break social distancing rules

Gold stars: Keep up the good work

  • So few guests make an easy-to-manage Covid-safe environment
  • While the lack of windows and doors in some rooms may seem a poor design choice, it’s excellent for ventilation
  • Simple one-option menus mean there’s no need for physical menus for the guests. The poor food may well be responsible for more than one upset tummy, but it’s a better outcome than a lung full of Covid

Room for improvement: Action needed

  • Minimise guest contact with full implementation of social distancing markers
  • The manager should limit his conversation to Covid-safety announcements to spread fewer aerosols
  • Improve the plumbing to encourage good hygiene practices
  • Invest in better facilities to avoid high-frequency contact points and the necessity to leave the hotel

The Bates Motel (Psycho + its TV prequel, Bates Motel)

This assessment is based on a combination of the Motel depicted on both the big and small screen

Black marks: Issues to resolve (Psycho movie)

  • The cleaning is quite sloppy, leaving clear residue at high-frequency touchpoints
  • The hotel takes cash, making the spread of Covid all the more likely
  • The motel layout makes for easier social distancing

Gold stars: Keep up the good work (Psycho movie)

  • Outdoor entrances to individual rooms make for exceptional simple social distancing

Gold stars: Keep up the good work (Bates Motel TV show)

  • Outdoor entrances to individual rooms make for exceptional simple social distancing
  • Very few guests mean compliance with reduced occupancy guidelines
  • Rigid cleaning schedules (to remove evidence of murder) also get rid of all fingerprints, reducing the fear of Covid spread via touchpoints

Room for improvement: Action needed (Psycho movie)

  • Improve the cleaning schedule
  • Less focus on individual style choices and more on PPE

In conclusion

Our findings for these particular hotels aren’t exactly inspiring. "But the good news," says Fiona Halton, CEO of Right Rooms, "is that the great majority of real hotels are now applying Covid-safety practices that are miles ahead of these seven fictional hotels."

So, if you are planning your own holiday or business trip, please take a look at our most recent, Covid-safe additions and see how we have researched the Covid-safety measures of some real hotels that you can actually visit.

Useful links Find up-to-date guidance on travel, safety, Covid-19 research and more.

RightRooms believes all information to be correct at time of going to press. As guidance, research and facts around Covid-19 are changing constantly, the information provided here is for general information only and does not constitute professional advice. Please check with venues, locations and attractions before travelling.

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