12 COVID-19 Changes from Great Wolf Lodge
When each Great Wolf Lodge resort reopens, a slate of changes designed to promote a safe and healthy stay await guests. From pivots in the water park and changes in retail to modifications to guest rooms and activities, the resort is putting wellness first.
Funworld was given an exclusive tour of changes made to the Great Wolf Lodge in Mason, Ohio. General Manager Kevin Eldridge, a 14-year veteran of the company, says bookings are held to only 50% of the lodge’s total capacity to preserve physical distancing. Eldridge, who has served in leadership roles at four Great Wolf Lodge properties, showcased a dozen changes other operators can learn from.
1. Make Guests Aware of Your Sanitization Efforts on Arrival
Upon entry into a Great Wolf Lodge, guests will find a sanitation station next to the luggage carts. Disinfectant spray, along with sanitizing wipes, are provided for guests to use before hauling luggage to their rooms.
2. Go Cashless and Touchless at Registration and Beyond
At registration, visitors will find physical distancing reminders on the carpet. Stickers serve as a placeholder, reminding guests to remain 6 feet away from others. Pack members (what Great Wolf Lodge calls their employees) stand behind plexiglass barriers, with each required to wear a face covering. Many also wear plastic gloves—thin and tight to allow the registration staff the ability to type on computer keyboards.
One thing pack members are not touching after reopening? Cash. “We do all of our business on the property with credit cards and wristband transactions,” Eldridge says. Instead of a room key, all guests are given a wristband that can unlock their hotel room door, pay for merchandise, serve as an admission ticket to the water park, and purchase a locker rental.
3. Reimagine the Buffet Line
Dining without the need to leave the property is an integral part of the Great Wolf Lodge experience. “We had to maintain that,” Eldridge says.
Gone are the days of helping yourself to the buffet line in the morning. With markers on the floor promoting physical distancing, guests now lineup to be served by chefs standing behind a counter, shrouded behind barriers.
“The guests point to what they want. It’s a little more cafeteria style, but it’s still all you want to eat,” Eldridge says. Hosts plate the requests and slide breakfast to guests at the end of the line.
4. Rely on Your App for Dining and Activities
“A big change of this is how we’ve really come a long way in embracing technology. We’ve really stepped-up the app,” Eldridge says.
Using the Zingle platform, the Great Wolf Lodge app can be used to make carryout orders for dinner or reservations for entertainment. Guests can no longer just arrive for morning yoga or an evening dance party. Limited mats are positioned 6 feet apart and cleaned regularly. (Should a guest rather call ahead, reservations can be made by calling the front desk’s PBX operator.)
5. Add More Events and Offer In-Room Alternatives
To keep groups separated, Eldridge says his lodge has increased the frequency of events, adding more yoga sessions and dance parties, along with providing an in-room alternative.
“If a family would prefer to stay in their room, we have versions of story time, dance party, and yoga tales on the television that allows them to participate,” he says.
6. Remove Unnecessary “Soft Touch” Items in Rooms
In the guest rooms, there are minor visual changes. “We’ve tried to protect the experience the best we can,” Eldridge explains. Missing are a few “soft touch” items, like the bed ribbon traditionally found on the bottom of the bed, along with the pen and pad of paper.
“Now, literally everything in the room is washed between guests and sanitized—soft surfaces and hard surfaces,” he says.
Should guests request extra towels or pillows, the items are left at the door in a package.
“We’re going to bag that up and leave it on the door [knob], instead of coming into the room or passing it to the guest,” Eldridge says. In addition, maintenance requests are now completed only when guests are absent from their room.
7. Eliminate Self-Service Machines
With ice dispensers and vending machines deemed high-touch areas, locations holding the amenities are locked. Instead, guests are welcome to request a bag of ice from a dining location.
8. Space Out Poolside Seating
Chairs inside the indoor water park are now grouped in a way that promotes physical distancing.
“Certainly, we still allow parties to move their chairs together,” Eldridge says. In addition, the resort now has additional staffing on duty to clean surfaces in the water park and move chairs apart when guests are done using them.
Several sanitation stations allow guests to grab their own wipes to use on their chairs and apply hand sanitizer between play.
9. Immediately Sanitize Life Jackets
When a guest is done using their personal flotation device, they hand their life jacket back to a pack member who will dip the coat into a vat of sanitizer. After a thorough cleaning, the jacket will again be available for use.
“It’s a confidence builder for our guests and gives us a chance to show them we care about their wellbeing,” Eldridge says.
10. Limit Locker Use
The lockers inside the water park are now programmed for use only once a day, according to Eldridge. In the past, the same locker could service several guests during the traditional 12-hour operating day. Now, when a guest indicates their locker rental is complete, the unit will place itself on “lockdown.” This prevents any chance of cross contamination and allows attendants to deep clean each locker at night.
11. Take a Touchless Approach to Retail
Great Wolf Lodge’s popular Magic Quest game, which ueses magic wands that activate hidden props and audio cues, is still in operation. The Magic Quest store features fewer merchandise displays this summer, thus creating more room for guests to spread out. A change that all operators can make uses a newly designed product display box that was created to be hands off.
“The new box is surrounded in plexiglass,” Eldridge says. “Before, the guests were handling wands and handling all the wand toppers. To minimize that, we went to one display and blocked it off.”
12. Rearrange Your Arcade for Physical Distancing
In the arcade, pack members have spaced games further away from each other than in the past.
“Skee-Ball is a staple of any arcade,” Eldridge says. “For traditional games like Skee-Ball where the lanes are all lined up, we’ve spread them out to provide a 6-foot separation by reangling them.” The lanes are now spread out, like spokes on a bicycle tire, providing players a greater distance between themselves. New hand sanitizer stations are placed across the arcade floor for easy use.