The Carolina Hotel will reopen to guests on Friday. For many this is a welcome sign that the area’s hospitality and tourism industry is poised for a rebound as people begin traveling. The iconic flagship property of Pinehurst Resort has been dormant for two months in response to the COVID-19 threat.
“We have a lot of guests looking forward to coming to Pinehurst,” said Tom Pashley, president of Pinehurst Resort.
The resort decided to close The Carolina in mid-March voluntarily due to a dramatic reduction in volume. Its two smaller mainstay properties, the Holly Inn and Manor Inn, were also closed; however, golf courses and limited food and beverage services on resort property have remained open.
“When we chose to close the hotels, we felt it was the right thing to do at the time. It has also given us time to reevaluate our procedures, cleaning protocols and housekeeping practices,” Pashley said.
The Pinehurst Promise is a new set of guidelines the resort developed for its staff, members and guests, that will serve as a secondary resource in addition to state recommendations. Resort employees who work in close proximity to guests will wear masks. A glass partition has been installed at The Carolina’s front desk to protect guests and staff from possible exposure. Hotel guests may also opt for full housekeeping services, a modified approach, or no housekeeping if that is their preference. Non-essential decorating items in guest rooms and magazines have been removed, and check-out is at 10 a.m. to allow staff adequate time for extra cleaning efforts.
“We didn't want to take the character out of our guest rooms. We are comfortable the changes we’ve made are a good reflection of the level of service and hospitality you would expect from Pineurst.”
Pashley said they are also hoping to reopen the resort’s restaurants with limited seating capacity on Friday, depending on Gov. Cooper’s decision which is expected to be announced later this week.
“It is really a challenge to operate with incomplete information. We know we can provide an experience our guests can enjoy. It may not be the full Pinehurst experience, but it’ll be as close as we can make it.”
Pashley said the resort is not placing limits on its occupancy rates. He anticipates the first week will be slower with hotel interests picking up to potentially to 50 percent capacity by early June.
“Our reservation team has been in contact with everybody that had a reservation on the books. We are letting them know what they can expect when they get here.”
“We will have to be nimble and able to respond based on current events. We will be learning by the hour what kind of tweaks we need to make,” he said. “We are ready to respond and we will be very hands-on with a very strong management presence. We can't wait to welcome our guest back even though we can’t hug them.”
A new text messaging system allows guests to communicate with the resort in advance of their arrival, to ensure their room is ready and to provide additional social distance spacing in the check-out area.
The Carolina Hotel pool, when it opens, will be restricted to hotel guests.
Members of Pinehurst Country Club will have access to the PCC Pool Complex beginning Tuesday, May 26, with limited seating in two-hour increments. Members must make reservations and guests are not permitted until restrictions are eased. PCC members will also soon have access to Lake Pinehurst which is slated to open in mid-July.
Also starting this Friday, all of the resort’s golf courses will be available for play six days a week and the main golf shop will reopen for retail sales daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In April, a fundraising auction of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities netted almost $300,000 that Pinehurst Resort used to support its furloughed employees with extended health benefits and supplemental care packages with extra food and essentials.
“We opened the Pinecone, which sits on The Cradle, this past weekend. One of the more popular members of our team is the server. Sheila is a fixture,” Pashley said.
“Having her out there was a sight for sore eyes. She really does embody Pinehurst hospitality. And that is what has been missing. The golf is open but we are known for our hospitality,” he added. “It’s been great to see our employees coming back. Being able to bring people back puts the heartbeat back in.”
For information about hotel reservations, dining options or golf course operations, visit www.pinehurst.com