Clean hotel rooms in a coronavirus world

By Steve Jarratt, Technology Writer

Hotels will need to reach new levels of cleanliness and hygiene in a post-coronavirus world.

After the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the world will be a subtly different place. Certain social distancing policies may need to remain in force, but more importantly, people’s attitudes to health and hygiene will have changed. The hospitality business will need to adapt accordingly to reassure potential guests and keep their own staff safe. 

We’ve all heard the official advice: Wash your hands with soap and water often to reduce the risk of infection. There’s a greater global focus now, more than ever, on cleanliness and disinfection. So, hotels the world over are already putting new initiatives in place to meet government guidelines and satisfy customer expectations. 

For example, the likes of Hilton, Rotana, Shangri-La, Millennium and Intercontinental Hotels Group have all increased the frequency and thoroughness of their cleaning regimes, as well as making personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves available to guests and hotel staff where possible. [1]

However, some hotels are taking cleanliness a step further. Marriott International, for example, has launched its Global Cleanliness Council in an effort to raise overall cleaning and training standards. The group is already rolling out new protocols, and is using electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to cleanse rooms and public areas, while trialling UV light sanitisers on keys and shared devices [2].

A new norm in cleanliness

French hotel group Accor, meanwhile, has joined forces with Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection and certification. The two bodies have developed a new label to certify safety and cleaning standards, signalling that hospitality businesses are fit to reopen [3]. And on an even greater scale, Singapore has launched a nationwide audit system that awards hotels with an ‘SG Clean’ bill of health. The certificate is only awarded once an establishment has met seven strict criteria and provides visible proof of hygiene standards. [4]

Hotels around the world have all increased the frequency and thoroughness of their cleaning regimes.

The long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may even be further reaching, influencing the way new hotels are designed and built. Stephen Overcash of US architect firm Overcash Demmitt, suggests a paradigm shift is taking place, in which future hotels might take their cues from hospitals and the health-care sector. Ideas for future hotels could include self-cleaning rooms, where odourless, germ-resistant solutions are sprayed between each visit (a system already in place in hotels in Copenhagen); robots that deliver room service and your luggage; plus hands-free disinfection using powerful ultraviolet lights [5].

Hospitality in a post-pandemic world

This is echoed by New Delhi-based design principal, Amit Khanna, who believes zero-maintenance buildings, touch-free interactions and technology-based sanitisation will become the new norm. He believes that the COVID-19 outbreak will be the catalyst that drives reduced human interaction across the hotel guest experience, with hands-free devices, automated entry systems, sensor-based lighting, gesture-activated toilets, and an abundance of easy-clean materials (like tiles) being introduced. [6]

COVID-19 is forcing the hospitality industry to clean up its act – quite literally. But the end results may turn out to be beneficial in the long run. The cleaning practices hotels have put in place during the outbreak will almost certainly need to be extended beyond it. This could include more regular cleaning of public areas; disinfecting high-touch surfaces (like door handles, remote controls and alarm clocks); installing additional hand sanitiser stations; perhaps even limiting the availability of food services, pools, fitness centers, and other amenities.

Crucially, guests need to be kept informed about a hotel’s commitment to hygiene. Advising guests about new cleaning procedures and highlighting extra safety elements (such as the availability of masks upon request) will make them feel safer and more comfortable when restrictions end. Failing to adapt could make it difficult to win back business in a post-pandemic world.

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