Clean hotel rooms in a coronavirus world

By Steve Jarratt, Technology Writer

Prioritizing cleanliness in hotel rooms will be the new normal - BrandStand

With mass vaccinations being deployed worldwide, it feels like the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. After a year of lockdown(s), there’s a pent-up demand for travel and fresh experiences, and although the signs are that the market will pick up in the second half of 2021 (especially in the ‘staycation’ sector), it might not return to normality until 2023 at the earliest [1].

The world may well have to live with COVID for many years to come and hospitality will need to adapt.

Social distancing to continue?

The official advice hasn’t changed significantly: Wash your hands, keep your distance from people who don’t live in your household, wear a mask to protect yourself and others. Going forward, certain social distancing policies will undoubtedly need to remain in force and hotels have already put new initiatives in place to meet government guidelines and satisfy customer expectations. 

The majority of hotel groups were quick to introduce new protocols, increasing the frequency and thoroughness of their cleaning regimes, while making personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves available to guests and hotel staff wherever possible. Some hotels have gone a step further, introducing initiatives aimed at setting new standards for cleanliness, which they can also employ as marketing tools, reassuring guests about new levels of hotel safety.

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Marriott International, for example, launched a Global Cleanliness Council [2] in an effort to raise overall cleaning and training standards. Its ‘Commitment to Clean’ involves the use of electrostatic sprayers and hospital-grade disinfectant to cleanse rooms and public areas; consultation with in-house and outside experts in food and water safety hygiene; contactless room service; and various additions to their usual hygiene regimes. [3]

Hotels are continuing to be proactive

The Marriott group also recently announced its ‘Connect With Confidence’ initiative [4], aimed at professional meetings and events. On top of rigorous cleaning, the new protocol provides socially distanced spaces, offers the technology for contact-light conferencing, and offers redesigned food and beverage services. Marriott has since added COVID-19 testing and health screening, which event organizers can choose to include if needed.

Coronavirus has forced the hospitality industry to clean up its act – quite literally. (BrandStand)

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

Over in Europe, French hotel group Accor joined forces with Bureau Veritas, a world leader in testing, inspection and certification. The two bodies developed the ALLSAFE label [5] to certify safety and cleaning standards, signaling that hospitality businesses are fit to reopen. As well as the usual social distancing, provision of sanitizers and PPE, and enhanced cleaning and food safety programs, the certification also offers a dedicated customer hotline, access to medical professionals, plus contactless check-in, checkout and payments.

Digital keys and cleaner hotels

Building on guests’ desire for a contactless journey [6], Accor has just announced the global rollout of ‘Accor Key’ [7]. On arrival, guests receive a virtual key using Accor’s smartphone app, which gives them access to rooms, meeting areas and elevators. On departure, the key is automatically deactivated.

The long-term effects of the coronavirus pandemic may even be further reaching, influencing the way new hotels are designed and built. Jackie Wright, principal at Pineapple Procurement, points to a number of areas, including more cleanable surfaces and a reduction in clutter; an even greater reliance on technology, like tablets, wireless charging and hands-free systems; and a focus on wellness, with more open windows, real plants, and attention to guests’ sense of sound and smell. [8]

A high-tech, low-touch future

This is echoed by the architects at Leo A Daly, whose white paper [9] envisions a ‘high tech, low touch’ guest journey. This involves changes to ventilation, smarter selection of furnishings and surfaces, the provision of in-room fitness devices and so on. It also suggests a greater reliance on touch-free interactions, like automated entry systems, sensor-based lighting, gesture-activated toilets, and the introduction of robots for simple tasks like room service. 

Coronavirus has forced 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. If you run a hotel, Hotel Online offers some useful advice to prepare your housekeeping team(s) for the task ahead. [10]

And, 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 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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