Cleaning up the crisis
Business Traveller Middle East|May - June 2021
How hotels have risen to the challenge of keeping guests safe during the pandemic
HANNAH BRANDLER
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked huge damage on the hospitality industry over the past year, with new strains of the virus creating additional threats at the turn of the decade. Where hotels have been able to stay open, they have had to adapt quickly to new regulations, redesigning spaces and enhancing cleaning to keep guests and staffsafe, all the while trying to maintain some kind of revenue stream through initiatives such as “work from hotel” packages.

Guests too have changed their behaviour. Whereas once they may not have thought much about the work that goes on behind the scenes, now travellers prioritise hygiene when booking. According to a survey carried out in the UK and US by Honeywell in December, 48 per cent of respondents said that enhanced cleanliness or health and safety procedures would motivate them the most to stay in a hotel, while 57 per cent of those in the US cited cleanliness as the top deciding factor for choosing which one to book.

Here we explore the new safety measures that have fundamentally changed the guest experience.

KEEP IT CLEAN

All of the major hotel chains have developed robust new cleaning protocols, reviewing each department and providing staffwith comprehensive safety and hygiene training. For many groups, this meant consulting external experts on keeping guests safe.

In April last year, Marriott International unveiled its Global Cleanliness Council, a body comprising specialists in hospitality, epidemiology, sanitation and protective health and hygiene technology.

Meanwhile, Hilton partnered with the manufacturers of Lysol and Dettol to launch its CleanStay platform in June, with Alex Humphrey, Hilton’s senior director for safety and security in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, using his experience as a medical microbiologist to steer the group in the right direction.

“The key thing is it’s not just a marketing ploy,” he says. “We approached this with a scientific microbiological mindset. We weren’t like a rabbit [caught] in the headlights.”

Such programmes also tend to undergo external certification and auditing.

Accor’s ALL SAFE scheme, for example, is endorsed by testing, inspection and certification specialist Bureau Veritas, while in the autumn its protocols in the UK and Ireland secured government backing.

Radisson Hotel Group has also signed a global agreement with inspection, verification, testing and certification company SGS to create a 20-step cleaning and safety protocol for hotels.

At a local level, some groups have appointed ‘COVID officers’ who are responsible for making sure that individual properties adhere to guidelines.

Accor has trained ALL SAFE Ambassadors, IHG Hotels and Resorts’ ‘clean champions’ instil a “culture of clean” across its portfolio, while Hyatt ensures that every hotel globally has a trained hygiene and wellbeing leader.

It’s important to use the tried and tested methods

Meanwhile, health and security companies such as International SOS have provided support to the likes of Four Seasons and Oakwood. It sends medical directors to test out the user experience and compile comprehensive reports with recommendations for select properties.

STEPPING IT UP

So, what do these programmes entail? Each varies slightly and is tweaked to meet regulations in different parts of the world but, by and large, the groups have a similar approach to hygiene. First and foremost, traditional cleaning measures have been stepped up. In public areas, high-contact surfaces such as reception counters, lift buttons, door handles, bathrooms, stair handrails and gym equipment are cleaned more frequently with hospital-grade disinfectant products, while sanitising stations have also been set up.

In guestrooms, high-touch areas such as door handles, taps and light switches are also receiving special attention, while groups such as Accor are promising deep cleaning of upholstery and carpets and hightemperature washing of bedding. Many chains also provide disinfecting wipes in each room for guests’ use.

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