STAY SAFE
Business Traveller UK|July - August 2021
From cleaning protocols to touchless technology, hotels are rethinking every aspect of their operations to protect their guests and staff
HANNAH BRANDLER
As we all know, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked huge damage on the hospitality industry. To keep afloat, hotels have had to adapt quickly to new regulations, redesigning spaces and enhancing cleaning to keep customers and staff safe.

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 in choosing a property. 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 staff with comprehensive safety and hygiene training. 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. Hilton partnered with the manufacturers of Lysol and Dettol to launch its Clean Stay platform in June 2020, 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 tend to undergo external certification and auditing. Accor’s Allsafe scheme, for example, is endorsed by testing and inspection specialist Bureau Veritas, while last autumn its protocols in the UK and Ireland secured government backing. Radisson Hotel Group has signed a global agreement with inspection company SGS to create a 20-step cleaning and safety regime.

At a local level, some groups have appointed “Covid officers” responsible for making sure that individual properties adhere to guidelines. At 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. Health and security companies such as International SOS have provided support to the likes of Four Seasons and Oakwood. Medical directors test out the user experience and compile reports with recommendations for properties.

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 hotel 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, handrails and gym equipment are cleaned more frequently with hospital-grade disinfectant products, and sanitising stations have been set up.

In guestrooms, high-touch areas such as door handles, taps and light switches receive special attention. Groups such as Accor promise deep cleaning of upholstery and carpets and high-temperature washing of bedding. Many chains also provide disinfecting wipes or hand sanitisers in each room.

While much of this work remains invisible, Hilton reassures guests by attaching a Clean Stay seal label to guestroom doors to show that no one has entered since housekeeping. “That helped to reduce anxiety and give great customer confidence,” says Humphrey, who previously worked in the NHS as an infection control adviser.

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