Rooms Serviced

By Christine Esposito, Managing Editor | 05.17.20

In the wake of coronavirus, hotels announce new cleaning procedures to reassure travelers—when they are ready to hit the road again.

COVID-19 and shelter-in-place initiatives have put a damper on all forms of travel in the US, and while states are slowly re-opening and lifting travel restrictions, what exactly will happen to summer vacation and business travel plans remains to be seen. 
While much of the public media focus has been on what this means to the airline industry, the hotel sector has been hard hit by the coronavirus, too. But major hotel chains will be ready with cleaner rooms and check-in areas thanks to enhanced cleaning initiatives designed to reassure travelers who may be ready to hit the road once the coronavirus clampdown is eased. 
Marriott International was among the first to announce new plans, including the creation of its Global Cleanliness Council. 
Announced in late April, the Global Cleanliness Council will be focused on developing what Marriott called the “next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards, norms and behaviors that are designed to minimize risk and enhance safety for consumers and Marriott associates alike.”
Marriott tapped Dr. Ruth L. Petran, a senior corporate scientist, food safety and public health at Ecolab to serve on the council along with others—Ecolab has a prominent role in many of the initiatives that have been announced to date.
Marriott—which has more than 7,300 properties under 30 brands spanning 134 countries and territories—also announced a multi-pronged platform for increased safety measures for guests and associates. Among the steps are the introduction of electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel. The sprayers will rapidly clean and disinfect entire areas and can be used to clean and disinfect guest rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas. 
Marriott said it is testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitizing keys for guests and devices shared by associates.
Further, Marriott said it will stock disinfecting wipes in each room for guests’ use and put added focus on food safety programs that include enhanced sanitation guidelines and training videos featuring hygiene and disinfecting practices.

Red Roof has rolled out enhanced cleaning practices.

Red Roof—an economy lodging chain with more than 650 properties in the US, Brazil, Canada and Japan—this month launched its own enhanced cleaning plans under the Red Roof RediClean banner.
"Red Roof is ready to welcome guests back, who have been sheltering in place," Andrew Alexander, president, Red Roof, said in a statement in early May. "The Red Roof RediClean program is our commitment to enhanced cleaning, providing guests with the confidence they deserve as they once again begin to road trip throughout the country." 
Red Roof says it will follow all government guidelines and best practice policies in alignment with American Hotel Lodging Association's (AHLA) Safe Stay initiative.
Announced on May 4, AHLA’s Safe Stay standards were developed under the guidance of an advisory council that included high-profile hotel operators like Marriott, Walt Disney, Red Roof and Best Western, among others, and in conjunction with public health experts.
The Washington, DC-based association said its initiative represents a new level of focus and transparency for an “industry already built on cleanliness.” Hotels, AHLA insists, have always met rigorous standards for cleaning and safety and these enhanced guidelines are rooted in recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
“Safe Stay was developed specifically to ensure enhanced safety for hotel guests and employees. While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” noted Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “The industry’s enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions and workplace protocols will continue to evolve to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19.” 
AHLA’s Safe Stay guidelines include steps for employees and guests for washing hands and hand sanitizer use, including stocking hand sanitizer dispensers with product that has no less than 60% alcohol content. 

High-Touch Hot Spots

Safe Stay also addresses use of cleaning products and protocols that include EPA-approved disinfectants that meet CDC requirements for effectiveness against viruses, bacteria and other airborne and bloodborne pathogens. It notes that public spaces and communal areas should be cleaned and disinfected frequently (multiple times per day) with an emphasis on hard non-porous surfaces that see frequent touch. And there are many of these surfaces in a hotel: front desk check-in counters, bell desks, elevators and elevator buttons, door handles, public bathrooms, vending machines, ice machines, room keys and locks, ATMs, escalator and stair handrails, gym equipment, pool seating, dining surfaces and seating areas. 
The Safe Stay initiative also addresses:
Guest rooms: Cleaning and disinfecting protocols will require that particular attention is paid to high-touch, hard non-porous items including television remote controls, toilet seats and handles, door and furniture handles, water faucet handles, nightstands, telephones, in-room control panels, light switches, temperature control panels, alarm clocks, luggage racks and flooring. 
Laundry: Linens, towels and laundry shall be washed in accordance with CDC guidelines, including washing items as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Where possible, launder items using the warmest permissible water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty linen shall be bagged in the guest room to eliminate excess contact while being transported to the laundry facility. 
AHLA’s plan also addresses hotel guest elevators, back of the house and shared equipment, as well as room recovery protocol in the event of a presumptive case of COVID-19. 
Choice Hotels International, which has 6000 franchised hotels in the US, announced its “Commitment to Clean.” The firm, which notes that it has a close association with Ecolab, said every Choice-branded hotel will also designate a “Commitment to Clean Captain” who will complete applicable best-in-class cleanliness training and will be responsible for incorporating the new protocols into their hotel's operations. 
Further, Choice will place "Clean seals" on certain high-touch items in guest rooms to provide reassurance of sterilized condition and will install hand sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas throughout the hotel, such as the front desk, breakfast area, elevator lobbies and fitness center.
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has launched "Count on Us.” It is billed as a “long-term, multi-faceted initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees,” according to the company, which has some 9,300 hotels across 90 countries including 6,000 in the US alone.
Wyndham said it will partner with Ecolab on requiring consistent use of Ecolab's EPA-approved disinfectants in hotel guestrooms and public spaces nationwide. Wyndham cited a “decades-long relationship with Ecolab” in its announcement. It also noted that in recent years, “Wyndham's brand operations teams have spent significant time in Ecolab's research and development facilities, increasing their education on best practices and offering perspective on real-world use and how to create a better, cleaner stay for guests.”
Sandals Resorts announced the Sandals Platinum Protocols of Cleanliness, which will include pre-emptive cleanliness measures that safeguard the guest journey from arrival to departure.
New and enhanced protocols that will take effect across its 15 Sandals Resorts and three Beaches Resorts came from an assessment of all points of contact from the moment guests arrive at airport lounges through the entirety of the resort experience—from the door handles and interiors of vehicles used for airport transfers to the swimming pools and hot tubs. 
Sandals says hand sanitizing stations will be provided for guests and team members throughout the resorts, at all dining locations and within each individual guest room, too. 
Further, Sandals says it will introduce even more robust housekeeping measures including additional hospital-grade disinfectants; electrical aerosol sprayers; the use of UV-LED lighting equipment to inspect cleanliness; air duct sanitization for each arrival and upon each departure; weekly steam-cleaning and sanitization of carpeting; and placement of antibacterial gels and soaps in each guest room.
Airbnb Inc.—the online marketplace in which homeowners rent their spaces as an alternative to hotel rooms—also rolled out its own “Enhanced Cleaning Initiative.” The new plan was rolled out one week before the San Francisco-based company announced a 25% staff reduction.
Airbnb is implementing a learning and certification program for hosts, and guests will be able to identify and book accommodations that are included in the program. 
Airbnb said its new cleaning protocol for hosts would be informed by the CDC published standards, experts such as Dr. Vivek Murthy (former Surgeon General of the US), and companies in the hospitality and medical hygiene sector, including Ecolab.
Airbnb said this new effort builds off its strong historical track record of cleanliness; to date, 94% of all Airbnb reviews show that guests are satisfied with cleaning, scoring it at 4 or 5 stars after their stays, said the firm.
Airbnb’s cleaning protocols for hosts will include specific information on COVID-19 prevention, such as the use of PPE, and disinfectants that are approved by regulatory authorities. Listings enrolled in the Cleaning Protocol will be available for stays immediately after the enhanced cleaning is performed, said Airbnb. 
The company said that if hosts are unable to commit to Airbnb’s Cleaning Protocol, they can alternatively opt into a new feature called Booking Buffer, which creates a vacancy period between stays. These hosts will commit to keeping their home empty for a set period in-between stays, with no activity other than cleaning. The concept was first conceived for its Frontline Stays project, through which hosts have offered more than 200,000 places for medical workers and first responders around the world. 
In a recent survey, it conducted, 92% of Airbnb hosts around the world responded that they plan to host as often as before, or more often, once the pandemic is over.
Accommodation providers may be ready with cleaner spaces, but it remains to be seen if US consumers will be packing their bags.