Visible Shield

By Christine Esposito, Managing Editor | 06.01.20

Ecolab helps hospitality customers get ready for guests as COVID-19 restrictions ease on the state level.

Memorial Day Weekend typically sees many US consumers traveling to vacations spots to mark the unofficial kickoff to summer. While this year was seemingly different (in some parts of the country anyway) due to concerns about COVID-19, hotels are resuming operations. Leading hospitality operators have turned to experts in industrial and institutional companies for guidance on best products and practices in this “new normal” where stepped up cleanliness and hygiene will take on greater importance if the hard-hit travel category is to recover. Marriott, for example, formed its own Global Cleanliness Council, selecting Dr. Ruth Petran, vice president, food safety and public health at Ecolab to help develop the “next level of global hospitality cleanliness standards.”
According to Dr. Petran, what had been behind-the-scenes practices, like cleaning, will now be more visible to consumers. 
Happi interviewed Dr. Petran about Ecolab’s efforts to support the hospitality category as it combats the spread of coronavirus and reassures consumers that its facilities—from check-in to the indoor pool to the breakfast bar—are safe. 
HAPPI: The hotel sector is a category in which consumers may need extra assurance that the spaces are clean. How has Ecolab helped guide many of these new initiatives announced by leading chains? 
Petran: As hotels look to reopen and begin to return to normalized business operations, their primary concern is keeping their guests and employees safe. Most hotels have never faced the need to essentially shut down for such an extended time, and we’re working with hotel operators and managers as they evaluate all the logistics that go into resuming operations.
Before the pandemic, Ecolab worked closely with its hotel partners to provide a comprehensive suite of cleaning and disinfection products, procedures and training to safeguard employees and guests. Now, we are reinforcing many of the same behaviors and standard cleaning protocols, but we are also focused on looking at where there needs to be more rigor, accountability and transparency in how hotels are keeping their facilities clean. We’re seeing an increase in requests for employee training, especially as hotels look to expand their use of disinfectants to all hard surfaces and prepare to respond to customers to reassure their safety within their facilities.
HAPPI: How will Ecolab provide unique guidance on industry cleaning councils?
Petran: Ecolab is partnering with various industry groups and hospitality companies as they form committees to address the impact of COVID-19 and the unique challenges ahead. We’re working alongside other industry experts to advise and implement new protocols for training hospitality staff on new cleaning and disinfection procedures. 
While each operation will ultimately have its own set of guidelines based on local regulations and outbreak history, Ecolab’s breadth of expertise managing outbreaks like MERS, SARS and H1N1, and boots on the ground in hospitals, facilities and business operations across the world, helps our teams provide the effective programs and procedures, as well as trusted counsel and guidance, needed at this time.
HAPPI: What type of on-site assistance will your company play in hotel staff training using cleaning products and proper practices?
Petran: Prior to the pandemic, our guidance to housekeepers already included extensive cleaning and sanitizing procedures for hotel rooms. Post-pandemic, we are recommending that hotel operators reinforce the basics that should already be in practice while also adding additional measures such as making cleaning more visible and frequent as well as ensuring that all disinfecting products are approved by the EPA for use against the virus and are used properly.
To help hotels resume operations as safely and as quickly as possible, Ecolab’s Lobster Ink business is offering the Essential Rebound Training Program, which provides concise online training for line-level staff and managers, including hand hygiene, sanitizing and disinfecting. The training content is designed to refresh and solidify essential behaviors, and the program also provides management with a record of employees who have completed the training.
In a hotel, re-training staff will focus on updated procedures for cleaning and disinfecting guest rooms, common areas and foodservice facilities. These trainings ensure that all areas of a hotel – even those that are rarely touched – are properly disinfected using EPA approved disinfectants.
For example, while standard hotel protocols focus on bathroom facilities and high touch areas, broader protocols will require housekeepers to disinfect all hard surfaces, from the lobby to the guest room. There will also be an emphasis on using disinfecting products correctly. Training should specify how products should be applied to surfaces and how long products must remain on a surface to properly disinfect.
Lastly, much of what was once done ‘behind the scenes’ when it comes to cleaning guest rooms and common areas throughout a hotel will now become more visible and transparent. There will be additional communications to guests on how rooms are disinfected, and more cleanings will take place throughout the day versus during off-peak times.
HAPPI: Does Ecolab have any specific products/chemistries that we can highlight or new products that are used in these settings?
Petran:In March, the EPA expanded its list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The EPA’s full list, List N, can be found on its website and includes many Ecolab products. This means there is a wide array of products available to help manage COVID-19 risks.
HAPPI: What will be the long-term impact on cleaning practices in the hotel category?
Petran: The long-term impacts coming out of COVID-19 will vary from hotel to hotel based on their location, recent outbreak history and other unique factors. From our perspective, we do not see this renewed focus on cleaning and disinfection going away anytime soon – and will likely be the new norm. 
As hotels reopen, there will be an emphasis on ensuring that disinfecting products are used correctly—now and as they were pre-COVID-19. Training should specify how products should be applied to surfaces and how long products must remain on a surface to properly disinfect; such as keeping a surface wet for the required contact time to ensure the product achieves the expected result. 
More in-depth handwashing and hand sanitizing procedures should be put in place and required of all hotel employees. For personnel who manage food, there may be added steps to disinfect food contact surfaces when risks indicate that it will be followed by standard wash, rinse and sanitizing procedures.