What We All Want to Know About Our Hotel Stays During the COVID-19 Pandemic

hotel cleanliness

As the world gingerly starts to open up for business, many of us will be wondering how we transition from the security of our own highly controlled environments to that of staying in a hotel and relying on hotel cleanliness. Some of us may find the prospect utterly terrifying, and some business travellers will have little choice if the demands of their jobs expect it.

Zoe Whittaker is one such traveller. Zoe has spent eight months a year over the last ten years of her career, away from home, as part of her role in F1 Motorsport. Zoe tells us, “Due to COVID-19 we now need to disinfect every surface, and I would be wondering if door- handles, the room telephone, curtains pulls, etc. will be diligently wiped down. Having previously worked in hotels, I have seen instances where the cups and glasses in the room would only be washed in the bathroom sink and not put into a dishwasher, and bathroom floors were never mopped. I can understand that during busy periods, housekeepers will now find it more time consuming to implement all the extra recommended precautions. Given that some are given a deadline to get a certain number of rooms turned-over and are penalised if they don’t meet their target, I am nervous that they may take short-cuts”.

The Guest Experience 

We spoke to two industry experts. Liz Smith-Mills, Hotel Housekeeping Expert and Adam Munday, General Manager at Melia Hotels International, shared with us the work that is going on behind the scenes to ensure guest and employee safety in the COVID-19 era.

Both Adam and Liz are clear that the entire hotel environment is going to change for the foreseeable future, so what might guests expect in terms of hotel hygiene?

Well firstly, guests can forget (at least in the short-term):

  • Doormen opening lobby and taxi doors.
  • Having our luggage transported to our hotel room.
  • Hugs, kisses and handshakes from those hotel staff we know and love well.
  • In-room extras such as pens, magazines, fluffy robes, slippers, facecloths, plump cushions and throws. All non-essential items will be removed.
  • Jam-packed lifts, we’re likely to see a lift attendant calling the lifts and lift occupancy limited to those in the same household, meaning colleagues will ride in separate lifts.
  • Buffet style buffet breakfasts.
  • Public areas such as bars and restaurants for in the first instance.
  • Daily room cleans, the housekeeping staff will be cleaning rooms only between guests in most cases.
  • Those bulk liquid toiletry dispensers.

hotel cleanliness

What we’re likely to see instead are:

  • Social distancing measures at check-in queues.
  • Screens positioned at reception desks to separate guests from employees.
  • Tech-based check-ins or at least a new key-card each time we check-in.
  • More guests using the stairs in place of the lift.
  • More continental room-service breakfasts.
  • A different room service product more akin to a takeaway left outside your room.
  • Hand sanitiser stations spread liberally around the public areas.
  • More visible cleaning activities and regular cleaning of public surfaces such as door handles.
  • Heat sensors at hotel entrances and exits.
  • A return to the less eco-friendly single-use toiletries.
  • Lower occupancies and fewer guests, with rooms left 72 hours between guests.
  • The requirement to reserve a place in the gym.

Here Bill Marriott shares his plans regarding hotel cleanliness to restore guest confidence as they start to travel again.


Evolving Industry Responses to Hotel Cleanliness

The development of COVID-19 related industry standards is currently evolving. Hotel and lodging associations, hotel cleaning contractors and individual hotel groups are still learning about the virus and the required enhanced cleaning methods. As Liz Smith-Mills tells us, hotels used to focus on an ‘aesthetic clean’ which was largely visual. Today there has to be no room for error, we can’t see the virus. We need to avoid cross-contamination at all costs, and that includes cups and glasses being replaced with sanitised ones each day”. Indeed, Adam tells us that the Melia group are working with a new set of procedures spanning an eye-watering 300 pages.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association is working with key partners within the hospitality industry including Walt Disney and Hyatt Hotels to develop Enhanced, Industry-Wide Hotel Cleaning Standards and Hilton Hotels have partnered with RB, manufacturers of disinfectant Lysol and the Mayo Clinic to develop their new cleaning procedures.

As travellers and hoteliers adapt to the new normal, it’s not going to be easy and as Adam so eloquently puts it “the changes we need to make right now really go against the grain of what the hospitality industry is about”, so we asked him if we’re ever likely to see the return of those plump cushions and fluffy robes? “Hopefully not! A positive is that you will no longer have to spend the first 30 minutes of your hotel stay removing the decorative pillows and throws, they have for once and for all been sent on permanent vacation!”

Our COVID-19 eLearning is packed with practical tips on keeping yourself safe and healthy whilst travelling during the pandemic.

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