2020 was without question the most challenging year the travel industry has ever faced. According to some analyses, return to pre-pandemic levels could take until 2023 or later. And even with vaccines providing a light at the end of this tunnel, hotel operators are still responsible for continuing to safeguard the health of both employees and guests, while inspiring consumer confidence.
What will it take to get people to travel again? According to the McKinsey Consumer Leisure Travel Survey, enhanced health and safety measures are a critical start. When it comes to hotels, consumers want intense room cleaning protocols with more rigorous solutions like UV-C light disinfection.
With more than 100 years of proven efficacy and long considered the gold standard in hospitals, UV-C disinfection can destroy up to 99.99% of surface and airborne pathogens, including the virus that causes COVID-19. That’s a significant step up from traditional chemical disinfection, which is often prone to human error and doesn’t address airborne pathogens.
As UV-C is increasingly adopted across organizations of all types, one thing has become clear: this method is particularly well-suited to hotels — today and in a post-pandemic world, where travelers will continue to expect a higher standard of health and safety from properties.
Let’s look at the top three reasons that make UV-C an ideal disinfection method for the hotel industry.
UV-C is a touch-free disinfection solution that not only integrates seamlessly with existing workflows, but also streamlines them. For comparison, electrostatic spraying requires sealing off a room, suiting up in full PPE (including a hospital-grade respirator), and then waiting for up to an hour while the sprayed chemicals dry in order to avoid exposure to toxic fumes. Alternatively, UV-C disinfection can safely get a room guest-ready in a matter of minutes. That means hotels can circumvent disruptions to business (such as guest check-in delays) that come with other forms of time-consuming disinfection. In the case of UV-C disinfection, the operator simply pushes a button and leaves the room for a short time (top-tier devices have a full-room disinfection time of under 7 minutes) while the device thoroughly disinfects the space. With less than two minutes of touch time, UV-C devices allow housekeeping staff to get closer to pre-pandemic cleaning times, running the device in one room after a standard cleaning while they move on to the next.
UV-C’s high efficiency alone generates meaningful savings on labor costs, which have risen to $62,000 for the average hotel since the start of the pandemic, by some estimates. Additionally, unlike chemical disinfection, which requires hotels to continuously purchase gallons of chemicals and the single-use PPE needed to apply them, mobile UV-C systems require next to no recurring costs, aside from that of the electricity required to run them. (Many best-in-class devices on the market draw the same electricity wattage as a hairdryer.)
Overall, UV-C disinfection is up to 50% less expensive for properties than electrostatic spraying, and up to 60% less expensive than manual disinfection. Plus, UV-C’s unmatched efficacy against pathogens means fewer outbreaks — which can save hotels hundreds of thousands by preventing shutdowns. Longer-term, this means less sick days for staff and fewer guest cancellations due to illnesses.
#3: SAFETY + SUSTAINABILITY
It’s no secret that chemical disinfectants are toxic; their health effects have been well-documented. Improper use can lead to respiratory issues, organ damage, and other serious health consequences. Long-term use, potentially even at concentrations considered to be safe, has been linked to progressive lung disease and cancer among nurses and janitorial staff.
The pandemic, which has increased the use of — and therefore exposure to — chemicals, has exacerbated these health risks. And it’s not only hotel staff who are at risk. According to a recent study, fumes from chemical disinfectants may linger in the air for 20 minutes after application. Hotel guests, particularly children, may develop respiratory irritation and other health issues as a result.
For the most part, society has accepted the risks associated with chemical disinfectant use as a necessary evil: a larger health risk traded for a smaller one. The pandemic has forced us to question that logic. UV-C devices present a safer and more effective alternative that, if properly operated, can eliminate the risks of toxic chemical disinfection entirely.
As we enter a new post-pandemic era, the need for enhanced disinfection protocols won’t disappear with the coronavirus, just as rebuilding consumer trust won’t happen overnight. Going forward, the hotel industry — along with virtually every other industry across the global economy — will be held to a new standard for human health and safety. Infectious diseases, such as norovirus and the seasonal flu, aren’t going anywhere, and scientists predict global viral outbreaks will only become more common. It’s time to bring our relatively rudimentary infection prevention methods into the 21st century. Sick days lead to over half a trillion dollars in lost productivity for US employers each year, but they don’t have to.
As society navigates a return to travel, consumers will now be looking to hotels for reassurance in how they’re approaching guest health and safety — long before they book a reservation. UV-C disinfection is not only a more effective and efficient way for properties to ensure physically safer spaces, but provides a faster route to rebuilding consumer trust — and ultimately, increasing bookings and revenue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alyssa Harker is the Head of Communications at biosafety company, R-Zero. Alyssa has spent more than 12 years in the hospitality industry, leading strategic communications and marketing campaigns for luxury boutique properties, major resorts and national hotel brands including Marriott International and Omni Hotels & Resorts. Today, as organizations across the country implement R-Zero’s innovative infection prevention technologies, she serves as an advisor to hospitality teams both in creating and communicating new standards of health and safety - helping rebuild consumer trust.