After two years of discouraged travel, tourism is once again in demand and travelers are looking for hotel rooms at higher rates than they were pre-pandemic. However, there are still plenty who think business travel may not yet be worth the risk. Large meetings and events represent an irreplaceable share of hotel revenue, so restoring public confidence is key to the recovery of the industry.
The Trust Issue
Traveling to meet family and friends is a controllable experience. Concerned families can make sure everyone has tested negative before meeting up or can at least be relatively confident that the rest of their party is taking the reasonable precautions to avoid spreading COVID-19. Conferences and other events, on the other hand, are by definition full of people who don’t know each other. In a scenario like this, it is hard to be confident that others are safe to be around, leading the more cautious to opt to attend remotely if at all. Diminishing attendance for these conferences cuts into the main income source for many hotels and event spaces. The problem is that the main avenues we have for protecting ourselves and others relies on compliance from all participants to be successful. Now that mandates on things like testing, mask wearing, and vaccination to protect indoor spaces have been largely removed and in some cases banned, those protection measures rely on the honor system. Given the polarizing nature of those measures, it's usually safe to assume that not all attendees to a given event will adhere to the best practices for keeping others safe. To fully restore confidence in the safety of conferences and other indoor gatherings, the indoor spaces need to be made to prevent transmission within their walls. This prevention needs to be passive and require no compliance from attendees.
Indoor Air is Key
Since the early days of the pandemic when people were sterilizing their groceries and going through a bottle of sanitizer a week, we have come to understand that airborne transmission is the most common way the virus spreads from person to person. Both mask guidelines and social distancing measures are aimed at addressing airborne transmission, masking to prevent the particles from getting into the air and social distancing to attempt to give each person their own area of personal air space. Approaching the third year of this virus, fewer and fewer people are taking either of these precautions seriously so other ways of protecting the air are cropping up. Some buildings have upped their air circulation, removing potentially infected air and replacing it with presumably safer, outdoor air at regular intervals in a proven method for preventing transmission in indoor spaces. The standard metric for air circulation/ventilation is Air Changes per Hour (ACH) or the number of times every hour that the air inside a room is swapped with new air. While there is no definitive guarantee of the number of air exchanges per hour to prevent COVID spread, a minimum of 6 ACH is recommended by the CDC and the higher the better as the variants of COVID have become more infectious.
Air circulation can certainly be an effective measure for protecting the occupants of indoor spaces, and its effectiveness doesn’t rely on occupant compliance. The problem is that pumping that volume of air out of and reconditioning new air to put back into a room every ten minutes at a minimum uses a lot of energy, and therefore costs a lot of money. With Europe facing an energy crisis as it is and global warming impacting every country on Earth, a more efficient technology for removing the virus from the air is needed. Disinfecting the air while it is still in the room is the best way to achieve this.
Shining a Light on the Problem
Hospitals have been using ultraviolet (UV) light to disinfect the air and high-touch surfaces in operating rooms and other rooms with high rates of infection for decades. As users have migrated from robotic towers or wands for surface cleaning to focus on airborne transmission they have increasingly turned to solutions that can provide the most equivalent air exchanges possible. To cover the most amount of air instantaneously, the UVC can’t be confined within a box or the ductwork. The UV must be in the room while it is occupied. Ideal systems will often contemplate the use of either Upper Room installations and/or those that utilize shorter wavelength (200-230 nanometer) Far UVC light, which is unable to penetrate the nonliving cells of the skin or eyes. Far UVC lights have been installed in the Pentagon, the Department of Defense, and other high priority government buildings since nearly the start of the pandemic and have kept those spaces free from COVID transmission. Since then, use of the technology has spread to schools and school buses, healthcare facilities, theaters, event spaces and more.
The hospitality industry is facing a crossroads. Recent studies have shown that repeated infections with COVID are resulting in worse health outcomes. The farther away we get from the initial covid lockdowns, the less willing people will be to take on extra measures that require their compliance for the sake of slowing the spread even when they know it is in the best interests of themselves, their families, their friends and their communities. At the same time, those who are more precautious, who have extra risk factors or who are just following the science will continue to feel unsafe at large events until the spaces they take place in are designed to prevent the spread of airborne disease between attendees. Some hotels and events spaces have begun to see Far UV and upper room UV being proactively used to provide protection at infectious disease conferences. Hotels and event spaces promoting the use of Far UVC and upper room UV lights to reduce the chances of covid transmission will allow event organizers to publicize this information to potential attendees and increase confidence in attendance. Those attendees will soon find that their whole experience can be protected as the airports, transportation providers, hotels, restaurants and bars also improve their indoor air quality with these game changing alternatives. Just as service providers are accustomed to providing safe drinking water for their occupants, so too will they improve the quality of the air that we share.
About the Author
PJ Piper is Founder, CEO and Chairman of Far UV Technologies, known for its Krypton Far UV disinfection lighting. Piper is an accomplished entrepreneur, board member, and investment banker with over 25 years of experience in Health and Hygiene, Clean Tech, Autonomous Vehicles, AgTech, E-commerce, FinTech, and Artificial Intelligence.