How Technology Can Help Hospitality’s Recovery
The hospitality industry is one of the hardest hit amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, U.S. properties lost more than $23 billion in room revenue since mid-February and are continuing to lose $2.8 billion weekly. With COVID-19 restrictions slowly being lifted in all states, hotels are reopening with a focus on how to keep guests and staff safe. As the industry adapts to this new reality, technology will be a critical tool in helping hotels adjust and provide a path back to profitability.
According to a survey by Magma Global, 86.4 percent of respondents said the sanitation procedures of a hotel would strongly influence their decision about where to stay. As hotels revamp their cleaning processes, technology is at the forefront of their strategy.
Most hotels use reusable keycards for their guestrooms, and enlisting employees to clean these cards by hand is a potential minefield. From the potential for human error, to the sheer cost of disposable wipes, to the negative environmental impact; this technique is far from ideal. Luckily, advances in technology have created simple UV-C sanitizing machines that can be used to clean key cards in less than one minute. Some of these portable devices can kill 99.9 percent of harmful pathogens in under 60 seconds and can disinfect several items at once. These small devices are a practical and economical solution for the hospitality industry as a robust sanitizing strategy and will be essential to getting back to business.
Using ultraviolet light to get rid of germs isn’t a new concept, as it has been used since the late 19th century. UV light within a certain wavelength has the ability to deactivate microorganisms by acting on its DNA and RNA. In fact, UV-C light is the only way to destroy antibiotic resistant pathogens. Ultraviolet light is most effective at wavelengths of 250–270nm and is strongly absorbed by the nucleic acids of microbial cells, making this the most lethal range of wavelengths—something to keep in mind when searching for the most powerful UV-C products.
To help ensure the safety of guests and staff alike, hotels worldwide are beginning to implement UV-C technology throughout their properties to expedite and improve the disinfectant process. While pathogens can develop resistance to chemicals, they can’t to UV-C light. Chemical cleaners actually need to sit on a surface for two to five minutes to be effective, making them extremely inefficient for quick cleanings or the cleaning of several hundred items, like hotel key cards. According to the CDC, it’s a two-step process where you first clean the surface and then spray or wipe with an EPA-approved disinfectant to kill germs. A quick cleaning alone will not kill pathogens. When hotel staff need to disinfect upwards of 200 key cards or other shared materials a day, using wipes and disinfecting products becomes extremely time consuming, expensive and ultimately less effective.
Implementing UV-C technology can help reassure guests of the hotel’s cleaning methodologies, while also cutting operational costs and offering a more sustainable, green solution in the long run. At check-in, hotel staff can visibly sanitize key cards in front of the guest, so they can be assured that the hotel is taking hygiene practices seriously. Witnessing this technology being put to use first-hand is likely to put the guest at ease and feel more comfortable during their stay.
UV-C sanitizing machines can also be used throughout the hotel to enhance cleaning protocols. Past studies found that the TV remote is the most germ-laced item in a hotel room, so running the in-room TV remote controls through a UV-C machine is a great practice to implement. In the hotel business center, UV-C technology is a great solution for sanitizing computer keyboards, mice, tablets and other small electronic and office items.
Hotels can even extend an offer to sanitize guest’s phones. This will help reduce the spread of germs in the hotel, as studies show that 92% of all phones contain germs, and the average person touches their phone an astonishing 2,500 times per day. It’s also a simple way to add value through customer service.
Some hotels are forgoing daily housekeeping services entirely, but for luxury hotels where service is imperative that isn’t a viable solution. Enter the robots. The Westin Houston Medical Center is using LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots that use xenon UV light pulses to kill germs. The robots are used in more than 400 hospitals and studies find that they decrease environmental infection rates between 50 and 100
Long Term Disinfectant
Even prior to the COVID-19 crisis, hotels in Denmark were experimenting with self-cleaning rooms. Using the ACT CleanCoat, a hotel is able to spray the invisible, odorless cleaning solution that removes viruses, microbes, allergens, mold-spores and more for up to a year in every guest room and public areas. The titanium dioxide based product has passed more than 24 European norm tests.
To get around the issue of sharing menus, and the wastefulness of disposable menus, many F&B outlets in hotels are exploring the use of QR Codes. With a QR-code solution, customers can scan the code to get a copy of the menu directly on their phone. For eateries that wanted to further reduce contact, ordering could be done through their phone without downloading an additional app.
Many hotel chains are improving their smartphone apps to automate different processes to decrease human-to-human contact. Apps can allow guests to check-in online, order room service, interact with the concierge, make spa and restaurant reservations and more.
With an elevated temperature a symptom in many COVID-19 cases, some hotels are looking to implement thermal cameras, which can detect body temperatures of guests in the hotel in a more discreet way than taking temperatures at every entrance and exit a guest makes throughout their stay.
As the world starts to open up again, people will resume travel and when they do, hotels that are on the forefront of technology to keep people safe will rebound best.