More than a year of pent-up demand for travel and hotel stays is finally being released as eager guests take to the road and skies to visit family and seek out new destinations. However, with ongoing concern about COVID-19 variants, guest expectations of how hotels manage health and safety considerations remain high as ever. Confidence in cleanliness may be a deciding factor in both an individual hotel’s success and the continuing return to travel.
While COVID-19 restrictions have eased in many locales, cleaning protocols cannot. Safety, cleanliness, and hygienic practices will continue to be top of mind as we continue to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and other illnesses. Deloitte found that among travelers choosing to stay in a hotel, 89% cited enhanced cleaning measures as a reason for choosing this type of lodging and 95% said they want to see as much cleaning and sanitation measures post-vaccine as before.
As hotel executives review cleaning and safety programs for their brand, it is imperative that they follow the guidance of public health experts to make scientifically backed and informed decisions. It is also critical to ensure that cleaning and safety protocols are understood and implemented at the property level. It is one thing to say that you are enhancing your cleaning procedures, but another to consistently implement and maintain those practices day in and day out.
I encourage hotels to take the time to critically reassess their cleaning practices and refresh their plan to align with industry standards and current guidelines. As we anticipate a future of increased travel, both for business and leisure, below are some key practices hotels should consider to manage COVID-19 risks and keep guests safe from check-in to check-out.
START WITH A PLAN
It’s unlikely that you got through the last year without some form of documented plan for cleaning and public health procedures for you operation. Now is a good time to dust it off and revisit. Make sure it’s been updated with the latest guidance from the CDC and WHO as well as local protocols and published industry standards. These standards have evolved since we first heard about COVID-19 and its variants. Your plan should be visible and understood by your team and customers alike. Set expectations for the team and take credit for the care you are giving your customers.
ALIGN WITH YOUR PARTNERS
Work with partners and suppliers that understand your business and your challenges. As occupancy increases it’s important that your partners are prepared to rise to the challenge with you. Remember that you can rely on suppliers for their expertise in many aspects of keeping guests safe and happy across your facility from clean and comfortable rooms to safe and healthy food service, pristine pool and fitness areas and inviting common spaces.
SELECT THE RIGHT PRODUCTS
When it comes to choosing cleaning products there are a range of choices that can be made to fit your needs. Antimicrobial products, proven to kill to bacteria and viruses, are a critical tool in breaking the chain of infection in shared spaces. These products must be EPA-registered and approved for use in your operation and application. I recommend the use of hospital-level disinfectants. Choose products that have been tested against multiple infection agents including SARS-CoV-2, influenza virus and a range of bacteria and fungi. Many of these products have short kill times, making application and compliance easier for your staff. Always read and follow the label carefully when using any of these products.
ADOPT STRATEGIES TO DO MORE WITH LESS
SAP Concur found that 68% of global business travelers say they’re pushing to travel again for work. At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the hotel sector has about 300,000 fewer workers than pre-pandemic. While navigating an increase in hotel guests combined with a decrease in hotel staff, preparing in advance and optimizing operations can help prevent a COVID-19 outbreak at your location.
Strategies like adopting strict brand standards for chemicals and equipment can help streamline your operations. Adherence to protocols and using the same product, dispensers and cleaning tools across the enterprise makes training and auditing efficient, giving peace of mind to the customer. Incorporating multi-use products into your program can also help streamline procedures and save much needed time in room turnovers.
Along with overall staff shortages, we have seen an influx of hires who are new to the industry, which greatly increases the need for training. The evolution of engaging, on-demand, mobile device enabled and ‘just in time’ training offerings has been exciting to watch. These tools can dramatically shorten the time to get your new hires up and running.
FOCUS ON THE FUNDAMENTALS
Now more than ever, it is critical that employees understand and explicitly follow proper cleaning and disinfection procedures. Employees must understand the steps of the cleaning protocol as well as how to use personal protective equipment and the available products.
Using the right products and procedures and dedicating a shift to extensive proactive cleaning and disinfection during the slowest hours of business can optimize operations and increase overall productivity. Consistent and proactive cleaning not only positively impacts public health but also allows the hotel to protect property assets from soil buildup and damage.
It is also important to pay special attention to the following high-touch surfaces and ensure each category has its own customized cleaning plan and schedule.