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04/23/2021

Is That Relief in the Air?

PPP covers COVID Risk Mitigations. Ensuring consumer confidence is critical to maintaining millions of jobs in the hospitality industry.
a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced leaders in the hospitality industry to rethink what defines an outstanding guest experience. Every detail of service delivery, from the moment a guest walks into your hotel or restaurant to the moment they are posting their review on Trip Advisor or Yelp, is now scrutinized in two ways: First, did I enjoy myself? And, second, did I feel comfortable staying at that location?

Owners and managers are spending scarce resources to deploy measures to provide clean environments while facing reduced traffic due to curfews, capacity constraints, and fear of travel. In stark terms, ensuring consumer confidence during the pandemic is critical to maintaining millions of jobs in this industry.

Thankfully, some new relief is on the way.

REVISITING COVID-19 TRANSMISSION RISKS


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission (the virus that causes COVID-19) from surfaces is low, whereas it is more common for the virus to spread by airborne transmission.  Many state and local governments, as well as industry associations (see, e.g., the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Safe Stay guidelines), now advocate for improved ventilation/air purification as a means to capture SARS-CoV-2 in indoor spaces.

As scientists have advanced their understanding of how this virus spreads, lawmakers have followed their lead, authorizing billions of dollars to implement risk mitigation strategies among business owners.

FUNDING SOLUTIONS

The new COVID-19 relief bill includes $284 billion in funding to small businesses that continue to struggle in the face of surging COVID-19 cases via a second round of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP).  This PPP Round Two expands the slate of expenses covered by the funding, this time recognizing the need for cleaner air in business settings. In addition to updating existing HVAC systems, qualified businesses appear to be able to use PPP funds to invest in other technologies that support employees returning to work (and, by extension, customers visiting businesses). This likely includes air purifiers that can capture the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the importance of which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) acknowledged earlier this year.

Specifically, the interim final rule provides that “[t]he proceeds of a PPP loan are to be used for […] covered worker protection expenditures […] related to the maintenance of standards for sanitation, social distancing, or any other worker or customer safety requirement related to COVID-19,” which may include ‘‘the purchase, maintenance, or renovation of assets that create or expand […] an indoor, outdoor, or combined air or air pressure ventilation or filtration system.”

RESTORING CONFIDENCE

According to Google Trends, during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer air purification system sales have increased dramatically, becoming one of the most purchased household smart home products. As they moved from purchasing wipes and bleach to air purifiers, consumers have voted with their wallets, indicating that they seek cleaner air as a way to feel more confident and comfortable in their surroundings. The hospitality industry is following suit, with wide-ranging air quality upgrades, hoping to instill confidence in guests that the air at their location is clean. From full-scale HVAC solutions, to placing tabletop air purifiers at the takeout counter, to arming housekeepers with portable air purifiers to use when cleaning guestrooms between check-ins, owners are doing their part to ensure the air breathed by their guests and employees is clean.

Alongside mask use and physical distancing, the addition of air purification technology in hospitality settings can provide visible evidence of a business’s commitment to the wellbeing of its staff and guests.

When shopping for air purification technologies, it is important to find the right solution for each setting in your establishment. Seek filtration systems that can capture ultrafine particles with high efficiency, because the smallest particles remain airborne the longest. Talk to your industry colleagues and seek out experts in your area to help make the best choices for your establishment.

Hospitality faces uncharted waters in the months ahead, but the industry will see success from the investments made to provide guests and staff with clean air. Thankfully, there are new resources to fund those investments.

About the Author

Brian Packard is a national award-winning marketer who has commercialized a dozen ‘world’s first’ healthcare products, from home defibrillators to ear thermometers.  His passion is bringing life-improving technology from concept to mainstream.  Brian is the CEO of Celios Corporation, a next-generation air purification technology company located in Massachusetts.