In our last post, we noted the coronavirus pandemic has produced a new normal for hotels and event venues, one in which event planners and their guests expect more stringent cleaning and safety standards.
The Four Seasons in New York is proving a test case in the industry’s possible paradigm shift. According to NBC News, the luxury hotel’s “guinea pig journey” started after providing lodging for area frontline health care workers.
Four Seasons’ operating procedures morphed from high touch to no touch — virtual check-in and check-out, no more room service or breakfast buffet, and only pre-made boxed meals available in the lobby. Rooms have also been cleared of potential germ hangouts, such as the minibar and extra pillows, linens and hangers. In between guests, rooms are left empty for 24 hours before being thoroughly sanitized by cleaning crews in hazmat suits.
Though the deep cleaning is aimed at rooms more likely to have housed a medical professional exposed to COVID-19, hotels in the post-pandemic era are likely to clean rooms more extensively than before.
Cleaning protocols intensify
Accor, Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt have been in the news for their new branded cleaning programs, which they will employ in addition to social distancing measures and enhanced food safety guidelines.
Europe’s largest hospitality company, Accor has partnered with inspection company Bureau Veritas on independent testing of its hygiene certification program, which features higher sanitation standards for guest rooms and catering facilities. Accor hopes these increased safety measures will encourage governments to loosen current travel restrictions.
Marriott International launched the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to develop new standards “focused on more than just disinfection” but also “a holistic approach” to include technology such as electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant for hotel guest rooms, lobbies, gyms and other areas, as well as ultraviolet light to clean room keys.
Hilton has partnered with Lysol and in consultation with the Mayo Clinic on a new program called “Hilton CleanStay with Lysol Protection,” which will launch in early June to more deeply clean guest rooms and public areas and provide travelers more peace of mind. Like the Four Seasons, Hilton will also continue contactless check-in and digital room keys.
Following Marriott and Hilton, Hyatt also announced their new program, Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, to launch in May, which will feature the Global Biorisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation to recognize hotels that follow the cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program.
These global hotel brands aren’t the only ones stepping up their service levels. According to BTN, IHG, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Radisson Hotel Group, and Wyndam Hotels & Resorts are all also making strides toward enhanced cleaning protocols, employee training, and no-touch check-in procedures.
Beyond their individual brand efforts, these and other large hotel companies are also working together on cleaning and safety standards. The American Hotel and Lodging Association announced the launch of the “Safe Stay” initiative, which “will seek to change hotel industry norms, behaviors and standards to ensure both hotel guests and employees are confident in the cleanliness and safety of hotels once travel resumes.”
Peace of mind
As Shimon Avish notes in MeetingsNet, loosened travel restrictions and safer conditions are only part of the equation. As the pandemic subsides, the biggest obstacle to overcome is simply fear. Hospitality suppliers throughout the industry are pulling out the stops to give meeting planners and their guests the peace of mind they need.