Touchless Services and Hospital-Grade Cleaning: What Hotels Are Doing to Meet Coronavirus Health Standards
Four Seasons partnered with Johns Hopkins. Hilton linked up with the Mayo Clinic. Hotels worldwide are introducing enhanced sanitization and social-distancing measures to reassure travelers that their stay in the age of COVID-19 will be safe.
As coronavirus lockdown measures begin to ease at home and abroad, many of us are starting to dream about where we will travel to first and where we will stay when we do. And the first question that usually comes to mind soon thereafter is: But will it be safe?
Hotels and resorts are hoping to answer that question with a resounding “yes” by instituting new health, safety, and cleanliness protocols intended to assure travelers concerned about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that they’re taking infection prevention seriously.
This week, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced a new partnership with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to develop an enhanced health and safety program at its global portfolio of luxury properties. An important aspect of the program is that international health-care experts will check to make sure that properties are properly executing the enhanced procedures. They include measures such as daily room disinfections with EPA-approved products; hourly cleaning of public areas; amenity kits in each room that include face masks, hand sanitizer, and sanitization wipes; and social-distancing measures like spaced-out fitness equipment and contactless check-in.
Four Seasons employees are also being trained in health and sanitation procedures that will protect them and guests, as well as in how to provide empathetic, personalized care and ensure that connection is not lost despite limited face-to-face interaction. (For instance, the hotel group has a three-year-old app called Four Seasons Chat that guests can use to reach out to employees for assistance.)
The Four Seasons’ approach is the latest in a string of enhanced health and safety policies from hotels. In April, Marriott International unveiled its plan for ensuring safe, clean, and healthy hotel stays in the age of COVID-19, which includes touchless check-in and the use of hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize surfaces throughout its hotels. The plan was developed by a task force that includes infectious disease experts and public health and food safety scientists.
Hilton, too, came out with a highly detailed program, called Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection, that it developed in collaboration with the disinfectant brand Lysol and experts from the not-for-profit medical center Mayo Clinic. Room cleanings will be focused on 10 high-touch, deep-clean areas that include light switches, door handles, TV remotes, and thermostats; a room seal will be placed on guest room doors to indicate that the room has not been accessed since being thoroughly cleaned.
New industry-wide hotel cleaning and safety standards
Last week, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released its guidelines for industry-wide hotel cleaning standards through a new “Safe Stay” initiative developed in response to COVID-19.
The initiative—a result of input from hotels, public health experts, and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—establishes a set of best practices that properties should adopt in order to protect staff and guests from coronavirus.
The guidelines are not set in stone and will be amended if new information about the spread of coronavirus emerges. But the current list of standards includes things that both employees and guests should be encouraged to do, such as wash their hands frequently and be aware of the local public health recommendations (for instance, where and when it is required to wear face masks). It also stipulates that employees should receive COVID-19-specific training, and there’s a long list of cleaning products and protocols that include which areas should be cleaned most frequently (like elevator buttons) and how social-distancing measures should be practiced both among staff and guests (think pool seating that is six feet apart and no more turn-down service).
Although Safe Stay is a set of voluntary standards, AHLA is working to develop a certification process that hotels could ultimately submit to. You can find a list of the hotels that are participating in the program on the Safe Stay website.
In Europe and Asia, certificates for hotels that comply with COVID-19 health standards
European countries are finally beginning to tiptoe out of weeks-long lockdown measures as well—just in time for summer, traditionally the most popular time for travel.
Obviously, this year will not be like any other when it comes to summer travel, but in an effort to help and encourage travelers to venture out, two countries in Europe have developed a certification system that will be used to identify hotels that meet certain minimum coronavirus health and safety measures.
Visit Britain, the British tourism industry’s marketing arm, last week announced plans for what it calls a “quality mark” that will be given to hotels, attractions, and take-out restaurants that signals that they are operating in accordance with health and safety guidelines, the Telegraph reported.
The organization did not provide any additional details, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the earliest the country expects to reopen hospitality businesses is July 4, so there is still time for the initiative to be further developed.
The move comes after Portugal introduced a similar program in late April, a “Clean & Safe” certification that will be provided to hotels and travel companies that are compliant with hygiene and cleaning requirements for the prevention and control of COVID-19 and other possible infections. The idea is to “reinforce visitors’ confidence in the safety of the destination,” Turismo de Portugal, the country’s tourism board, said in a release about the new measure.
Hotels, entertainment venues, tourist attractions, and other travel-related establishments can apply for the certification online, free of charge. They must submit a declaration of commitment to hygiene and cleaning requirements and Turismo de Portugal will carry out random audits. If they adhere to the requirements, they will receive a “Clean & Safe” emblem that they can display either physically on their property and/or on their digital platforms, which will be valid for one year.
In Asia, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has partnered with public and private sector partners to introduce an “Amazing Thailand Safety and Health Administration: SHA” certification in anticipation of a return of tourism following the COVID-19 slump. Numerous tourism and public health committees are working together to establish what the certification criteria will be and what the application and selection process will look like. The rough framework, however, includes the need for establishments to follow the government’s COVID-19 guidelines but also the implementation of operating procedures that ensure staff and tourist safety “while maintaining local culture and promoting interaction between local communities and tourists.”
Ultimately, that will be the biggest challenge—how to keep everyone safe while not losing the very essence of the hospitality experience, which is the meaningful connections that are forged.