Official News Magazine of the Canadian Snowbird Association

 

HOW COVID-19 HAS CHANGED HOTEL STAYS

An industry-wide response to the coronavirus pandemic has led to hotels that are cleaner and safer than ever before.

by Donna Carter

 

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was felt around the globe in different and devasting ways. Moreover, for the hotel industry, it was a game changer. The historical promise of rigorously clean establishments was no longer sufficient to convince people that it was safe to travel. Safe to stay in hotels. Safe to leave their homes and expose themselves to the virus that was making people sick and taking lives. For hotels in North America and everywhere else, the coronavirus pandemic created an entirely new environment. Its perilous presence was an unmistakable message that previous standards for safety and sanitization unequivocally needed to be elevated. This was the beginning of what led to sweeping changes to the hotel industry’s already stringent health, safety and cleanliness protocols. It’s what led to the “new normal” hotel environment designed to provide travellers − including snowbirds − with safe and worry-free stays.

The pandemic response from hotels overall was both immediate and uniformly aggressive. The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), in partnership with the Hotel Association of Canada (HAC), quickly released their Safe Stay initiative, a guide reaching more than 35,000 members including such well-known brands as Best Western, Hyatt, Omni, Red Roof Inn, Wyndham and others. Developed to meet the new health and safety challenges presented by the pandemic, it was created in accordance with public health authorities and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to ensure the well-being of guests and employees, both during and after the crisis. Safe Stay promotes the use of high-grade, bacteria-killing cleaning products for the sanitization of all hotel areas − guest rooms, front desk check-in, elevators and elevator buttons, door handles, public washrooms, room keys, ATMs, gyms, meeting rooms and more. It encourages contactless check-in/check-out, together with promoting non-contact room service and social distancing practices.

While Safe Stay is a template circulated to all AHLA and HAC members, certain members and non-members have elected to develop their own unique action plans. Choice Hotels, for example, launched its pandemic response under its Commitment to Clean program. Working with Ecolab − the global leader in water, hygiene and infection prevention technologies − the program embodies a long list of changes in cleaning procedures and social distancing protocols which include hand sanitization stations positioned in high-traffic areas throughout the brand’s more than 6,000 hotels across the United States and Canada. Prepackaged breakfast items are now offered in lieu of buffets. Other procedures include: contactless check-in/check-out; furniture arrangements designed for social distancing; and personal protective equipment for hotel staff. “The safety and well-being of guests, franchisees and associates is our top priority,” said Choice president Patrick Pacious. Choice is the umbrella company that encompasses Econo Lodge, Quality, Clarion, Rodeway, Comfort, Sleep Inn and others.

Quick to implement a plan of heightened sanitization protocols and procedures was the worldwide Accor family of more than 4,800 hotels worldwide, including many in the United States and Canada such as Fairmont, Sofitel, Raffles and Banyan Tree. Under the brand’s All Stay Well program, there are many new safety and hygiene protocols: pre-screening on arrival; front desk Plexiglas; numerous sanitization stations; high-grade disinfecting of high-touch areas; the provision of guest room “wellness kits” that include masks, gloves, hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes; a 48-hour resting period between guest stays, followed by cleaning and disinfecting. Coffee and water stations in the lobby are now replaced by bottled water. High-touch items such as pens, coffee makers and alarm clocks have been removed from guest rooms and all hotel staff have been trained in the new All Stay Well program.

Marriott joined the industry’s pandemic response with the creation of the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council, a group tasked with compiling a “best practices” plan in concert with guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC. Within the plan’s comprehensive set of procedures are enhanced technologies that include electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant to sanitize all surfaces throughout the company’s hotels. As well, the furniture in public spaces is now laid out to provide social distancing, together with hand sanitizer stations on entry, at front desks, elevator banks and in fitness rooms. Like other industry members responding to COVID-19, Marriott’s mantra is “deep and frequent cleaning” of ALL spaces from guest rooms to public areas, fitness rooms and kitchens.

Red Roof Inn, a leader in economy lodging, launched its Red Roof RediClean plan that replicates many of the same enhanced sanitization protocols and safety procedures of other industry members. The Red Roof plan requires that four times a day, housekeepers sanitize everything from elevators to front desks, door knobs, public washrooms…even down to pool gates. With 50 locations across Canada, the UK and the U.S., the Sandman Hotel Group launched its Pure-Clean program. Working with Ecolab, its comprehensive model embodies the use of a certified disinfectant that effectively kills viruses such as COVID-19. Other measures include Plexiglass shields at check-in, touchless check-out, social distancing indicators in all public spaces and – significantly − hotel rooms are left vacant for up to 72 hours prior to the next check-in.

The Silver Hotel Group (SHG), a Canadian family-owned company that has relationships with some of the world’s largest hotel brands (Starwood, Choice, Hilton, Marriott) has likewise responded with comprehensive sanitization protocols and social distancing procedures. They include the use of ultraviolet light technology for killing micro-organisms such as viruses, bacteria and mould spores, together with electrostatic disinfectant spray used to coat all types of surfaces. In addition, all soft goods have been removed from guest rooms and all beds are fitted with triple sheeting duvets washed after each guest departure. In addition, SHG claims to be the first in Canada to be equipped with “bed lifts.” Using a system of radio frequency, beds are elevated for the cleaning of what might be lurking underneath: bacteria, mites, mildew.

Employing many of the same safety and hygiene procedures as other industry members, Hilton launched its CleanStay program, partnering with the Mayo Clinic and the company that owns Lysol. Likewise, IHG Hotels (which includes Holiday Inn) rolled out its Clean Promise program for enhanced cleanliness and well-being and, at the same time, Hyatt launched its Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. Tag names aside, all pandemic responses targeted the same core objective: creating a restructured environment to meet new standards for cleanliness and well-being, while simultaneously fostering safe stay confidence among the travelling public.

Across the industry landscape, responses to the coronavirus pandemic are more alike than different. From hotel giants to smaller establishments, the basic criteria are the same: frequent cleaning of all hotel spaces from door knobs to light switches, elevators, kitchens, guest rooms and public space; hospital-grade disinfectants; facilitation of social distancing; prevention promotion; and staff training to meet the needs of this critical time. From Hilton to Holiday Inn, Marriott to Choice, and indeed, all hotels from industry giants to small independent properties, hoteliers consistently express the same commitment to providing guests with the confidence and comfort of knowing that every feasible effort has been made to guarantee safe stays. HAC president Susie Grynol said, “ it’s hard to say whether the current pandemic-inspired procedures and protocols will need to remain in years to come but, for now, they are here to stay.”

Self-Sanitization Tips During Hotel Stays

While hotels have dramatically intensified safety and sanitation practices, it can never hurt to take a few extra steps for personal peace of mind.

  1. Wash your hands as soon as you enter the room.
  2. Carry your own antibacterial wipes for wiping down door handles, light switches, toilet handles, taps and phone.
  3. Plastic bag the TV remote. It will still work.
  4. Never sit your suitcase on the bed. Its exterior can be a cesspool of germs picked up during travel.
  5. Avoid glassware if not sealed in a wrapper.
  6. Even if it looks clean, squirt some shampoo in the bathtub and run hot water for a minute before showering.
  7. If possible, open a window to get fresh-air circulation.

TRAVEL ALERT

Policies could change but, at the time of writing, certain U.S. states mandated that people in public places and spaces were required to wear face masks. Best to check this out before travelling south of the border.

 

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