Hospitality facility managers and other industry professionals know that even seemingly insignificant moments can mar someone’s entire stay at a hotel. Yet one of the most important elements of health and comfort is often overlooked by executives and managers: indoor air quality (IAQ).
Hotels, in particular, deal with a wide range of potential IAQ problems. Odors are one of the most common complaints and can quickly have a negative effect on overall customer satisfaction. However, the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in cleaning supplies and the perfumes designed to make bathrooms smell more pleasing can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and eye irritation.
Airborne germs are another major risk in high-traffic areas, as research shows that one sneeze or cough can expel pathogens into the air for extended periods of time. For example, the flu is most commonly spread through the air rather than by surfaces or touch. Other pollutants such as dust, mold spores, pollen, and other allergens can also remain airborne for long durations, triggering allergies and asthma when inhaled. Together, these contaminants can make a room unsuitable for those with chronic respiratory conditions.
Indoor air quality plays a significant role in customer satisfaction. In fact, a 2012 survey by Expedia found that more than 60 percent of consumers will give better ratings to hotels with high indoor air quality and robust sustainability efforts. Furthermore, four in 10 of those surveyed listed indoor air quality as highly important.
Hotels: Everywhere is a Common Area
Since hotel rooms are consistently inhabited by new occupants, every area must be viewed as common space. While all hotel staff understand the importance of changing the sheets and towels, they probably don’t think as much about changing out the air. However, with only a couple of hours between new and old lodgers, airborne contaminants are often left behind by previous guests. Particles from harsh cleaning products also can linger in the air due to the fast turnaround.
Several things can be done to improve indoor air quality in individual rooms, as well as in other common areas throughout an entire hotel facility.
For starters, switching to green cleaning products and trying to avoid using any materials with volatile organic compounds can help. The more a hotelier is able to limit these sources, the less concern there will be about irritating guests.
Targeted air purification is the most efficient way to clean the air on a room-to-room level. Air purifiers can be installed in each room to remove up to 99.9 percent of airborne contaminants. That way, hoteliers can rest assured that guests and staff are exposed to fewer pollutants and germs overall. For example, the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo uses targeted air purifiers to ensure clean air in its guestrooms, and is considering installing units directly in its banquet halls and restaurant.
Removing germs from the air also helps reduce employee absenteeism from sick days. Imagine if a hotel’s cleaning staff walks into a room in which one or several guests have the flu. It’s likely the air will be contaminated, and the airborne virus can be inhaled by other employees, causing infection. HVAC, while helpful for circulating fresh air, unfortunately can also accelerate the spread of germs from room to room. Furthermore, due to the size and complexity of HVAC systems, ventilation cannot always address IAQ problems efficiently or directly.
Chronic respiratory conditions are another cause for concern. Many premier hotels have dedicated entire halls to hypo-allergenic rooms, which not only contain air purifiers, but also are equipped with special linens, soaps and other products designed to limit irritants and triggers within each room. These accommodations assure guests with allergies and asthma that their accommodations will be significantly less likely to trigger their condition.
Source control and ventilation are important components of a robust IAQ plan in hotels, but the high traffic of these facilities demands a powerful and efficient localized solution as well. On a room-to-room level, air purifiers directly address a wide range of air quality complaints and proactively contribute to room health and cleanliness.
More importantly, when guests walk into a room with an air purifier, they can immediately recognize your commitment to their well-being. Providing this type of next-level accommodation separates your lodgings from competitors, contributes to reducing employee absenteeism and demonstrates a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction.
About the Author
Jeff Dryfhout is global director of marketing, air treatment, for AeraMax Professional; www.aeramaxpro.com.