The novel coronavirus pandemic has ushered in a new era of housekeeping for hotels. Some large hospitality chains have turned to accreditation programs to make guests feel safe, while others have developed cleanliness councils to ensure cleaning and disinfection best practices are being implemented. Hospitality groups and independent owners are prioritizing cleaning and disinfection to protect guests and employees—and to instill customer confidence.
As the purpose of cleaning transforms, C-suite executives, hotel managers, and housekeeping teams must understand how to advance their environmental hygiene programs. With a new approach built on a foundation of health and safety, organizations can prevent the spread of infections to protect employees, guests, and building visitors.
The Shift from Cleaning for Appearance
Prior to the pandemic, hotels primarily focused on “cleaning for appearance” to secure five-star reviews and positive word of mouth. From shiny lobby floors to clean linens, properties focused on looking their best to make a good first impression. First impressions set the tone for a guest’s visit, so the visual presentation of a hotel’s interior and exterior was carefully crafted and maintained.
However, in light of the global pandemic, “cleaning for appearance” is no longer good enough. People have become much more concerned with germs and expect that a hotel is “cleaning for health” to control exposure to these threats.
“Cleaning for health” inactivates viruses and kills bacteria and fungi to limit the spread of potentially harmful pathogens. Cleaning with an emphasis on infection prevention prioritizes giving guests a safe stay and protects workers. Given the scope and impact of the pandemic, increased expectations around cleanliness will become the norm as the tourism and hospitality industry recovers.
Taking Cleaning to the Next Level
Below are four best practices that hotels should consider when implementing a “cleaning for health” program.
Consult with industry experts from the start. With the health of employees and guests at stake, take the necessary precautions and build an environmental hygiene program based on evidence and facts. Consult with infection prevention and hygiene experts to understand the how and why behind cleaning and recommended protocols. Some hotels are working closely with medical centers and hygiene providers to establish best practices that everyone can follow.
Implement safe products that are proven to perform. Employees will need to clean more regularly and thoroughly, so they’ll be more exposed to cleaning solutions. A “cleaning for health” program should consider ways to protect housekeeping staff. For example, review the ingredients and manufacturer’s instructions for each product to ensure they don’t pose any risks.
Choose hospital-grade disinfectants that clean and disinfect at the same time and don’t require two applications. Make sure that disinfectants are tough on pathogens, but gentle on people and surfaces to prevent eye and skin irritation and surface damage. Additionally, confirm that the contact time is reasonable, as it will be difficult for employees to keep surfaces wet for extended periods of time.
Conduct quality training. A more rigorous and evidence-based approach to cleaning can only be successful if employees understand the expectations, processes, and mistakes to avoid. Focus on how to properly disinfect, which requires thorough application over the duration of the contact time, followed by wiping to eliminate residues. Highlight ways to avoid cross-contamination, protocols for dealing with confirmed coronavirus cases (or other serious illnesses), and the importance of proper chemical dilution if chemical concentrates are used.
Make your commitment to cleanliness and your processes more visible. Make your dedication to hygiene known. Post signage throughout the property, such as in elevators, guestrooms, and fitness centers, that highlights how you are cleaning and disinfecting. Develop a cleaning schedule for housekeeping, front desk, and bar and restaurant managers to follow. Cleaning while guests are present helps to prevent the spread of germs and demonstrates a hotel’s pledge to maintain high cleanliness standards.
A Safe and Healthy Home Away From Home
As hotels continue to reopen, there will still be uneasiness about traveling and staying away from home where there is less control over cleanliness. To overcome this, hotels will need to clearly communicate the steps they are taking to protect guests. As cases of coronavirus drop and a vaccine emerges, the industry will rebound as people become more comfortable with traveling. Hotels that have demonstrated a commitment to health and safety will have a greater chance of winning and maintaining loyal customers in the long term.