As business trickles back, hotels compete on cleanliness

As business trickles back, hotels compete on cleanliness

As business trickles back, hotels compete on cleanliness

Marriott, Hilton and other big hotel companies are used to competing on price or perks. Now they are competing on cleanliness.

From masked clerks at the front desk to shuttered buffets, hotels are making visible changes in the wake of the pandemic. Signage will tout new cleaning regimens: Red Roof Inns promise “RediClean,” while Hilton boasts of “CleanStay with Lysol.”

Hotels are still mostly empty; in the U.S., occupancy stood at 37% the week ending May 30, down 43% from the same period a year ago, according to STR, a data and consulting firm. But leisure travel is starting to pick up, and hotels see cleaning standards as a way to soothe jittery guests — and possibly win back business from rivals like home-sharing companies like Airbnb.

“I think, more than ever, customers are going to be looking for that seal of approval,” said Phil Cordell, Hilton’s head of global new brand development, who is leading the group developing the company’s new cleaning standards.

Some hotel brands are more stringent than others, says Larry Yu, a professor of hospitality management at George Washington University. He notes that Accor Hotels, a French company, has developed accreditation standards that its hotels must meet in order to reopen.

But Yu said enhanced cleaning is happening everywhere.

“Everybody is doing it, because it is now expected by consumers,” he said.

Guests are already seeing differences. David Whitesock, the chief innovation officer for Face It Together, an addiction counselling company, moved from Denver to upstate New York over Memorial Day weekend. He stayed at Marriott hotels in Iowa and Ohio along the way.

There were some oddities. Police tape separated him from the front desk in Iowa, and the hotel gave him a key card even though he would have preferred to unlock his room door using Marriott’s app. Whitesock brought his own food, but noticed prepackaged breakfasts laid out where buffets used to be.

But he said his rooms looked, felt and smelled cleaner than they used to. All the guests wore masks and respectfully kept their distance, he said.

“I felt like it was a safe place to be, that they had done the best that they possibly could given the circumstances,” Whitesock said. “A lot of it comes down to, do you trust the hotels and the people who you are going to come into contact with there?”

Despite hotels’ precautions, however, visiting them is still risky, said Dr. Albert Ko, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at the Yale School of Public Health. Hotels can bring together travellers from states or countries where transmission rates are higher, for example, and many carriers may not be showing symptoms.

“That’s the kind of thing we’re worried about in terms of public health,” he said. “Those settings can be the cause of outbreaks.”

Hilton and other companies have called in experts to develop new standards. Marriott and IHG — the parent company of Holiday Inn — are working with EcoLab, which makes industrial cleaning products. IHG is also getting advice from the Cleveland Clinic. Hilton has partnered with the Mayo Clinic. Hyatt is working with ISSA, a global cleaning industry association.

Hotels walked through the guest experience and made changes at every touch point. Hilton’s hotel shuttles will be disinfected hourly and passengers will have access to wipes. MGM Resorts, which is reopening four Las Vegas hotels on June 4, will ask restaurant guests to view digital menus on their own phones.

Changes vary by hotel. Guests may find lobby furniture moved further apart or hand sanitizer stations next to elevator keys. Shared coffee stations are gone. DoubleTree still offers warm chocolate chip cookies, but only upon request.

Inside the rooms, surfaces like TV remotes and light switches will get an extra cleaning. Best Western is getting rid of decorative pillows, pens and other unnecessary items. Red Roof is telling staff to bag up dirty sheets inside its rooms, to limit spread of disease. Once a room is cleaned and disinfected, Hilton will put a sticker on the door so guests know no one has been inside.

Ko said in addition to disinfecting surfaces, hotels might want to consider moving dining outside, where the risk of transmission is lower, or limiting capacity in tight spaces like elevators. Marriott’s plan includes limiting capacity in restaurants and gyms and ensuring people are distanced in elevator lines.

Cordell said Hilton plans to keep pools and fitness centres open and clean them regularly.

“Fitness and wellness is so fundamental to the guests getting back in their routine,” he said.

Hotels are experimenting with new technology. Marriott and others are using electrostatic sprayers to spritz lobbies with disinfectant. Many hotel brands are also encouraging guests to access their rooms using their mobile phones. Hilton says 4,800 of its 6,100 hotels have that capability so far. Marriott offers keyless check-in in 3,200 hotels.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky thinks guests will prefer separate homes to hotels filled with people. Airbnb — which is also working with EcoLab and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy — will continue to upgrade its cleaning protocols, he said.

“Health and cleanliness are going to be one of our biggest focuses,” he said.

But Yu said hotel chains can ensure franchisees are complying through their normal auditing process. That will be a challenge for Airbnb, he said, which has developed its own cleaning standards but may have more trouble ensuring that hosts comply.

Dee-Ann Durbin, The Associated Press

Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Photo Courtesy of Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will not pilot draft curriculum

RDCRS is one of many divisions in the area to opt out of the pilot of the K-6 draft curriculum

Pay parking station on 50A Street in Sylvan Lake. (File Photo)
Resident Parking program returns to Sylvan Lake this weekend

The programs runs from May 15 to Sept. 15 every year

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

Alberta’s environment department has known for years that toxins from old coal mines are contaminating populations of the province’s official animal, the bighorn sheep. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Craig Bihrl
Alberta government knew bighorn sheep contaminated with coal mine selenium, scientist says

Jeff Kneteman says Alberta Environment has known about the problem in bighorn sheep for years

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receives his COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccination in Ottawa, Friday, April 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
75% of Canadians need 1st vaccine dose to have more normal summer: Trudeau

The country is on track to hit a major milestone on the road to COVID-19 herd immunity Tuesday, with 40% vaccinated with a 1st dose

A vial of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta to stop giving first doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 shot as supply dwindles

There aren’t any confirmed shipments of AstraZeneca coming, and the province only has 8,400 doses of it left

Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

Most Read