As COVID-19 quarantine requirements are eased throughout the U.S., the hospitality industry faces the prospect of reopening to a radical new normal. Keeping guests visually unaware and physically separated from your day-to-day housekeeping operations has been part of the magic in presenting a seamless hotel experience. In the post-pandemic world, that prevailing logic has been turned on its head.
No matter how rigorous your previous hygiene regimen, you now need to conduct regular and thorough cleaning and disinfection throughout the day to satisfy heightened expectations of cleanliness. Your new approach needs to be carried out clearly to reassure everyone that you are doing all you can to maintain a safe and hygienic environment.
Considerations for a Clean Hotel
Whether your hotel was a quarantine location or saw a significant occupancy during lockdown, it must be safe upon returning to business as usual. To conduct a deep cleaning—with special emphasis on high-touch surfaces—you need the right cleaning and hygiene products.
There are several things to consider when selecting these solutions, including:
- Efficacy and contact time: For extra reassurance, use hospital grade disinfectants that are specifically approved for use against SARS-CoV-2, the specific coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Products with a shorter contact time—one minute or less—are ideal.
- Impact on surfaces and staff: Make sure products not only inactivate viruses and kill bacteria and fungi, but are gentle on surfaces and people. A formulation free of volatile organic compounds will also be more pleasant to use and support good indoor air quality.
- Alcohol content: Clean hands help keep surfaces cleaner. The percentage of alcohol in hand sanitizer is key to its effectiveness. A registered product will provide assurance and its efficacy should be proven according to the European Norm 150. An alcohol content of 60 percent is the minimum recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use sanitizers that have more than 70 percent alcohol content to ensure a faster kill rate.
- Your provider: It’s important to only use registered products from an experienced supplier. In addition to suggesting the appropriate products, a trusted hygiene provider can offer advice and direction for your hygiene program. Don’t buy ineffective, unproven products from an unfamiliar source.
Making the Invisible Visible
It’s no longer enough to clean correctly; you must make processes that previously were invisible visible. Cleaning procedures that would have been hidden away for fear of infringing on guest privacy and putting your brand reputation at risk must now be front and center. Some new measures—such as employees’ use of masks and gloves—may not feel conducive to warm and welcoming hospitality. However, taking extra precautions shows guests and staff that their safety is your top priority.
Incorporate the following best practices to enhance cleanliness and put guests at ease:
- Ensure compliance: Staff members must comply with the basic protective measures recommended by the World Health Organization. These include hand hygiene; physical distancing; avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth; practicing respiratory hygiene; and staying home if symptoms arise.
- Apply social distancing: Understanding and following social distancing rules outlined by your local health authorities is essential. Assess specific risks and establish safe distances throughout your property. Ensure staff and guests are notified of any changes in requirements. Because maintaining social distancing will not be possible continuously, require staff to wear personal protective equipment like masks.
- Implement strict limits: Consistent with social distancing, evaluate and enforce strict limits on occupancy for each area of the hotel. Distinguishing entrances and exit routes and changing the layouts of all common areas—including reception, restaurants and bars—is essential to ensure a safe environment.
- Promote hand hygiene: Effective hand hygiene, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer, or washing with soap and water, is the greatest single measure your staff and guests can take to prevent the spread of pathogens. Wall-mounted dispensers and freestanding hand hygiene stations offering hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes should be accessible at all common touch points in corridors, lifts and entrances.
Maintaining a Safe and Welcoming Environment
The hospitality world has radically changed. Implementing a rigorous environmental hygiene program, that uses the right products and clear communication is necessary to meet the new standard of clean. To drive continuous improvement, your property should regularly audit and monitor compliance with key protocols, preferably with a system that’s scalable and enables comparative reporting on performance related to guest satisfaction, quality and safety. This will help optimize your cleaning and hygiene practices and reduce the risks of cross contamination.
Additionally, it’s important to show staff you care about employee morale. Inform employees of all the risk assessment and corrective measures in place that protect their health. Enable them in their day-to-day tasks by providing enhanced operating procedures and wall charts, online training courses, hand hygiene guidelines and solutions, the right personal protective equipment and easy access to non-food spill kits.
With careful consideration about the types of products your property uses to maintain cleanliness and hand hygiene and a deliberate commitment to enhanced and visible safety standards, your hotel has the best chance of future success.
Peter Teska is a global infection prevention application expert at Diversey.