As the industry gradually rebounds from the devastating blow of COVID-19, which plunged occupancy rates to their lowest in decades — less than 20 per cent by the end of last year, according to STR — regaining guest confidence is key to a full recovery.
As Brendan Gibney, senior director, Franchise Services, for Choice Hotels Canada, so aptly put it, “In hospitality, we sell clean, comfortable rooms. Now we’re selling clean, safe rooms.”
And “clean” in this era means more than a good scrubbing to ensure those rooms are safe. Properties big and small have implemented detailed, well-organized, super-charged plans of attack, not just on the enhanced-cleaning front, but on protocols and procedures for the continued safety and protection of guests and staff.
From Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council to Hyatt Hotels’ Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment to Choice Hotels’ Commitment to Clean, all these initiatives include advisors such as public-health scientists and infectious-disease specialists to inform and guide their heightened cleanliness programs.
Clean, Sanitize, Disinfect
Deep-cleaning protocols traditionally encompass three steps: cleaning surfaces with soap and water or detergent, which removes dirt, dust and debris and lowers the number of germs, without necessarily killing the germs; sanitizing with a solution such as bleach and water, which reduces the number of bacteria but doesn’t necessarily kill the bacteria; and disinfecting with heavy-duty, Health Canada-approved chemicals, which kill both bacteria and viruses, such as those from chemical and biotech companies Lonza, Lysol, Leysons and Buckeye International.
Adrian Aragon, assistant vice-president, Sales, for Ecolab Canada, says the company’s new three-in-one product, called Peroxide Multi-Surface Cleaner and Disinfectant, does all three simultaneously. And, Aragon notes, the kill rate, or dwell time, is within 30 seconds, as opposed to the typical five minutes or more of other products. It can also be used in an electrostatic-spray application for larger indoor spaces. Its only drawback is that its effectiveness is limited to hard surfaces. “It doesn’t work as well on porous surfaces,” says Aragon. “Fabric has a porous surface, which means you may miss those miniscule indents or holes.”
Which is why it’s crucial that cleaners read labels carefully before using any product, says Tanja Nowotny, director of Marketing and Communications for the Canadian division of the International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA). “Many times, cleaners don’t pay attention to the dwell time — and the dwell time is key in killing this specific COVID-19,” she says.
Laundry, Linens and Lab Coats
Aragon says Ecolab has not changed or upgraded its laundry products because, “Even a household laundry machine will clean — I won’t say disinfect — but will eliminate any exposure. Some machines have drying capacity to really sanitize. [Hotels’] large machines use high temperatures and will clean pretty much anything. What has changed is the actual process of how to handle the terry towels and sheets.”
Aragon says the company’s training protocols recommend staff wear personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and safety goggles. Also, the CDC advises against shaking linens, which could spread the virus through the air. Other experts suggest leaving soiled laundry bagged and isolated, untouched, for a few days before cleaning to allow any pathogens to die off and to not handle clean linen immediately after handling soiled linen.
Choice Hotels’ Gibney says that, in addition to using gloves, masks and hand sanitizer, staff now don lab coats as an extra layer of protection for when they carry used linens against their bodies.
Procedures, Protocols and Practices
Gibney says one of Choice’s most important initiatives was its Commitment-to-Clean program, which is led by “clean captains” who are responsible for sharing information and ensuring best practices across the properties. Some of those practices include removing unnecessary items from rooms, such as decorative pillows and bed scarves, as well as coffee machines. Anything sitting out, such
as pens and notepads, now goes inside the desk drawer.
When occupancy is low and allows for it, staff are able to leave rooms vacant for a day or two between guests. Also, says Gibney, “We [received] guidance on key-card cleanliness, encoding-machine disinfection without damaging the electronics, credit-card terminals and so on.”
As part of its Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt provides housekeeping services every fourth day, although guests can request daily service. Hyatt has also removed some high-touch items from rooms, including tent cards, television guides, bathroom-amenity canisters and glassware, as well as decorative pillows and throws. The brand has also partnered with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council Star (GBAC) program, recently launched by ISSA Canada, which offers training, workshops and accreditation for the cleaning industry. ISSA executive director Mike Nosko says the GBAC-accreditation assures a facility has established the cleaning and infectious-disease programs to minimize risks, put into place the proper protocols and practices to combat biohazards and trained its cleaning professionals for infectious-disease preparation and response.
Nowotny says the program “consists of 20 elements and takes up to six weeks [to complete], because they have to be meticulous in all stages and cross off all those elements in order to be accredited for the one-year program. And every year you have to get re-accredited.”
Frank Lavey, senior vice-president of Global Operations for Hyatt, says “We’re working with GBAC to guide decisions around our cleaning equipment, chemicals and processes in an effort to make sure our guests and colleagues feel confident that everything we do is with their safety and well-being as a top priority. We’re exploring a variety of solutions, such as purification and sanitization-device installation in an effort to ensure enhanced air quality; and electrostatic sprayers to sanitize frequently touched surfaces and high-traffic areas of the hotel.”
Lavey says Hyatt has also trained and appointed at least one “Hygiene & Well-Being Leader” at every property to implement the new protocols and is collaborating with experts such as the Cleveland Clinic and Ecolab, as well as following recommended guidelines from WHO and the CDC.
By Robin Roberts