As the hotel industry was priming to close the door on another year, disconcerting news surfaced in the media. It turns out several chains — both in the budget and luxury segments — had been the focus of a report by CBC’s Marketplace, which found many hotel rooms in Canada contained a high amount of microbial contaminations. That’s not the kind of report any hotel company ever wants to see, let alone as it prepares to end the year and celebrate the holidays. Still, it’s a reality that needs to be addressed.

The television report which aired in November, was based on the results of testing 800 “high-touch” points in hotels located in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. The findings of the study, undertaken by the University of Guelph, were enough to nauseate any consumer and instill fear into any hotelier — with transgressions running the gamut from germ-infested remote controls to the discovery of clostridium difficile (C. difficile) and drug-resistant bacteria in every hotel tested.

Certainly, the struggle to keep rooms clean and germs at bay is always a challenge, especially at larger hotel properties. And, these days, when economic turmoil has fuelled many staff cutbacks, the challenge is even greater. In fact, housekeeping departments are being forced to do more work in less time — a reality of today’s business world. But today’s hotel guests don’t really care about how hard it is to run a department or a business. What they want is peace of mind in knowing the hotels they patronize meet their needs and provide a basic requirement: a clean room.

And, while clean rooms may not sound sexy on a list of a hotel’s strengths, let’s not delude ourselves; it’s probably the most important thing you can provide your guest. It’s really no different than what the foodservice industry deals with every day. Sure, diners want innovative and creative dishes, but ultimately they want to know the food they eat is safe and won’t make them sick.

So if the hotel industry doesn’t want to risk being mandated by government to ensure its rooms are clean — as the foodservice industry was with the introduction of a graded rating system based on food safety — it needs to take this issue seriously. That means standards and protocols need to be updated, staff needs to be better trained and more time and money needs to be allocated for cleaning so that the proper tools are available. Anything less just won’t do.

On that note, as we wrap up the last issue of the year, it’s the perfect time to express our best wishes to readers and advertisers alike for the upcoming holiday season. Though we live in challenging times, we have much to celebrate in this country. Let’s not lose sight of that. On behalf of our Kostuch Media team, we hope your holidays are full of good health, happy times with family and friends, and, as always, a touch of magic.

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