Is Staying at a Hotel During COVID-19 Safe Now?

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Updated March 16, 2021

As discussed in Part 1, the travel industry has seen drastic drops in traveler demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, many travel related companies, hotels included, have had to furlough employees. In part 1 I mainly discussed hotels’ updated cancellation policies and how hotels are handling elite status and points expirations. Furthermore, as we get back to traveling, the main concern for many of us, myself included, is how clean is it where I am staying. As a result, in this post I will summarize how the eight largest hotel companies are ensuring guests’ safety while staying at a hotel during COVID-19.

Best Western:

On April 30, 2020 the We Care Clean program was announced. It uses guidance provided by the CDC, OSHA, EPA, and Health Canada. This new program focuses on five key areas: 

  1. Front Desk/Lobby:

Including efficient check in/out procedures to reduce guest and personnel contact. Encourage social distancing with prominently placed signs and remove paper materials. Updated sanitization protocols at front desks and in lobbies and installation of sanitizing stations or wipes throughout hotels.

2. Guest Room/Housekeeping:

Non-essential and decorative items will no longer be in guest rooms. Termination of full housekeeping service unless expressly requested. Further, rooms will remain empty (including of staff) for 24-72 hours after check out. At that point chemical disinfectants will be used to clean linens and all high-touch points.

3. Temporary Breakfast Offerings:

Most hotels are offering “Grab & Go” options, including pre-packaged food and beverages. Dining rooms will remain closed where required by local authorities/regulations to avoid crowding. Some properties may choose to serve a pre-plated breakfast to minimize contact and cross contamination.

4. Public Amenities:

Once permitted to open, fitness centers, pools and conference rooms will have a regimented cleaning schedule with disinfectants. According to Best Western, “Each evening, these areas may also be sanitized with the use of electrostatic fogging, ozone generators or ultraviolet devices”. Hand sanitizer or wipes will be available in all public areas.

5. Hotel Employees Requirements: 

Staff will be provided updated, stringent guidelines, including using Personal Protective Equipment, hand washing program and for other personnel gloves, and masks will be a requirement. At each change of shift, workstations will be cleaned and disinfected. Managers will enable staff to remain home if sick, and encourage them to convey to management any concerns about potential exposure.

On Nov. 2, 2020 Best Western announced that it had added Procter and Gamble as a professional partner to its We Care Clean initiative. As part of this addition, the hotel group is adding Microban 24 professional to its cleaning regimen. This product has the capacity to continue killing 99.9% of microorganisms for up to 24 hours, even after multiple touches. Microban 24 is included on the EPA List N (a list of products known to kill the SARS-CoV-2 which is the virus that causes COVID-19).

The above information was found on Best Western’s website and the Press and Media page.

Choice Hotels:

On May 4, Choice Hotels announced the Commitment to Clean initiative, a partnership with Ecolab with guidance from the CDC, WHO and the U.S. Travel Association. In addition, every property will designate a “Commitment to Clean Captain” which will complete rigorous cleanliness training and be responsible for enacting those new protocols. 

New Protocols:

Enhanced and more frequent cleaning for high traffic areas throughout the property using hospital-grade disinfectant.

New furniture arrangements to encourage social distancing.

Housekeeping “on-demand” option so that guests can order a delivery of items that housekeeping typically would replenish each day but this way a housekeeper need not enter the room.

Pre-packaged breakfast offerings replacing the buffet.

Products:

Increased focus on contactless check-in/out, implementation of plexiglass partitions at front desks to help protect both staff and guests.

“Clean Seals” on various frequently touched items in rooms to reassure guests of their decontaminated condition. 

Hotel personnel will be provided personal protective equipment to ensure their own safety as well as guests’, this may include masks and gloves.

Hand sanitizing stations will be installed throughout the hotel, mainly in high-traffic areas.

Communications:

Front desk personnel will communicate and inform patrons of the safeguards and protocols that are in place and how they are effective for their protection and comfort. 

Signage will be visible throughout the property reiterating the CDC guidelines for social distancing, the effectiveness of surface cleaning and personal sanitation recommendations.

Choice Hotels is also investigating the enactment of other technologies to protect guests while keeping or enhancing their experience, including mobile check-in, keyless entry, options using ultraviolet light, utilizing air purifiers, and ozone generators. 

The above information was obtained from the Choice Hotels’ website and the Choice Hotels Press Releases page.

Photo by Ashwini Chaudhary on Unsplash

Hilton Hotels:

As of April 27, 2020, Hilton announced a new cleaning initiative in partnership with RB called the Hilton CleanStay with Lysol Protection. This program will also receive advice from the Infection Prevention and Control team at the Mayo Clinic. Additionally, the goal is to roll this out to all Hilton properties globally starting in June 2020. 

The Hilton CleanStay program will include the following:

  1. A room seal to indicate to guests that no one has accessed the room since the last cleaning.
  2. Increased disinfection of a guest room’s top 10 hight-touch areas, as listed on the Hilton website: 
    1. Switches and Electronic controls
    2. Handles and Knobs
    3. Major Bathroom Surfaces
    4. Climate Control Panels
    5. Telephones, Remote Controls and Clocks
    6. Bed and Bedding
    7. Bath Amenities
    8. Hard Surfaces
    9. Closet goods 
    10. In-room food and beverage
  3. Enhanced cleaning and frequency of public areas, fitness centers, buffets, and meeting spaces.
  4. Disinfecting wipes available to guests in high traffic areas.
  5. Reduction/elimination of paper amenities in guest rooms.
  6. Encourage guests to further utilize Contactless check-in, check-out  and Digital Key
  7. “Evaluation of new technologies like electrostatic sprayers with disinfecting mist and ultraviolet light to sanitize surfaces and objects.”
  8. Increased training, enhance protocols and personal protective equipment for staff’s safety. 

Face masks/coverings are required to be worn in all public indoor spaces by all guests and employees. This new policy applies to properties in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America.

All of the above information has been gathered from the Hilton website and the Hilton Newsroom.

Photo by Kseniia Ilinykh on Unsplash

Hyatt Hotels:

As of April 3, Hyatt announced the Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment. This new program will build on Hyatt’s current cleaning regimen and will go so far as to include an accreditation process for each property by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC). “GBAC is a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association.” As a result, each property that earns this accreditation through the council will receive the GBAC STAR. Hyatt plans to include a rigorous training program and complement all of this with regular audits both internally and through third-parties. 

Furthermore, the hotel group also has a goal by Sept. 2020 to have one person on staff at each property, who’s responsiblity is to ensure that these new protocols are in place, this will be the “Hygiene Manager.” For instance, some of their responsibilities will be:

  1. Team member certification and coaching through the new rigorous cleaning procedures.
  2. More frequent cleaning using hospital-grade disinfectants throughout the hotel especially high traffic areas and high-touch points.
  3. Enactment of stringent food safety and hygiene procedures for restaurants and food service.
  4. Responsible for installation of hand sanitizer stations throughout high traffic areas.
  5. Maintaining the highest air quality by investigating the effectiveness of purification and sanitization devices.
  6. Ensuring that hotel personnel have the personal protective equipment needed to perform their job safely including gloves and masks.
  7. Enforcing social distancing recommendations throughout the hotel’s public areas.

Face masks/coverings are now required in all Hyatt hotels in the Americas, in all public indoor spaces and in outdoor spaces where social distancing cannot be achieved. The policy does allow for exemptions for children under the age of two, guests are eating or drinking, certain medical conditions and guests that are outside and socially distant. Masks will be provided by hotel staff if guests do not have a face mask.

All of the above information was retrieved from the Hyatt website as well as the Hyatt Newsroom web page

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG):

The company announced that a new initiative is beginning called IHG Clean Promise which launched globally on June 1, 2020. Further, IHG is starting this program in partnership with Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey. The company has been working with Ecolab and Diversey since 2015 on their cleaning program called IHG Way of Clean. Additionally, IHG Clean Promise is an expansion of this program to include COVID-19 guidance from the WHO, CDC and local authorities. Moreover, the hotel group has formed The Global Cleanliness Board with the purpose of identifying solutions, best practices and enacting these new cleaning protocols. Additionally, each property will appoint a “Clean Champion” who ensures that each property is able to meet these elevated cleanliness standards.

Some of the new procedures that guests may notice as part of this new program include:

  1. Reduced or Contactless check-in and check-out and less paper usage during each, front-desk barriers (screens and/or plexi glass), and hand sanitizer stations.
  2. Visible identification of sanitized high-touch items in guest rooms, reduction of decorative furnishings and some high-tech items, and new laundry procedures.
  3. More frequent deep cleaning of high-traffic and high-touch surfaces in public spaces, charts that show the frequency of cleaning in certain areas, and encouragement of social distancing and signs in public areas.
  4. There will be new protocols for food service areas.
  5. Hotel staff will be provided and given guidance on proper usage of personal protective equipment.
  6. Enhanced personnel training and certification.
  7. Hand sanitizer and wipes will be provided in rooms and in public areas through the hotels.
  8. IHG will also make guest amenity cleaning kits available.

Effective July 27, all hotels in the U.S. and Canada require a face mask/covering in all public indoor spaces.

The above information has been gathered from IHG’s website and from the IHG News Releases page.

Photo by Nik Lanús on Unsplash

Marriott International:

Per Marriott, on March 10, 2020, the company announced new cleaning protocols to combat COVID-19. They announced increased focus on hand hygiene, enhanced training, real time information (24/7 standby by corporate/regional teams), cleaning frequency of guest rooms, public spaces and the back of house. Furthermore, on April 21, the group enacted The Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to develop new and enhanced cleaning protocols. This program is going to evaluate the usefulness of electrostatic sprayers that use hospital-grade disinfectants, which sanitize surfaces that are not reachable by traditional cleaning methods and the company is also testing the usage of ultraviolet light for cleaning some guest and personnel items. The company has also stated that disinfecting wipes will be provided in guests’ rooms for personal use.

Marriott is also trying to encourage a reduction in person-to-person contact, and safe environment when it is unavoidable, by rearranging furniture to facilitate social distancing, using partitions at front desks, making personal protective equipment available to personnel, and installing hand sanitizing stations in high traffic areas. Marriott is encouraging “Touchless” services through the app, such as mobile check-in and access to guest rooms, special requests and ordering room service to reduce contact. The company is also becoming more stringent with the food safety program by requiring more training, increased self inspecting utilizing the company’s guidelines and having independent audits.

Face masks/coverings are required to be worn by all guests and employees in indoor public spaces at all properties in North America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Starting in 2021 Marriott group will introduce optional health protocols for meeting attendees. These optional health protocols include:

  • Self-adminstered COVID-19 test taken before arrival.
  • COVID-19 tests adminstered by a third-party provided on site at the hotel.
  • Daily and/or pre-arrival health screening questionnaire through a mobile app.
  • Daily temperature checks to enter the meeting area.

This information has been obtained from Marriott International’s website, News Center page and Marriott Bonvoy page.

Radisson Hotel Group:

On May 6, the company announced the: Raddison Hotels Safety Protocol”, which focuses on new protocols for cleanliness and disinfection. According to their release, this new program is, “in partnership with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity.” The company is also collaborating with Diversey, to help develop and enact these new guidelines. Radisson will also introduce an “official label of cleanliness and disinfection issued by SGS” to assure guests that the highest level of disinfection has occurred. 

Some of the standards of this new initiative include:

  1. More frequent cleaning and disinfection of all hotel areas with special focus on high-touch areas.
  2. Hand sanitizer stations will be placed at points of entry and high traffic areas.
  3. Sanitize and disinfect all room keys before distributing at check-in.
  4. Encourage the use of express check-out to minimize contact.
  5. Suggest cashless payment methods.
  6. In each room a door hanger is to be visible to explain cleaning and disinfection protocols.
  7. Enhanced hygiene and preventions training for hotel personnel.
  8. Hotel staff will be provided with personal protective equipment.

This information has been obtained from Radisson Hotel Group’s website and their Media page.

Photo by Christian Lambert on Unsplash

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts:

On May 4, Wyndham announced a new initiative to reinforce confidence with guests, called Count on Us which is an extension of their current program, called Count on Me. In addition, part of this initiative is a collaboration with Ecolab, to ensure that hotels are using EPA-approved disinfectants throughout the property, with guidance from the CDC. For example, the main points of this new program include:

Heightened disinfection of all rooms and public areas in the hotel. This will require the use of Ecolab’s EPA-approved disinfectants.

Personal protective equipment made available to staff, hand sanitizer dispensers for high-traffic public areas and guest rooms, and disinfectant wipes for guest use.

Mandatory training for staff and checklists to help ensure consistency and accountability throughout different properties.

Wyndham is ensuring that the changes will be noticeable to guests by encouraging social distancing in public areas, offering sanitizing wipes during the check-in process to disinfect key cards, more frequent cleaning of high-touch areas, and provide hand sanitizer in every guest room.

As of August 10, face masks/coverings have been required to be worn by guests and staff in all indoor public spaces at properties in the U.S. and Canada.

The information above was gathered from Wyndham Hotels and Resorts’ website and the News and Media page.

Conclusion:

Hotels realize the sooner that guests start to feel more comfortable traveling, the sooner business as usual can resume. As a result, they are trying to make every effort to ensure that guests and staff feel safe while also making sure that guests do not lose any benefits or perks during this time. Additionally, check out Part 1 for information on the cancellation policies and revisions to elite status and points expirations for these eight hotel companies.

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