As COVID-19 quarantine requirements are eased by governments across Europe, the hospitality industry faces the prospect of reopening to a radical new normal. Keeping guests visually unaware and physically apart from your day-to-day housekeeping operations has always been a key element of hospitality. It is a source of professional pride and part of the magic required in presenting a seamless hotel experience to guests. In the post-pandemic world, that prevailing logic has been turned on its head.
No matter how rigorous your previous hygiene regimen, you will now need to conduct regular and thorough cleaning and disinfection throughout the day to satisfy heightened expectations of cleanliness. Your new approach will need 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 has seen a significant decline in occupancy during lockdown, you want to be sure it’s safe upon returning to business as usual. You must conduct a deep cleaning of the property from top to bottom, including every surface and object – with special emphasis on high-touch surfaces. However, first you need the right cleaning and hygiene products in place.
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 virus that causes COVID-19. Products with a shorter contact time – one minute or less – are ideal. Technologies like Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP), are markedly safer and more efficient than the existing slower Quats-based (quaternary ammonium compounds) products, or those formulated on bleach or Peracetic acid.
- Impact on surfaces and staff: Make sure products not only inactivate viruses and kill bacteria and fungi, but are gentle on surfaces and people. AHP achieves the balance of maximizing potency while minimizing toxicity, breaking down into water and oxygen just minutes after use. A formulation free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 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 150.1 An alcohol content of 60% is the minimum recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2 Use sanitizers that have more than 70% 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.
A Deep Dive into Environmental Hygiene Best Practices
Once you are confident you have the right solutions on hand, involve all staff in the deep cleaning process, including housekeeping, food service, maintenance and engineering. First, train them on enhanced cleaning and hygiene guidelines to ensure they are consistent in following protocols. As part of this training, you should also educate staff regarding protocols if a case of COVID-19 arises.
Take the opportunity to map out best practices for each area of the property, including the lobby, public areas, guest rooms, restaurants and bars, leisure and business spaces and on-premise laundries. For example, ensure disinfection of hard floors, walls, and ceilings and clean carpet.
Kitchens and dining areas will involve specific deep cleaning procedures. Clean all food and non-food contact surfaces, including areas frequently touched by hands to reduce risks.3 Then, check that dishwashing equipment maintains proper operating temperatures and use the correct dosage of chemicals.
Additionally, review your laundry process to ensure hygiene compliance while optimizing the use of resources like water, chemicals and energy. Clean linen further drives assurance that your property is committed to cleanliness and guest wellbeing. Then, wash mattress covers, bed linens and curtains.
Making the Invisible Visible
It will no longer be enough to simply clean correctly; you must make processes that were previously 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 centre. While new measures are essential, some best practices, such as employee’s 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 (WHO).4 These include hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth, practicing respiratory hygiene and following advice to stay home and seek medical attention 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 (PPE) 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 is essential for safe movement. Change the layouts of all common areas – including reception, restaurants and bars – to ensure a safe environment.
- Promote hand hygiene: Effective hand hygiene is the greatest single measure your staff and guests can take to prevent the spread of pathogens. This means regularly and thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, or washing them with soap and water. Wall-mounted dispensers and free-standing hand hygiene stations offering alcohol-based hand sanitiser 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, driven by clear and inclusive communication – with the right products and ongoing support from your supplier – 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 wallcharts, online training courses, hand hygiene guidelines and solutions, the right PPE 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, staff-wide understanding of front-of-house and back-of-house procedures and a deliberate commitment to enhanced and visible safety standards, your hotel(s) has the best chance of future success.