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What hotels are doing to sanitize rooms during the pandemic

(Washington Post illustration; iStock)

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the travel industry is adapting to meet new health and safety concerns. Airlines are requiring passengers to wear masks on flights. Airbnb is encouraging hosts to build in vacancy periods between guests’ stays. Cruising is on hold, thanks to a no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hotels, too, have begun dealing with covid-19 on a number of fronts. Changes are being made to housekeeping, food safety, and guest check-in and checkout.

Industry giants Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt announced new efforts over the past week at their combined 68 brands, spanning more than 100 countries, to consult with experts and implement new ways to keep guests safe.

As with most global restrictions, we don’t know whether these changes will be temporary or long-term. But here’s a look at what hotel brands are doing to take extra precaution — for now.

Enhanced disinfecting protocols

The most basic (and expected) changes that hotels are implementing? More cleaning.

Marriott’s new Global Cleanliness Council is requiring the use of “hospital-grade” disinfectants in public spaces and guest rooms. Among the proposals for Hilton’s program, a partnership with the Mayo Clinic and Lysol maker Reckitt Benckiser launching in June, are requirements that public spaces and 10 specific “high-touch” areas be cleaned even more frequently.

As part of its new Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment, Hyatt will introduce a cleaning, disinfection and infectious-disease-prevention accreditation program next month that will be overseen by internal and third-party auditing. By September, the brand also plans to staff every hotel with at least one person trained as a hygiene manager. That manager will oversee more-frequent hotel cleanings, make sure hand sanitizer is easy for guests and employees to get to, and distribute masks to staff, among other duties.

Beyond that, hotels are experimenting with new sanitation technology, too.

Hilton and Marriott are introducing equipment like electrostatic sprayers and testing ultraviolet-light technology on hotel items. In Texas, the New York Times reported, the Westin Houston Medical Center is using “LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots.”

Making cleaning clearer

Some hotels may be more visible in their cleaning procedures as well.

“We’ve heard this idea of ‘housekeeping theater,’” said Phil Cordell, Hilton’s global head of new brand development. “You go to a Benihana, and they’re cooking the meal right in front of you. So maybe it’s not that dramatic, but customers want to feel like they can sense what’s up. They walk through the commercial area of a hotel, and they see the frequent cleanings, with a well-known product, of high-touch areas in the lobby.”

As part of that push for more transparency, the Hilton housekeeping procedures will include placing a seal on the door to indicate a room has been cleaned and left vacant since.

More sanitizing tools for guests

Marriott is stocking rooms with disinfecting wipes and installing more sanitizer stations in communal areas.

“Marriott is also evaluating adding partitions at front desks to provide an extra level of precaution for our guests and associates and is working with supply-chain partners to make masks and gloves available to associates,” a company statement said.

Hilton is adding stations of disinfecting wipes in “key high-traffic areas,” including at elevators. It’s also strategically subtracting: Hotels will remove pens, paper and the guest directory from rooms, with digital alternatives “available upon request.”

Contact-free check-in and room access

With social distancing so pivotal in preventing covid-19′s spread, reducing contact with others is a priority. For hotels, that means tweaks to the check-in process are, too.

More than 3,200 Marriott hotels are offering guest check-in and room access through their smartphones. Those guests can also use their phones to order room service or make other hotel requests.

Hilton, meanwhile, is expanding its Digital Key service, allowing guests to check in and enter their rooms using their smartphones.

Employee health precautions

Under its initiative, Hilton workers will “be provided with personal protective equipment and enhanced training,” the chain said. Marriott says it is “working” to give masks and gloves to its employees; as a barrier for staff and guests alike, it is also looking into adding partitions atop its front desks.

As for other countries? Hotels in Singapore are abiding by the government’s “SG Clean” certification program, which mandates temperature and health screenings for employees. No major stateside hotels are considering the same.

Read more:

How to plan your first post-pandemic trip

With most trips canceled, here’s what the travel industry is doing to help the coronavirus response

How to secure a refund for a flight canceled due to coronavirus, according to the experts

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