How Hotels Hope to Use Housekeeping and Housekeepers to Encourage Guests to Return

By Anna Breuer on 10 August 2020
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Haven’t stayed at a hotel recently?  Neither have most people who typically would have responded with a resounding “yes.”

In the event you are just returning from an extended Martian holiday (sans hotel, of course), please note the following: Clean is in.

While hotels previously would hide housekeeping carts and keep those who dusted and vacuumed as out of sight as the maids of Downton Abbey, all major hotel chains are conducting regular cleaning and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces, sometimes as often as once an hour.

High-traffic areas such as elevators and their buttons, escalators and their handrails, reception desks, gyms, spas, and of course anything in the W.C., are getting similar treatment.

Then there’s the guest room.  Hoteliers such as Hilton are placing seals on each guest room door after the housekeeper has finished his or her tasks.  This is meant to assure an arriving guest that no one has entered the room once all of the many new cleaning protocols for it were completed.  Another change: in many cases, housekeepers will be scarce unless requested in order to keep guest-employee interaction, and the potential for the virus to spread, to a minimum.

Hilton has partnered with the makers of Lysol and the Mayo Clinic, while Hyatt, which began to require guests to wear face masks on July 27, partnered with the Cleveland Clinic and Global Biorisk Advisory Council.  The council is comprised of experts in the microbial-pathogenic threat analysis and mitigation space.

Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, established the Global Cleanliness Council, which will bring a variety of executives and managers at the corporate level in various disciplines ranging from housekeeping to catering as well as a panel of outside experts. Four Seasons is working with clinicians and consultants at Johns Hopkins.

Indeed, to run a hotel today you have to be an expert in matters of housekeeping.

“This is my area of expertise,” said Cristina Velez, general manager of Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Velez told Frequent Business Traveler that she was formerly the hotel’s director of housekeeping and that she had been preparing for the role of hotel general manager for much of her career.

“We’ve always focused on Lysol disinfectant,” she told FBT Editorial Director Jonathan Spira, who was visiting the property to learn about Hilton CleanStay, offering him a packet of Lysol wipes.

As a result of the increased interest in disinfecting surfaces, Clorox products, which are also used in Uber vehicles and United Airlines planes, won’t return to pre-pandemic availability until some time in 2021, the company said recently.

(Ironically, Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of Lysol, had to beg people not to consume the product after President Trump suggested the possibility of injecting disinfectants to protect people from coronavirus.)

“We want to make sure that every Hyatt colleague and guest feels confident that each aspect of our commitment is designed with their safety in mind, and that we’re putting their wellbeing first,” said Hyatt’s CEO, Mark Hoplamazian.

The drop in travel during the pandemic has impacted hotel revenue as well. Hilton posted an $89 million loss for the first quarter of 2020, before the pandemic had really even begun to take hold in its home market of North America.  It reported an 80% reduction in the second quarter, but said that “as restrictions are lifting and properties around the world are reopening, we are seeing improved occupancy.”

Hotels will have to reinvent themselves for a clientele that, once the coronavirus pandemic has waned, will demand elevated levels of sanitation and cleanliness, enhance their air conditioning systems to include improved levels of filtration, and job openings for experts in sanitation, hygiene, and social distancing.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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