Airlines beating hotels at cleanliness message
Airlines beating hotels at cleanliness message
12 MARCH 2020 7:29 AM

Hotel companies, you’ve been great in communicating how (most) travel remains safe and about your flexible cancellation policies, but you’re missing the boat on the most important message of all.

Just what we need—another opinion piece about the impacts of the coronavirus!

I know, I know, I’m only adding to the noise. But consider my blog today more of a PSA than a hot-headed rant.

It’s about the message you’re sending to your guests and the world—or rather, the lack thereof.

This virus, COVID-19, has dominated world news for months now, and hit U.S. shores in particular relatively recently. The hotel industry has understandably been in crisis communications mode as a result. In this instance, it’s been every organization and association talking about how travel is fine, we’re fine, maybe don’t go to China or Italy, but hey, travel’s awesome and you’re fine. The second line of this message is that cancellation policies are relaxed, and bonus—we’re going to extend your loyalty qualifications.

I get it. It’s a message the industry must send and reinforce and reinforce some more.

But it’s not what general Joe Public needs to hear right now—at least, it’s not the only message the average consumer needs about the travel industry.

The message the hotel industry in particular missed the boat on is the cleanliness message.

In the past two weeks, when tensions moved officially into the danger zone here in the U.S., I started getting emails from every major airline I belong to, outlining clearly that company’s policies about how they’re cleaning, what they’re cleaning and about the air quality on planes.

As someone with an inordinately high plane germ-radar, I actually learned a lot from these messages and felt better.

But in that same time period, I’ve seen only THREE messages about cleanliness protocols at hotels.

I get 300 emails every day. I am on every hotel distribution list known to woman. I follow a zillion of you on Twitter and Instagram and LinkedIn. The very first message I saw about cleaning protocols was from a little independent inn and restaurant in Washington State called the Captain Whidbey.

Next came a note from Hyatt Hotels Corporation outlining cleaning protocols. Marriott International didn’t post its cleaning protocols message until 10 March. I don’t see one from Hilton or InterContinental Hotels Group.

Instead, I’m seeing plenty of consumer hacks online about how to deep-clean rooms yourself.

Of course, I don’t know what every single hotel is doing out there, and I hope that many are being upfront and vocal about cleanliness. If you are, tell me in the comments below this blog.

This isn’t a good time for the hotel industry. Everyone is suffering debilitating losses and cancellations and financial distress. You all have a lot on your minds. Maybe this blog will serve as a little reminder though that people are still traveling, and more than ever, people who have to travel are worried about cleanliness—I’d argue it’s even a little more pressing than loyalty points right now.

When I see a lack of messaging around cleanliness, I worry that:

  1. you’re not doing this messaging because you think people will say, “Oh NOW you’re deep-cleaning? Does that mean you haven’t been doing it this whole time?;”
  2. this lack of messaging is an underlying result of longstanding labor issues in hotels already—you can’t deep-clean too well if you don’t have the staff to do it; and
  3. hotels are one precarious step away from suffering the fate of cruise ships right now.

I worry industry leadership is missing out on addressing real grassroots traveler needs and questions.

So I’m interested to hear more about what you’re doing on the cleaning front and how you’re messaging that to guests. Comment below, email me at or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.

The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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