When hotels reopen, it will not be enough to merely tell guests that they are clean and virus-free, sources say, noting it will be incumbent to underline assurances with expert, third-party analyses, guidelines and operational standards.
GLOBAL REPORT—When hotels reopen out of the COVID-19 crisis, guests understandably will demand further assurances that where they stay will have additional, verified health checks and standards in place.
Hoteliers have realized that it might not be enough for their hotels and chains—however trusted and ingrained in their communities—to state that they are safe, as many seek to reinforce that message with trusted, outside organizations specializing in health, wellness and cleanliness.
Among hotel chains to instigate new procedures and protocols are seven global hotel companies that collectively operate approximately 13,000 hotels: NH Hotels Group, Accor, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Meliá Hotels International, Room Mate Hotels, Radisson Hotel Group and Hilton.
NH Hotels Group
NH Hotel Group, with approximately 370 hotels and now owned by Thailand-based Minor International, has teamed up with SGS, which bills itself as the “world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.”
Its new cleanliness regime will include the revision and adaptation of all hygiene and disinfection protocols, specific training for employees, and control and monitoring of measures. Changes in how hotels are cleaned will be in step with changes in guest interactions, including how guests receive key cards and breakfast buffets and other meals are prepared and delivered.
Isidoro Martínez de la Escalera, chief marketing and communication officer and NH Hotel Group’s chief lead on the project, said SGS was chosen as its partner because of “their proven and extant knowledge in evaluating processes and physical conditions in all kinds of industries, including hospitality.” He said he believed in the aftermath of this health crisis, many hotel firms will design seals and protocols, but for NH, “having our procedures audited from the start was vital.”
A communication and media plan has been instigated, and the partnership’s “Feel Safe at NH” protocol has already been put into place at its NH Collection Barbizon Palace, Amsterdam, and NH Nacional Madrid.
“During the month of June, the procedures will be tested and fine-tuned in these properties and then incorporated into the operations of all other hotels as they recover their activity,” Martínez de la Escalera said. “Health safety has become a critical interest for travelers and in NH Hotel Group we are going to respond accordingly.”
Paris-based Accor is employing the service of Bureau Veritas to “develop a label designed to certify that the appropriate safety standards and cleaning protocols have been achieved to allow businesses to reopen.”
Bureau Veritas was founded in 1828 and has approximately 78,000 employees around the world.
Accor plans to roll out the program first in France, and then the rest of Europe, with conditions outlined alongside France’s principal tourism organization, Alliance France Tourisme, and the government ministries responsible for health, labor and tourism.
That will mean six stamps of approval to assure guests that recommended standards are in place, executives said.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation
Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced on 29 April it is committing globally to a third-party accreditation process with the Global Biorisk Advisory Council in addition to its own “Global Care and Cleanliness Commitment” initiative.
This commitment will examine the entirety of the hotel experience, from health and hygiene to F&B safety to technology and even how spaces are designed and used, according to Frank Lavey, Hyatt’s SVP of global operations.
He said that GBAC is a division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning-industry association, and is composed of experts in microbial-pathogenic threat analysis and mitigation, designed to deal with crises such as COVID-19.
“The performance-based cleaning, disinfection and infectious disease prevention program will focus on establishing hotel environments that are sanitary, safe and healthy.
“Accreditation will include detailed training at more than 900 Hyatt hotels worldwide, which Hyatt intends to complement with regular internal and third-party auditing,” Lavey said.
Meliá Hotels International
Mallorca-based Meliá Hotels International also has teamed up with Bureau Veritas as part of its “Stay safe with Meliá” campaign.
According to its executives, each of its hotels will have a point person “responsible for the emotional well-being of guests and the verification of appropriate compliance with the processes designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The chain is making the project a multidisciplinary initiative, with its branding, IT, maintenance, occupation-health, operations, procurement and risk-management teams all involved.
Room Mate Hotels
Kike Sarasola, CEO of Madrid-based Room Mate Hotels, has made available 13 of his 28 hotels to house medical staff and key workers, and he said one benefit from being a good neighbor in this way is that his hotels can be flipped back to receiving normal guests in a heartbeat.
He said he is not going the route of getting third-party accreditation but sees the value of that.
“Guests need sanitary tranquillity, or confidence, and then to get an extra stamp from a special agency, that is a plus, but it is not a necessity,” Sarasola said.
Sarasola said 50% of his chain is ready to make the change from medical staff to guests.
“We have plastic screen on receptions, protocols for breakfast, the elevators, public spaces. We are ready to flip from a medical client to a normal one, and this is not so difficult and not so expensive,” he said.
Room Mate is applying its own COVID 19-free protocols, rolling out disinfecting and cleaning measures to all of its properties.
Radisson Hotel Group
Brussels-based Radisson Hotel Group has chosen two partners as part of its new “Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol” program, one of which is SGS again.
Inge Huijbrechts, global SVP of responsible business and safety and security at Radisson, said in an email interview that the company determined SGS would be a strong partner.
She said SGS has more than 90 hygiene laboratories, 100 sampling locations and 50 offices in more than 60 countries and taps into a network of more than 90,000 colleagues worldwide with inspection, testing and auditing capabilities.
Huijbrechts said together Radisson and SGS developed an easy-to-understand, 20-step protocol and 10-step protocol for meetings and events. Each hotel will work directly with SGS on the implementation and validation of the protocols in line with local regulations and requirements, she said.
“Hotels that take the pledge to implement the protocols will receive an SGS Pledge Label upon completion of a comprehensive local audit. Hotels will also have the option to partner with SGS for on-site testing using the latest technology, which will reward them an additional SGS approval label, called SGS Disinfection Monitored Label,” she said.
Radisson was already working with SGS in some countries for health and safety inspections and programs, she said, and now it is extending the partnership globally with the launch of the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol program.
She said guidelines within the new protocol include increased cleaning and disinfection of all hotel areas; installing stations of hand sanitizer and gloves at all entrances and in public areas; disinfecting all room keys; express check-out processes; and team training.
Radisson also is teaming up with Diversey in initiatives to incorporate enhanced cleaning and disinfection guidelines, while an official label of cleanliness in hotels will be developed with SGS.
Hilton announced it is partnering with RB, whose disinfectant and cleaning brands include Lysol and Dettol, and the Mayo Clinic to develop more rigorous processes and employee training to ensure guests experience a clean and safe stay.
Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development, said the new program, to be called “Hilton CleanStay with Lysol protection,” is expected to roll out June 2020 across all 18 Hilton brands globally.
Cordell said there is an even greater emphasis on how Hilton can improve cleanliness. Based on consumer research, he said 71% of consumers globally are more mindful of cleanliness now. The decision to launch this program with respected partners was based on helping customers feel more confident in hotels’ procedures, he said.
“We started to think about what kind of partners could we bring in to help us not only with their insight but what kind of partners might have a strong customer awareness benefit that customers could more easily relate to than (a lesser-known) chemical,” he said. “We developed a list of partners to think through and spoke with quite a few.”
Cordell said the Mayo Clinic’s visibility in the U.S. is strong, adding that while Hilton is not a hospital and its processes will never be clinical or hospital grade, the Mayo Clinic’s insights will help educate the company and inform its cleaning procedures.
The Mayo Clinic will act more as a consultant or thought partner, he said, and Lysol will be a business partner. The arrangement with Lysol will remain for multiple years to cover both short-term and long-term expectations, he said.
“As we think about things like social distancing … that kind of behavior is likely over time to relax, but the baseline of cleanliness is going to stay. The ability to engage with (a company) like Lysol for multiple years just reinforces that’s a long-term strategy that’s going to be part of a new reality for us,” he said.
Cordell said the program focuses on 10 areas and touchpoints, including minimizing steps in the arrival process; more visible housekeeping; disinfecting wipes near elevators; guestroom door seals signifying if the room was cleaned and disinfected; streamlined buffets; and more robust grab-and-go options.
One of the biggest changes is many front- and back-of-house team members will be wearing some type of facial covering, he said.
“As before when a guest could see a team member smile, they won’t be able to see that smile. Or, traditionally there was handshake as a symbol of friendship, (they) won’t be able to do that. On top of those tactical things, we’re (determining) how can we express hospitality in the right way? We are developing non-verbal gestures of hospitality,” Cordell said.