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From Digital Room Keys to No-Contact Check-In: How Hotels Are Redefining Cleanliness and Safety

Light switches, remotes and thermostats will never be cleaner.

Hotel room cleaning housekeeping Courtesy Shutterstock

Even in what now feels like more innocent times, travelers paid attention to the cleanliness of their hotel rooms, jokes about not touching remote controls or in-room phones notwithstanding. In this current climate, however, cleanliness has taken on a whole new level of importance, especially as the hospitality industry is now examining how (and when) it might begin re-opening properties—and figuring out what guests will want to see before they feel comfortable enough to check back in.

To help address this topic for the industry at large, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) this week introduced Safe Stay, a program of enhanced health and safety protocols designed to prepare US hotels to welcome back guests and employees. Developed under the guidance of an advisory council, public health experts and Ecolab (a leader in cleaning solutions and services that collaborates with the EPA, FDA, CDC, and WHO), the initiative includes a checklist for cleaning rooms, meeting and common spaces and back-of-house areas; the use of cleaning products that meet the CDC guidelines; and reducing person-to-person contact in accordance with social distancing protocols. “While hotels have always employed demanding cleaning standards, this new initiative will ensure greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire hotel experience,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA, in a statement about the program. Rogers added that the new practices will continue to evolve to meet revised health and safety challenges and expectations, and to comply with any federal, state and local laws.

Hilton CleanStay

Enhanced protocols will include extra cleaning in high-touch areas  Courtesy Hilton


In addition to committing to following the Safe Stay guidelines, some top brands are also developing their own in-house hygiene programs. Announced last week, the Hilton CleanStay With Lysol Protection program was developed by Hilton in conjunction with the Mayo Clinic Covid-19 Response team, and will include a multi-year partnership with RB, maker of Lysol and Dettol. Designed to be employed across the company’s 18 brands, the program will include such elements as a seal to indicate when a room has been deep-cleaned; a check-list of 10 high-touch areas (from light switches to remotes and thermostats) that will receive extra disinfection; the removal of clutter like pens, paper, and guest directories; new cleaning and occupancy limits for fitness centers; contactless check-ins and digital room keys; and the addition of cleaning technologies like ultraviolet light.

Marriott cleaning protocol

Brands like Marriott will begin using technology like electrostatic disinfection misters  Courtesy Marriott

In mid-April,  Marriott International announced the formation of the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council to help develop new cleaning technologies, guest contact policies, and food safety protocols, and to identify behaviors that will help minimize risk for both guests and employees at all its hotels. Anantara, which has a portfolio of 41 hotels across the globe, has rolled out Stay with Peace of Mind, a set of protocols that are fully compliant with international guidelines. In addition to heightened cleaning procedures, new measures will include increased scrutiny of supply chain deliveries and culinary preparation, and adapting fitness and wellness classes and restaurant seating in accordance with social distancing. Depending on the location, private experiences—like shopping without any other customers in the store—can also be arranged.

Hilton CleanStay program

Keyless entry and safety seals are part of Hilton’s new CleanStay program  Courtesy Hilton

Extended-stay and private rental companies are also getting with the program. Global hotel residence brand AKA has always had rigorous standards (such as using a color-coded microfiber cloth system to limit cross contamination between surfaces, including in the en-suite kitchen), but has now added things like the use of hospital-grade EvaClean electrostatic disinfection misters (that kill viruses, bacteria and germs in sixty seconds), planning for new UV sanitization and bedding protection, offering contact-free payment, and performing regular internal audits to verify that all standards meet evolving EPA criteria; when a guest checks out, staff members will not enter the suite for 24- to 72-hours, and there will also be a 72-hour window before the next guest can check in to that suite. Boasting a roster of over 5,000 vacation homes in over 80 destinations, TurnKey has upgraded its patented GuestWorks® cleaning system and verification technology to include such things as keyless locks and photo-verification of the use of COVID-19-fighting products, and has also developed cleanliness requirements for all its third-party housekeeping vendors.

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