Hotels have always had a responsibility for the Health and Safety of both their guests and their staff. Now, there are additional challenges, including specific protection against infection by Covid and playing their part in rebuilding the economy.
But more than simply a bolt-on of additional procedures, the rebirth of the hospitality industry demands completely new processes, tools and technologies to reduce the spread of microbes.
Indeed, the holiday experience is now very different from before, as an unavoidable consequence of the pandemic.
Government guidelines on protecting people from Covid cross-infection in hospitality exist, but are pretty vague and may not be enough to guarantee real safety. However, Public Health England’s new 5-word slogan, “Hands. Space. Face. Fresh Air” gives us some good headings to work with.
UK and Scottish government advice includes a strong focus on cleaning and sanitising surfaces to remove and denature (kill) Covid particles. However, numerous studies and reports show that Covid cross-infection via fomites (contaminated objects or materials, such as clothes, bedding, utensils, and furniture) is unlikely.
Fiona Henriquez is Professor in the School of Health and Life Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland. She has been working this past year on coronavirus in the environment, and mitigation strategies, including the efficacy of face coverings and antimicrobials.
This is confirmed by advice from the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organisation and last July’s article in The Lancet: “Exaggerated risk of transmission of Covid-19 by fomites, which stated that “the chance of transmission through inanimate surfaces is very small, and only in instances where an infected person coughs or sneezes on the surface, and someone else touches that surface soon after the cough or sneeze.”
Nevertheless, it is important to continue to sanitise surfaces as long as government guidance directs us to, to prevent other infections and especially to maintain customer confidence.
However, we should avoid a false sense of security. Spraying surfaces and wiping immediately is unlikely to make it safe. Surface sanitisers require a minimum “dwell time” of just 30 seconds to be effective at reducing bacteria. This means the surface should be left wet with sanitiser for 30 seconds before wiping off. Surface sanitisers, however, do not kill viruses.
Disinfectants do kill viruses but require a “dwell time” of between 3-10 minutes.
All the authorities agree that Covid is a virus spread by airborne particles, even if they might not emphasise it enough.
If we can reimagine the space in our hotels, design new flows of traffic, ventilate well and provide clear and fun, not obstructive instructions, we can keep people 2 metres apart at all times and encourage the wearing of masks or visors indoors and make an impact on cross-infection.
This takes us a step forward but leaves us with some problems unresolved, such as ineffective “spray and pray” techniques that might be leaving hard surfaces ineffectively cleaned and soft surfaces left contaminated.
It is true that if you follow the government guidelines alone, even if they are insufficient or inappropriate for your business, you are following the letter of the law and you will be allowed to continue trading.
Also, if you make your Covid measures visible, customers will see and be reassured. Hygiene practices are now part of a good customer experience and housekeeping procedures are a marketing asset
However, the losses in reputation and financial terms alone if your site is identified as the source for any new local outbreak make it prudent to go the extra mile in prevention measures.
We do not know enough about the long-term effects on the environment of such high-volume use of cleaning products. There may also be consequences for people with vulnerable respiratory systems due to asthma, COPD or with a history of smoking or vaping.
The ideal solution would drastically reduce the use of cleaning products through the use of anti-microbial bioactive surfaces and a single chemical-free sanitisation system for the air as well as hard and soft surfaces. This will allow surface cleaning with just water and microfibre cloths.
Traditionally, most hotel housekeeping processes have happened unseen, behind the scenes. Now, cleaning must not ‘just be done’ as a matter of process; it should ‘be seen to be done’, to inspire customer confidence and encourage guests to play their part in anti-Covid measures.
To reassure guests, share your cleaning and sanitation policies clearly on your hotel website and in the venue, follow up with staff visibly implementing, along with measures such as hand sanitiser readily available in public spaces and open windows for ventilation.
To book your free venue assessment with the sanitisation experts at Elytraa Group, contact us on 01786 439839 or firstname.lastname@example.org.