Heightened cleaning, communication reassure guests
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hoteliers who are being open with guests about cleaning protocols at their properties say the heightened communication helps to reassure guests who might have concerns amid the global pandemic.
For the 102-acre, 582-room Terranea Resort, a luxury property on the coast of Los Angeles in South California, the most important thing is the health of staff and guests, said Agnelo Fernandes, chief strategy officer and EVP at the hotel.
“We’re all in this together,” he said. “(Staff and guests’) well-being, health and mindset are paramount; and we are dedicated to ensure we are upholding a safe and healthy environment.”
As of 30 March, the hotel is temporarily closed. HNN spoke with Fernandes on 17 March, and at that time, the property still had guests.
Fernandes said some of the hotel’s cleaning protocols and policies “are common sense, and some are stressed by national organizations such as the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), and local health organizations.”
They include using alcohol-based disinfectants and making hand sanitizer available at various points throughout the resort, he said.
Robert Clark, GM of the St. Gregory Hotel in Washington, D.C., said via email that the hotel, “as always, (is) upholding the highest standards of cleanliness through increased sanitization and thorough cleaning of our public and private spaces as well as additional practices.” (HNN received responses from Clark on 16 March.)
Additional practices include heightened precautions in food handling and sanitation measures; increased disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as elevator buttons, keyboards, door handles and phones; and providing additional training on sanitation procedures to employees, he said.
The St. Gregory has also suspended daily housekeeping for guests staying more than one night to “reduce human contact and possible exposure for both our guests and staff,” Clark added.
Jim Wynn, GM at the Kansas City Airport Marriott in Kansas City, Missouri, said via email that his property deep-cleans guestrooms daily, and high-touch areas are cleaned every two hours. Shuttle buses are also sanitized after every trip. Currently, the hotel only has flight crews staying on property. (HNN received responses from Wynn on 30 March.)
The “number of rooms requiring stay-over services” has dropped, but the few rooms that do require these services are assigned to veteran housekeepers, Wynn said.
“Every housekeeper cart is stocked with their own (personal protective equipment) kit,” he said. “This allows each housekeeper to protect themselves to the level they are comfortable. When our highly trained housekeepers are performing stayover services, they are in full PPE and take care of all stayovers one right after the other.”
The fitness center at the hotel has been closed down per the health department’s orders, Wynn said. As an alternative, “We are keeping free weights and medicine balls that guests can check out and use in their room, and we sanitize between use. We hand out running/walking trail maps that surround the property at check-in,” he said.
Wynn added the Kansas City Airport Marriott was recently renovated, and he feels confident in the cleaning processes to keep everyone safe.
“With our recent renovation removing carpet, except for guest floor corridors, and installing tile in public areas and LVT flooring in guestrooms along with glass shower doors, our level of disinfecting the building is highly efficient, and we feel confident we are doing our part to battle the invisible enemy,” he said.
In a recent interview with Hotel News Now on shifting operations amid the coronavirus outbreak, Rachel Blake, GM of the Hilton Garden Inn Bellevue in Bellevue, Washington, said the outbreak has led to staff taking on additional responsibilities. For example, department heads are now doing what entire teams were doing a month ago. (HNN received responses from Blake on 26 March.)
“Our executive housekeeper is cleaning rooms and doing laundry,” she said via email. “Three weeks ago, we implemented the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for cleaning and disinfecting public space and guestrooms.”
Communicating cleaning policies
Communicating cleaning practices to guests and future guests is critical during this time, Fernandes said.
“At this point, for guests we have at the resort, we’re making sure we are taking care of all of their questions. For guests or planners who have planned meetings here, we are trying to be as proactive as possible, communicating two to three times a week as information becomes available,” he said.
That communication takes place through email and social media engagement, as well as an online portal.
Fernandes said the feedback from guests has been “very positive.”
“They are appreciative that we’ve become that source of information, kind of organically,” he said. “Everyone is reaching out to us, saying they are glad we are conducting daily briefings as the situation evolves.”
Terranea has “always maintained a pristine and clean atmosphere,” but it’s important now to make sure guests “understand we are being responsible,” he said.
“We continue to implement deep-cleaning and rigorous sanitizing standards, checking water temperatures even in the kitchen and back-of-house area, and keeping on top of these things,” he said.
Communicating cleaning procedures and policies with guests wasn’t a main focus before the outbreak because guests were there to create memories, Fernandes said.
“I don’t think they would have been worried about hand-sanitizers up until about three weeks ago. … At this point, we feel that (guests) knowing we are going above and beyond is critical. People are going to remember us by how we message them, how we treat them and keep them in the loop,” he said.