New products can help hotels focus on disinfecting “high-touch” areas, like doorknobs and elevator buttons, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has placed a new emphasis on cleaning for hotels. Some say that focus should remain long after the current emergency has passed.

Shortly after the pandemic was declared in mid-March, Miraj Patel, president of Wayside Investment Group in Houston, met with housekeeping staff and general managers at all three of the company’s hotels to discuss cleaning.

“We’ve given them specific instructions on maintaining cleanliness throughout the hotel,” Patel said. “Outside, inside, lobby, rooms everything.  As people are laying off, we’re taking a different route and hiring an extra housekeeper just so they’re focused on cleaning the lobby every single hour. We’re trying to make sure that we’re on top of that. Our guests need to see that this hotel is truly keeping everything clean.”

He said the company bought hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies for each of its hotels, including the Red Roof PLUS it opened in Galveston, Texas, just as the pandemic struck.

California-based hotelier Sunil “Sunny” Tolani said cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing is being done every two hours at his hotels and tracked in a log.

“All associates of the hotels have a cleaning schedule and it is being done faithfully at the hotel level for the protection of our guests and staff,” Tolani said.

Ellis Hospitality Group in Temecula, California, is observing how guests, employees and vendors move around their hotels, said Jyoti Sarolia, principal and managing member of the company.

“We look at the touchpoints, where germs could be left, and what we could do to clean after each touchpoint to mitigate any contamination from one person to another,” she said. “We are involved with our chemical company in the range of products that serve our hotels and checking to see the validity of how they disinfect surfaces.  And we are creating a checklist for team members and ensuring each of our associates are safe.”

A long overdue focus on cleanliness

These new methods of cleaning hotels is something long overdue in the hospitality industry, said Ron Greenstein, director of sales and operations at Mayfair Hotel Supply in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

“I’ve been in the distribution business for 30 years,” he said. “Over the years people always talked about how we clean, sanitize and disinfect properties, especially where we have a lot of common areas, and that’s the hospitality world. It always seemed at one point or another that it always became a budget thing, or it became how fast could you turn the room. When it came to really doing the justice of cleaning those rooms properly, my takeaway on all this is that everybody needs to readdress that.”

The COVID-19 pandemic makes cleanliness a higher priority in hotel budgets, Greenstein said.

“I think this unfortunately is going to be that scare tactic if you will that everybody’s going to say ‘Wow, maybe we should pay a little more attention to this,” he said. “Does it make sense to put a couple of extra bucks into the room, into how we disinfect. Maybe the rates go up a little but my god, wouldn’t we all want to have paid a little bit more for our travel or our room stay if we didn’t have to go through what we’re going through now.”

Sarolia’s focus on touchpoints is fully legitimate, Greenstein said. Travelers get off airplanes into an Ubers or cabs, all of which probably haven’t been disinfected. Germs are carried from there into the hotel property and transferred to door handles, elevator buttons and so on.

“Those high-touch areas just aren’t paid enough attention to,” he said. “There’s technology out there, there some new innovative products out there that can put a microband on some high-touch areas make it a little bit safer for everybody. I just think that’s gotta become the new norm.”

There are new products on the market that focus on high-touch areas, such as NanoSeptic self-cleaning surfaces. NanoSeptic products use light activated nanocrystals to oxidize organic contaminants, according to the company’s website.

“It’s almost like a sticker,” Greenstein said. “It can go on high-touch door handles and doorknobs. They even have one that’s like a little mat you can use as a mouse pad.”

NanoSeptic also produces mats for bathrooms by sinks, applications for buttons on elevators and tissue boxes.

Another tip from Greenstein: while many people think hand air dryers in bathrooms are the more sanitary option, researchers at the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University actually found many transfer bacteria from the air to newly washed hands.

“When drying your hands with a jet air dryer, water droplets that could contain bacteria and germs are expelled into the air, traveling as far as 6.5 feet and lingering in the air for up to 15 minutes,” Greenstein said.

It’s all about killing bugs

Orkin, most commonly known for pest control, has launched a new service in response to the pandemic. The company’s VitalClean service also focuses on sanitizing high-touch surfaces using a disinfectant registered with the Environmental Protection Agency as effective against other kinds of coronavirus (the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, is too new for the EPA to register a disinfectant against it).

VitalClean also protects again various strains of Influenza.

“The disinfectant product we use is incredibly effective against other coronaviruses, has almost no toxicity and has been approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for fast-track review by the EPA for specific use against the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” said Judy Black, vice president of quality assurance and technical services for Orkin’s parent company Rollins, Inc.