Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 October 2020

The Battle For Virus Prevention In Hotels

By Brian Shedd, Senior Vice President at Pure Wellness

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When hoteliers of the future look back on the year 2020, it will be largely a study of the battle for virus prevention in hotels. COVID-19 aka the "Novel Coronavirus" has decimated the American economy and by association the hospitality industry. Debasish Mridha is credited with saying "Fear comes from the lack of knowledge and a state of ignorance. The best remedy for fear is to gain knowledge". Sun Tzu famously said "Know your enemy". So what exactly are hotels fighting against?

The Virus

Coronaviruses are a large group of common viruses that cause respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. The coronavirus gets its name from what appears to be a crown or halo on the virus when it's viewed under the electron microscope. "Corona" means crown in Latin. Other coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). The 2019 coronavirus is NOT the same virus as MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV.

The 2019 Coronavirus that was first found in Wuhan, China has never been seen before. The World Health Organization (WHO) named this virus the 2019-nCov, (n for novel) but it is also referred to as SARS-CoV-2 and Novel Coronavirus. The medical term for "new" is "novel." COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by the COVID-19 virus. Droplets from coughs and sneezes spread the COVID-19 virus. You also can be exposed to the virus by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated from the virus.

CDC Guidelines For Hotels

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have issued specific guidelines for hotels to prevent the spread of the virus. Those guidelines are:

  • Stay home if you are having symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from customers and coworkers, when possible.
  • Wear a cloth mask in public and at work, even when social distancing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces routinely and often.

The Battle Defined

Hoteliers need to fight a battle on multiple fronts to survive in 2020: keeping guests safe, keeping staff safe and staying in business while doing it. Findings from the Manhattan Lodging Index: Q2 2020 show approximately 58% or 61,450 hotel rooms in Manhattan had not reopened as of early September. Of these, nearly 2,700 are expected to be shuttered permanently. Other major cities nationwide face a similar unimaginable impact on their markets due to the lack of travel and overwhelming concern about v irus transmission. Most hotels are still operating with half the staff they had in 2019. While 239,000 accommodation-specific jobs came back in June, unemployment in the sector is still over 43% according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Winning The War

Only through vigilance and universal compliance will the hospitality industry - and country as a whole - make it through this pandemic and onto a brighter future. Hotel staff need to be trained to interact with guests in a new and different way to protect both parties. Compliance with mask wearing and social distancing on property will determine whether travelers feel safe while onsite or concerned they might unwittingly become a carrier of the coronavirus.

In the midst of all this change we're seeing solutions emerge that improve both guest safety and confidence and the stay experience overall. Contactless technology such as mobile check-in, mobile keys and mobile check-out have been around for years but have now become an integral part of our expectations. Air cleaning technology has also advanced to the degree that certain purifiers can now destroy airborne pathogens smaller than the Covid-19 virus. Paired with a routine surface cleaning protocol, hotels and resorts can now provide an environment far cleaner than ever before.

Perhaps if there is any 'silver lining' to be found in the chaos caused by the novel coronavirus, it might be a legacy of an improved guest experience through necessary technology that delivers more freedom and cleaner air.

Brian Shedd

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