The Role of Technology in Cleaning and Sanitizing in the Era of the New Normal
By Nutthaphat Poolworaluk, Masters Student - MSc in Global Hospitality Business
The need to be reassured that your night's stay is cleaner than ever has never been this critical before in the hospitality industry. With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, heightened measures for cleaning and sanitization need to be imposed, as the safety of both the guests and staff remains paramount in this so-called 'new normal.'
With a rise in the innovation of cleanliness-related technology, the following have gained much popularity and/or attention amongst properties across the globe to date:
Ultraviolet lights are deemed to greatly help speed up the process of sanitizing various high-contact items and products within the property, as it decontaminates harmful pathogens by 99.9 percent within 60 seconds. It usually comes in a small container where items to be disinfected can be placed inside for a few seconds to kill the germs attached to it. One of the most prominent uses of UV-C lights are with the room key cards. Aside from helping to efficiently and effectively disinfect them, UV-C lights also reduce the labor, human error and environmental impact of manually cleaning each card with disposable wipes. Hence, these UV-C lights are practical and economical in both the short and long term. Other major touchpoints where UV-C lights have commonly been used for disinfection are the in-room TV remote controls, the in-room tablets, and the computer keyboards in the business centers, to name a few. The staff can consider going above and beyond in providing value-added services by offering to sanitize guests' mobile phones to help prevent further spread of the virus to the public at large.
(Vacuuming, Floor Scrubbing and Window Cleaning)
Robots help to greatly minimize human touch and speed up the cleaning process throughout the property, both in the guest rooms and public areas. This is particularly handy during the outbreak of the virus, as housekeepers can focus more on other high-touch surfaces like door handles, elevator buttons, escalator rails and light switches that must be cleaned more frequently throughout the day. These robots are programmed to map its routes within the cleaning area, but the process to 'train' them takes less than a day, as opposed to the week-long trainings in the past. Technological advances have also brought about UV-light-equipped self-driving floor scrubbers, which is an added element to kill the virus more effectively.
Germ-zapping robots are a hospital-grade germ killer, using UV light pulses to disinfect products and amenities across the property. It has recently come into the spotlight, particularly among the luxury segment, as it helps add an additional layer of comfort and protection for guests and the staff. However, since direct exposure to UV is harmful to human tissue, it must be ensured that these robots operate in guest rooms upon check-out, and overnight in public areas.
Air Purifiers with Bi-Polar Ionization
Air purifiers have long been popular in many places - even in people's homes, as it cleanses the air and improves air quality. However, people are turning their interests towards the introduction of the bi-polar ionization technology, which better combats bacteria, viruses and odors in the atmosphere. It is therefore considered to be a proactive solution to diminish the impact of the coronavirus by 99.92 percent in 30 minutes with the absence of harmful chemicals and radiation.
Through advanced technologies, electrostatic sprayers can quickly release mists of safe chemicals that spans a wide coverage - regardless of whether the surface is hard-to-reach or not. As a result, it is commonly used in hospitals as it helps to decontaminate complex areas and corners that can easily be missed, further preventing the spread of the virus.
Self-cleaning rooms are still a novel approach to the modern way of cleaning, whereby odorless germ-resistant cleaning solutions are sprayed to coat the room. Hence, it eliminates microbes in obvious areas and hidden corners. This safe technology can also be adapted for use in public areas and should therefore be one of the tools properties can consider implementing, particularly during this period of reformation, to gain an added element of safety for them.
The above portrays an extensive list of changes to the face of cleaning and sanitizing of properties that hoteliers should consider taking advantage of, as it helps to improve the safety for all. However, one might be concerned about whether these technologies will come to replace the traditional use of manpower or not.
At the same time, we must not forget that keeping areas regularly and thoroughly cleaned is of utmost importance and may not be wholly achieved without the aid of these tools. Therefore, we should view these technological devices as an aid to conduct mundane tasks. Humans can instead focus on the other newer, higher-value job opportunities that can emerge during a time when things should be looked at from a fresh new perspective.
At the end of the day, what is most important is that the guests must feel worry-free as soon as they step into the property, by seeing visible acts of cleaning and sanitization routinely taking place throughout the day and throughout the property - even in the littlest areas and amenities that one may often overlook. It is not just about hygiene, but also about public relations and communications that goes out to guests, as well. We cannot wait to see what else the future of technology brings to enhance the cleaning and sanitization process, boosting the guest's and associate's confidence in this world of the new normal.
This blog post placed first in a graduate student blog competition presented by the HFTP Foundation in Fall 2020. Participants are students earning their HFTP-UH Global Masters Certificate, a program with candidates of the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business. This program is a partnership between the CN Hilton College at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and EHL. The three blog posts that received the top scores will be published on HFTP Connect through March 2021.