How do you know if your hotel room is really clean amid coronavirus?

It’s almost impossible to find a hotel that hasn’t introduced a new sanitation program, promising its rooms are squeaky clean and will be coronavirus-free. How do you know if your hotel room is really clean?

a person standing next to a sink: Janitor cleaning sink in hotel room

© Make sure to wipe down frequently-touched surfaces like the bathroom sink and toilet, desks, etc.
Janitor cleaning sink in hotel room

“It’s difficult to distinguish between legitimate cleaning efforts and public relations,” says Sheryl Kline, a professor at the University of Delaware who has researched hotel hygiene. “Anyone can do a visual inspection, and it can look clean. Just because it looks clean does not necessarily mean that it is clean.”  

Hotels have standard room-cleaning practices, which have been upgraded since the pandemic. But there is no universally accepted way to clean a hotel guest room, says Kline.

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Exclusive: Hotel industry issues coronavirus safety guidelines ahead of anticipated travel surge

Hotels around the country are prepping for travelers to start showing up again amid the coronavirus pandemic. But how can guests know that it’s safe to stay there?

The hotel industry at large has had to update its cleanliness guidelines in the wake of coronavirus.

© Chainarong Prasertthai, Getty Images/iStockphoto
The hotel industry at large has had to update its cleanliness guidelines in the wake of coronavirus.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has unveiled its SafeStay guidelines on Monday, an effort made in conjunction with major brands like Hilton, Marriott and Best Western to standardize cleanliness.

“It’s really an effort to make sure that no matter if you’re staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you’re staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry,” Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, told USA TODAY on Sunday.

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The report outlines baseline hotel practices and procedures (you can find the full guidelines here) meant to protect employees and guests, including but not limited to:

  • Hand-washing and hand sanitizer use; dispensers, when possible, should be at major employee and guest entrances and contact spots (i.e. lobby reception, employee entrances, etc.)
  • The installment of signage reminding both employees and guests regarding how to wear, handle and throw away masks
  • A significant upheaval of cleaning practices, with places like hotel guest elevators, front desk check-in stations and public bathrooms cleaned frequently
  • A request that housekeepers not enter a guest room during a stay unless asked to by guest, or otherwise adhere to established safety protocols
  • For guests: Physical distancing of at least six feet from other groups of travelers
  • For employees: Physical distancing in dining rooms, training classrooms and more; front desk agents should use every other workstation
  • Contactless check-in encouraged when possible

Rogers said it expects hotels to go above and beyond these guidelines. Brands such as Hyatt, Marriott and short-term rental service Airbnb have announced specific cleaning standards in recent weeks.

In addition to setting industry standards, AHLA hopes to use SafeStay as a way to work with local lawmakers looking to regulate hotel properties and as an avenue to creating an enhanced safety guideline certification that may exist permanently.

Rogers thinks it’s good to have a set of universally adopted cleaning standards. While COVID-19 is today’s challenge, it wasn’t too long ago we had SARS and MERS. And it’s probable other health challenges will emerge in the future.

“The facts tell us it’s more than likely that that will happen at some point,” Rogers said. If the industry has standards in place, he added, it’s in a much better position to make sure everyone understands how clean a hotel room is.

Can the industry convince guests that hotels are safe?

The longer-term problem for the industry is if consumers remain afraid of traveling, which is part of why SafeStay is so important. With to these new standards, “they don’t have to be fearful of traveling to a hotel,” Rogers said.

“Hotels being open or closed or returning to occupancy levels is mostly going to be dependent on consumer demand and much less dependent on necessarily what government regulations are,” he added. If a shelter-in-place situation happens again, almost zero occupancy will return, which is to be expected and understood.

But if people indeed opt to vacation again? Businesses are becoming more comfortable with the idea of providing guests a safe place on the beach where they can get outside and maintain social distancing (if a hotel can provide that and the state has authorized it), Rogers said.

Hotel room demand picking up, but occupancy levels remain low

The push for standards comes as hotel demand has started to creep up slightly over the last few weeks. While at one point about 80% of hotel rooms were empty in the U.S., according to data firm STR, occupancy stood at 26% the week of April 19 to 25. That’s still a decline of more than 62% compared with last year.

“Demand has grown slightly across the country during the last two weeks, which could provide some hope that the levels seen in early April were indeed the bottom – especially with some states now moving to ease social distancing guidance,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior VP of lodging insights, in a statement.

Rogers said that best estimates indicate that by late summer, most leisure travel will be back to 60% or 70% of last year. Places like the Florida and California coastlines and Hawaii should begin seeing closer to normal numbers by the end of summer. Oahu Island, Hawaii, had a less than 10% occupancy level, according to STR’s report.

More than 40% of demand gain the last few weeks has come from five states: California, Texas, New York, Florida and Georgia. Freitag said that generally, “it is not unreasonable to assume that part of the increased business is coming from essential workers, homeless housing initiatives and government-contracted guests.”

Business travel makes the most revenue for the industry, however, and business typically cut travel costs when looking to reduce overall expenses. Rogers said he doesn’t anticipate full business travel to be back until next year. The sector of most concern is meetings and conventions, which may not be back in the swing of things until 2021 or as far out as 2022.

And that’s part of the painful reality with which the industry has to contend: “I think the industry will attempt to find all sorts of ways to make sure that rooms are filled and bring in some revenue, but ultimately without going back to normal travel patterns and business conferences and leisure travel, it’s going to be a very difficult situation for the industry,” Rogers said.

Rogers previously told USA TODAY that half the hotels in the U.S. could close amid coronavirus; he says now that more than half of hotel capacity has shuttered, between the full closure of some hotels and perhaps half the floors closed in hotels that remain open for business.

If revenue streams don’t come back, you’re going to see individual hotels start closing down, particularly independent hotels without a brand to fall back on when people start traveling again, Rogers said.

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Almost 80 Percent of US Hotel Rooms Sit Empty Because of COVID-19

According to new data released today by hospitality analytics company STR, and as reported by CNN, less than 22 percent of U.S. hotel rooms were occupied during the week between March 29 and April 4, 2020, representing a 68-percent drop in comparison to the same week in 2019.

The average daily rate (ADR) also decreased nearly 42 percent to $76.51 and revenue per available room (RevPAR) dropped by just under 82 percent to $16.50 when compared to the same period last year.

A continued downward trend indicates that things could continue to worsen for the hotel industry in the coming weeks. “Data worsened a bit from last week, and certain patterns were extended around occupancy,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior VP of lodging insights.

Compared with the week prior, “Economy hotels continued to run the highest occupancy, while interstate and suburban properties once again posted the top occupancy rates among location types,” Freitag said. “This shows there are still pockets of demand while more than 75 percent of the rooms around the country are empty.”

Some markets, however, are faring worse than others. The island of Oahu, Hawaii, is suffering the most drastic decrease in occupancy, down almost 91 percent from last year and with only seven percent of its hotel rooms in use during the sample week. That’s the only single-digit occupancy level to be recorded among all U.S. markets.

In the same week, hotel occupancy levels in New York City had fallen more than 79 percent from last year to just over 18 percent; and Seattle, Washington, saw its occupancy drop by 73 percent to under 20 percent.

At this point, the effects of this pandemic are palpable, and market conditions continue to prove volatile and virtually unpredictable.

With many hotels having either completely shut down their operations or functioning with skeleton crews, CNN lately reported on opinions from industry experts that many hotels simply won’t survive the unprecedented downturn.

An Oxford Economics study also forecasted that 44 percent of hotel employees across every state stand to lose their jobs because of the pandemic, with many already having been laid off or furloughed until the crisis abates.

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Azizi Developments nearly sells out Palm Jumeirah development

Azizi Developments has recorded 80 per cent pre-sales of its residential units on Palm Jumeirah.

In line with its strategy, the developer consistently achieves a high pre-sales ratio across all of its projects, with all of them selling out swiftly prior to their completion.

Spanning across nearly 38,500 square metres of built up area, Mina features 178 units, comprising 120 one-bedroom apartments, 54 two-bedroom residences, and four spacious, lavishly designed penthouses scheduled to be completed by quarter two of the year.

The project also features several retail units spread across 1,847 square metres.

This report comes in light of Azizi Developments’ recent announcement of surprising its existing customers with further enhancements to the landscaping of Mina with an investment of over AED10 million.

Azizi is now utilising superior hardscape materials of improved specifications, at no cost to its clients.

The developer also added to the soft landscape through the generous addition of greenery in the form of trees, bushes, and floral plants.

Furthermore, shaded areas are being added for the comfort of Mina’s residents, and ground levels are being adjusted to make the landscape more visually appealing.

Mina residents will enjoy immediate proximity to the Palm’s extensive promenade, where families can bask in the orange glow of Dubai’s soothing sunsets and active residents can take advantage of early-morning runs.

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Kempinski to rebrand two Schloss hotels in Europe

The 12.18. Group is expanding its strategic partnership with Kempinski Hotels.

As part of the deal, the Schloss Roxburghe in Scotland and the Schloss Fleesensee in the heart of the Mecklenburg Lake District will operate as Schloss Fleesensee Kempinski and Schloss Roxburghe Kempinski.

The hotels will remain in the ownership of the 12.18. Group; management and operation will also be carried out by 12.18. Hotel Management, based in Berlin.

The rebranding of the hotels will be implemented over the next few months.

Kai Richter, managing partner of 12.18. Group, said: “The brand Schloss stands for historical charm with extraordinary design in the midst of breath-taking nature.

“We are proud to manage our hotels in the future as Schloss Roxburghe Kempinski and Schloss Fleesensee Kempinski.”

Located within the striking natural landscape of the Scottish Borders, an hour from Edinburgh and Newcastle, this recently transformed historic manor house of Schloss Roxburghe Kempinski comprises 20 rooms with Scottish inspired interiors, a welcoming bar and a restaurant serving Scottish cuisine with a French twist.

A championship golf course and a comprehensive range of sporting pursuits from clay pigeon shooting to tomahawk throwing and fly fishing completes the offering.

Formerly owned by the Duke of Roxburghe, the hotel, the golf club and parts of the associated estates have been part of the portfolio of 12.18. Investment Management since 2018.

The Schloss Fleesensee on the Mecklenburg Lake District has been part of the portfolio of the Düsseldorf-based company since 2014 and has been extensively revitalised over the past few years.

The 179-room hotel, which also includes five golf courses, received the German Design Award for this work.

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How Hotel Cancellation Policies Are Changing Amid Coronavirus

a large building with The Ritz Hotel, London in the background

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has had major repercussions for the travel industry. Cruise lines are exercising flexibility for customers, prescreening passengers before they board, and revving up their already stringent cleaning measure. Airlines, too, are continuing to monitor the situation, shifting their cancellation and change policies in response to new information and State Department updates.

The hotel industry is also taking the virus and the threat it may pose to guests and staff seriously. With flights being rebooked and travel plans being bumped, hotels are doing what they can to minimize the impact on guests whose travel plans have changed. But depending on where you’ve booked, the hotel cancellation policy may not always be as flexible, since cancellation coverage often depends on whether you booked directly with the hotel or through a third-party agency. It is important to note that this situation is fluid and shifting circumstances continue to affect the policies in place.

What to know if you booked directly with a hotel

Hotels around the world, both big-brand and boutique, are showing flexibility in response to the virus. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is waiving cancellation fees until March 31 for guests traveling to any Four Seasons property in the Asia Pacific region and Italy. Cancellation fees are also waived until March 31 for those traveling from Italy, South Korea, China (including the mainland, Hong Kong, Macau), and Taiwan to any Four Seasons property around the world. It’s also continuing to review the latest information from health experts and government authorities, and is passing along the most up-to-date and relevant information to its properties. “Across our global portfolio, we have implemented heightened precautions in food handling, sanitization, disinfection, and cleaning measures,” says a Four Seasons spokesperson. The hotels are placing hand sanitizer dispensers in restaurants and common areas, and reducing hours for certain facilities, including pools and spas. “Each individual property has also implemented specific precautions based on the guidance of local health authorities as well as the specific situation in their region and country,” the spokesperson added. Four Seasons is also providing masks and thermometers to guests upon request.

Hilton has enacted a similar response, issuing modification and cancellation waivers in especially affected area and demographics. Under the new rules, fees are waived for guests traveling to, through, or from China with stays from January 23 to March 31; those traveling to, through, or from Italy with stays from February 24 to March 31; to, through, or from South Korea with stays from February 24 to March 31; and those traveling to, through or from Saudi Arabia with stays from February 27 to March 31. Like Four Seasons, the brand is stressing its grasp on disseminating the newest information with its staff, crafting “Hilton-specific procedures” and talking points that staff can use during interactions with guests. “We are closely monitoring updates from the World Health Organization, and responding based on the best advice of medical professionals and public health authorities,” says a Hilton spokesperson. “If additional social isolation, enhanced cleaning, or other operational actions are required, we put those into action.”

Marriott, the world’s largest hotel company, and IHG are also offering case-specific refunds to guests booked in areas considered to be high-risk zones. As of publication, no large-scale hotel brand has implemented a cancellation or change-fee waiver company-wide, as most major airlines have started doing.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but our guide will help you eliminate most of the most pressing questions.

What to know if your trip is booked with a third party

Virtuoso, a luxury global agency network with more than 20,000 advisors, and over 1,800 hotel, cruise line, and tour operator partnerships, is proactively taking measures. “As travel advisors, our current role is to listen to travelers’ concerns and provide the most up-to-date options so they can make informed decisions at a minimal cost,” says agency executive Mary Kleen. Virtuoso advisors are suggesting that clients take a “wait-and-see” approach where possible, because of the rapidly changing nature of the situation. If you’re traveling to Europe later this summer, for example, and you’ve booked somewhere with a 30-day hotel cancellation policy, you can wait until May to take any action.

Agents are also strongly urging clients to purchase insurance, and in particular, cancel-for-any-reason (CFAR) policies for any trips they’re booking now. Even if you’ve already booked your travel and are beyond the 21-day window after making your deposit to purchase CFAR insurance, you can still add travel insurance, and in particular, the kind that will cover medical expenses should it become necessary. Please note that standard travel insurance may not be the most helpful in navigating coronavirus restrictions.

Expedia is also proactively approaching the continually changing circumstances. “We are working closely with our partners to make sure travelers have as much flexibility as possible,” says global PR director Nisreene Atassi. “Expedia is working hard to enhance our user experience so that refundable hotels are more prominent when searching. Just look for our ‘Free Cancellation’ messaging throughout to help identify the flexible hotel offerings.” The company also recommends purchasing a Vacation Waiver (if you book a package through Expedia), which covers all change or cancel penalties for any reason, on a single occasion, so that you have options if circumstances change.

What to know about Airbnb and VRBO policies

Short-term rental companies are also softening cancellation policies in light of the shifting travel market, though it remains important to do your homework before booking if you might need to cancel. Airbnb has a six-tier cancellation policy already built into its operation, which are generally set by the host. However, the company has an Extenuating Circumstances policy, which will protect travelers from cancellation penalties due to unforeseen circumstances. This currently protects travelers going to or coming from areas deemed to be high-risk for the virus, but had not been implemented portfolio-wide to protect travelers who may wish to make a pre-emptive cancellation. And, critically, do not assume that because your plans have been forced to change due to the coronavirus, that you will be covered by the Extenuating Circumstances policy. VRBO has yet to amend their policies to support forced coronavirus cancellations, and their Book with Confidence Guarantee does not cover force majeure circumstances.

WATCH: Big efforts to keep travelers safe from coronavirus (provided by CNN)

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Address Jumeirah Resort on schedule to open later this year

Address Jumeirah Resort has announced the structural completion of its two 310-meter towers.

The topping out of the two towers marks the first key turning point towards the completion of the project, which is due to be unveiled toward the end of the year.

The 77 double-height levels were completed in just 799 days – an average of three levels completed per month.

The resort is now in an interior fit-out phase and in the final structural topping out of the 310-metre high sky bridge, which will link the two skyscrapers at the very top.

The sky bridge will feature an infinity pool, once completed, boasting the distinction of the highest infinity pool in the world.

The 443 fully furnished and serviced apartments and 478 unfurnished residential apartments offer living areas, and are fitted with branded fittings.

The apartments will offer its residents views of the Arabian Gulf, the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina and Ain Dubai (Dubai Eye) and direct beach access.

In addition, residents will also enjoy signature Address services and the Spa at Address facilities, multiple pools for adults and families, a fitness centre on the 75th floor, Qix Club for children, world-class food and beverage outlets, gentlemen and ladies hair salons and high-end retail outlets, including fine jewellery.

Additional services will include a 24-hour concierge, weekly cleaning and maintenance, in-room dining services and a U by Emaar Silver Card membership.

Looking ahead to completion, which is on track to coincide with the launch of Expo 2020, Emaar Hospitality Group have also announced key restaurant and retail spaces within Address Jumeirah Resort.

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