By Chris Woodyard USA TODAY
From spraying guest rooms with disinfectant to sanitizing room keys, hotel giant Marriott International became one of the first major hotel groups Tuesday to outline how it plans to reassure guests of cleanliness in the age of the coronavirus.
Guests may notice some of the changes from the moment they step into a Marriott property: Furniture in public areas will be rearranged to promote social distancing.
“We are living in a new age, with COVID-19 front and centre for our guests and our associates,” said CEO Arne Sorenson in a statement announcing the changes posted on Marriott’s website.
Marriott’s promise of a new level of cleanliness may be an early sign of changes that will sweep the hotel industry as chains and individual properties compete to lure guests by offering the most coronavirus-resistant environment. The strategy could be critical to trying to create a rebound for hotels as stay-at-home orders are lifted and travel resumes.
In perhaps the biggest change, Marriott said it will use electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectants to sanitize throughout the hotel. Besides guest rooms, the sprayers will be used in lobbies, gyms and other public areas. It said the cleaning agents used would be those recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization to kill all known pathogens.
Rooms will be sprayed after every guest visit and there’s no need to worry about odour or a wet residue, said Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim. The disinfectant dries in about 10 minutes.
In addition, the company is testing ultraviolet light technology for sanitizing room keys and adding hand sanitizer stations and signs in the lobby to remind anyone who enters to keep their distance from others. Marriott is also taking a look at what to do at properties that offer buffet service.
Some of the changes may run counter to the level of personal service that top hotels have always tried to foster. To protect employees, Marriott plans to make masks available and is weighing whether to add plastic partitions at the front desk.
Guests who want to minimize contact with the staff can use their cellphones, Marriott says. Phones can be used to check-in, unlock room doors, make special requests and order room service “that will be specially packaged and delivered right to the door without contact,” it said.
“We want our guests to understand what we are doing today and planning for in the near future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors of one of our hotels, they know our commitment to their health and safety is our priority,” Sorensen said.