New Health and Safety Protocols at ESA, IHG and More

NATIONAL REPORT—As the hotel industry readies for its reopening from the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of companies are implementing new cleanliness and safety protocols so that they will be ready for the return of employees and staff. Here are some of them:

Extended Stay America Introduces Stay Confident
Extended Stay America (ESA) has launched the Stay Confident initiative to focus on the health, safety and comfort of its guests. Stay Confident will build upon the brand’s experience as the only major hotel brand to remain 100% open since the beginning of the pandemic, and the already high standards of housekeeping and hygiene at its 634 locations.

While many competitors were forced to close some or all locations, ESA locations have remained fully open to serve the needs of essential workers and travelers. As a result, the brand was one of the first hotel companies to establish enhanced cleaning protocols.

Stay Confident includes three focus areas—Stay Safe, Stay Healthy and Stay Comfortable— with the goal of ensuring the overall well-being of its guests.

  • Stay Safe: New measures are designed to set an even higher standard of hygiene for the hotels, including the installation of transparent shields at the front desks of its properties; protective masks and other equipment for all staff; the temporary closure of social and communal areas such as pools and fitness centers; increasing no-touch interaction with staff; and the promotion of social distancing on-property with training for all staff.
  • Stay Healthy: In partnership with Procter & Gamble, the brand is expanding its already rigorous cleaning processes and inspection program to offer enhanced protection to guests. These include extra disinfection and increased cleaning frequency in high-touch areas, as well as contactless checkout. A 10-point room cleaning process covers every inch of each room from closets and windows to kitchens and floors. A member of the management team also inspects and approves each room prior to releasing it for check-in.
  • Stay Comfortable: All travelers are welcomed into rooms and suites with fully equipped kitchens that allow for greater control over dining options while away from home. The brand also recently upgraded its free WiFi to be faster and more convenient for guests, and offers pet-friendly suites as well. Guests have the ability to request delivery of additional towels or linens without having a housekeeper enter the room.

IHG Upgrades Cleaning Protocols
As the world adjusts to new travel norms and expectations, IHG is enhancing the experience for its hotel guests around the world, by upgrading its cleanliness protocols and supporting guests’ personal well-being throughout their stay.

Using new, science-led protocols and service measures, partnering with industry leading experts Cleveland Clinic, Ecolab and Diversey, and launching a global IHG Clean Promise, the strengthened measures will give guests greater confidence and hotel teams the protection needed.

IHG has a long-standing commitment to rigorous cleaning procedures. Launched in 2015, the IHG Way of Clean program was developed with Ecolab and Diversey. This program is now being expanded with additional COVID-19 protocols and best practices—many of which are already in place—to reflect the advice of the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and local public health authorities in markets around the world.

IHG Way of Clean already includes deep cleaning with hospital-grade disinfectants and going forward guests can expect to see evolved procedures in every area of the hotel, which may include the following:

  • Reception: Reduced contact at check-in, touchless transactions, front-desk screens, sanitizer stations, sanitized key cards, paperless checkout
  • Guestroom: Visible verification of sanitized items (e.g., glassware, remote control), reduction of in-room furnishings/high-touch items, new laundry protocols, use of new technology
  • Public Spaces and Facilities: Additional deep cleaning of high-touch surfaces, social distancing, “last cleaned” charts, best practices for pools, fitness centers and lounges
  • F&B: New standards and service approach to buffets, banquets, room service and catering

Enabling the personal well-being of guests and colleagues is key. IHG is working closely with a team of medical experts at the Cleveland Clinic to develop guidance and resources for hotel teams on returning to work and keeping guests safe in this new environment, which may include the following:

  • Cleanliness information in hotels and on IHG’s booking channels
  • Social distancing operating procedures and signage
  • Guidance on the use of protective equipment as necessary by hotel colleagues
  • Updated colleague training and certification
  • Availability of individual guest amenity cleaning kits
  • Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available in guestrooms and at high-touch points throughout hotels

With updated measures in place, IHG is launching a Clean Promise, which will roll out globally on June 1. Leading this work is IHG’s new Global Cleanliness Board, a group of IHG experts in operations, health, safety and guest experience, working with new external specialists, including James Merlino, chief clinical transformation officer at Cleveland Clinic, to define solutions, best practice and implement processes.

While on-property, hotel teams will also appoint Clean Champions to continue building the culture of clean instilled in IHG hotels around the world. These champions will focus on guests and colleagues as they navigate the new environment and help on-property teams to consistently deliver these elevated cleanliness standards.

First Hospitality Commits to Cleanliness First Plan
First Hospitality has revealed its Cleanliness First Plan, developed with Ecolab, which provides hotels with a comprehensive and operationally sustainable guide to maintaining a safe environment for employees and guests as COVID-19 travel restrictions ease.

The Cleanliness First Plan expands on the recommendations and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Hotels associated with brand partners, including Hilton, Hyatt, IHG and Marriott, are required to follow the protocols outlined by the brand in addition to the Cleanliness First Plan.

Core components of the Cleanliness First Plan:

  • Trained Hygiene Specialist: The earliest step in the Cleanliness First Plan is to identify and train a hygiene specialist at each First Hospitality hotel to implement and oversee the plan after launch.
  • Expert-Guided Cleaning Protocols: The plan includes an Ecolab Cleaning and Disinfecting Guide, which identifies high-touch surfaces at hotels that are to be sanitized on a regimented schedule. This extends to all associate workstations and calls for consistent break periods, where all work pauses so associates can clean and disinfect their area, wash their hands and adjust personal protective equipment (PPE) as necessary.
  • Strategic Social Distancing: First Hospitality has updated its operating procedures for guestrooms, public spaces, food-service areas, restaurants and bars to emphasize new social distancing guidelines. Furniture is arranged in these areas to allow for a 6-ft. radius between guests, and capacity is temporarily reduced at or below statewide guidelines. Department schedules are also staggered to ensure social distancing is maintained in all breakrooms, locker rooms and offices.
  • Continuing Education: All employees are required to complete CDC-informed training covering cleaning procedures and other Cleanliness First practices. The plan also includes continuing education and training for employees to maintain safe sanitization practices.

“We’ve been developing and implementing these new hygiene standards and training at First Hospitality hotels since March,” said Paul Hitselberger, COO of First Hospitality. “Our response to COVID-19 has always been to prioritize the health and safety of our employees, guests and partners first. We’re thankful for their dedication and professionalism through this unprecedented time. They have helped refine these best practices, and we’re confident moving into this next phase.”

OHM Introduces OH Well Program
Ocean House Management (OHM) has revealed its OH Well Program, a collection of safety and health measures for guests and associates. This program will be in place for the June reopening of OHM’s Atlantic Coast properties, including the Ocean House and Weekapaug Inn, both in Westerly, RI.

“Our goal is to provide outstanding guest experiences and luxury service combined with new health standards so guests can have an enjoyable and memorable visit,” said Daniel Hostettler, OHM president/group managing director. “We understand now, more than ever, travelers are seeking safety, trust, flexibility and a sense of escape in their choices away from home.”

The OH Well program was developed based on information from leading authorities in health and epidemiology, state and government guidelines, plus the creativity and knowledge of the expert teams at the properties. The program includes added processes for all areas of the hotels including guestrooms, public areas, activities and dining.

  • Dine Well: Furniture spacing has been adjusted to ensure social distancing. Reservations will be required, and guests will receive single-use menus. Enhanced F&B safety guidelines are being followed and surfaces will be sanitized with increased regularity. A new family-style menu can be ordered and delivered anywhere outside on property (e.g., cabana on the beach, picnic table on lawn, terrace of a suite, etc.) to give overnight guests new dining options. Each property will offer a “fast-casual” style culinary option with a pick-up area to reduce interaction for guests. Ocean House will also have a new BarMobile, a craft cocktail cart to deliver cocktails and complimentary canapés to guestrooms between 5 and 7 p.m.
  • Stay Well:  Hotel rooms and suites will be left empty for 24 hours between checkout and check-in whenever possible. Hand sanitizer wipes will be placed in each guestroom for personal use throughout the stay. The properties have added the Molekule, a medical-grade air purifier proven to destroy airborne viruses and bacteria, to all guestrooms as an added measure of cleanliness. Guests will have a choice in their housekeeping services during their stay, with options ranging from full daily service to more limited service to a daily drop-off of terry and linens. Additional requests can be made at each guest’s discretion. Common areas will be regularly cleaned and disinfected, and hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the properties. Arrivals will be spaced out to allow for individual guest check-in, and guests will be greeted at the front drive. Luggage will be placed in rooms and any surfaces touched will be sanitized.
  • Play Well: Beach and outside seating will be configured to allow for social distancing between groups of guests. Outdoor activities including croquet will be available with advance reservations and appropriate social distancing. Private chef classes and meals for families, couples and individuals remain available.

The property teams at all OHM Rhode Island hotels are planning to reopen in June, pending state guidelines. All staff members will go through COVID-19 training prior to opening and will sign a “healthcare commitment,” including temperature taking, hand washing and other health practices.