The Housekeeping Director
Black lights and UV wands have moved beyond CSI into Best Western hotel and motel rooms across the country.
As part of the Phoenix-based hotel group’s new cleaning initiative, a housekeeper will go through a darkened guest room with a black light to highlight biological debris that may have been missed by the naked eye. They also clean all of the “high-touch areas” such as doorknobs, phones, TV remotes, and the sink and toilet area with an ultraviolet wand that kills 99.9 percent of germs, according to the company.
The Best Western Plus Bloomington Mall of America was one of 800 across the country that first implemented the “I Care Clean” program before a full rollout to more than 2,100 hotels. Mark Olson, general manager, is happy with the effort. “Our labor costs have not gone up. We’re using the same cleaning staff and it really isn’t adding more than 5 minutes to the normal routine,” says Olson.
The UV wand may be the sexiest aspect of the new regime, but other practices are probably no less reassuring to guests made paranoid by years of TV news exposés. There are new TV remotes—typically one of the dirtiest items in rooms—with flat, seamless buttons that can be wiped down and sanitized. Best Western also wraps stored pillows and blankets in biodegradable single-use bags after washing to assure the user they are totally clean.
Best Western grades each of its hotels on cleanliness twice a year. The Bloomington property’s score from September 2011 was 965 out of 1,000; its increase to 994 in May 2012, after beginning the “I Care Clean” program put it in the top 10 percent of Best Westerns in North America, according to Olson: “It’s just one more thing we can use to reiterate how important clean is to us.”
Related Article on the subject of Best Westerns New Cleaning Tools-
Do you have any idea what happened on that hotel bed before you walked into the room? You don't want to know. Neither do I, which is why, first thing when arriving in a new hotel room, I usually toss the bedspread in the closet.
It seems I'm not alone. For years, surveys showed that hotel guests most valuecustomer service, cleanliness and maintenance — in that order, said Ron Pohl, Best Western's senior vice president of brand management. Two years ago there was a subtle but significant shift: Cleanliness leapt to the top of the list."Beyond seeing stains and dirt, people were comfortable," Pohl said. "Today it's not what they see that they're concerned about; it's what they don't see."
The findings led Best Western to launch an intensive housekeeping program that has beenadopted by about a third of the chain's 2,200 North American hotels; the rest are expected to follow by the end of the year, Pohl said.
Among other initiatives, Best Western has armed housekeeping staffs with black lights to spot biological matter invisible to the naked eye (fluids and such), and ultraviolet sterilization wands to wave above the places that get the most finger traffic, such as telephones, clocks, light switches, door handles and bathroom fixtures. It also has retooled with crevice-free TV remotes that can be wiped down.
Whether this is savvy marketing or creating cleaner hotel rooms (or most likely both), it is a hospitality industry response to the era of SARS, H1N1 and a hand-sanitizing station every 20 feet. (Best Western still doesn't regularly wash the blankets, except in the case of duvets, Pohl said).
Philip Tierno, a New York University microbiology professor and author of "The Secret Life of Germs," said it is indeed time for hotels to re-evaluate how rooms are cleaned.
"Theoretically a few organisms can give rise to a very bad bout of the stomach flu," he said, adding that such germs can survive for days on insufficiently cleaned doorknobs, telephones and bathroom fixtures. As a result, he employs his own cleaning ritual when traveling (see sidebar).
Though he applauded Best Western's crevice-free remote, he said the UV wand is most likely "useless."
"You may have to pass the wand over it for minutes, depending upon the organism, for it to be effective, not seconds," he said. More important, he said, is wiping down surfaces with aclean cloth and disinfectant. Still, he said, it's a start the industry dearly needs.
At a hotel, microbiologist Philip Tierno ...
Doesn't drink out of glasses covered with cardboard tops; he uses sealed plastic cups or brings his own.
Pulls down the bedsheets in search of "pubic hair, stains or evidence that the sheet is not new."
Drags sanitizing wipes across commonly touched areas, such as doorknobs and light switches.
Folds and puts the bedspread in the closet.