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Ask hotels to name their competitive edge, the tricolon “location, location, location” is the hackneyed response. It no longer applies. Cleanliness has become one of the three most important factors in the road to recovery and in the future. And this is changing practices.

HotelPlanner, which provides group hotel rates to any type of groups, believes that cleaning and disinfectant policies and procedures will become a legal contract item.

“I see contracts including clauses about room and meeting space cleaning,” said chief operating officer Bruce Rosenberg. “For meeting spaces large and small, the current standard nightly clean-up will have to be reviewed and re-defined.”

Typically at large hotels and event centers, this refers to deploying highly experienced personnel, maintaining public spaces, room refreshes at specific times, highlighting the use of environment-friendly products and pre/post cleaning of aisles in a trade show. “I can see event planners getting into more detail in all of these areas,” said Rosenberg.

The company, which gets feedback from group leaders about the service and quality of their stay, plans to make cleanliness and hygiene standards “more prominent” in its request for feedback from planners.

“Hygiene will be front and center for 2020 and 2021 until there is a comfort level on cleanliness and delivering healthy stays/trips,” said Rosenberg.

One country, Singapore, takes this so seriously that it has launched a scheme to audit hotels nationwide and give them a clean bill of health if they meet seven criteria.

An “SG Clean” stamp placed prominently at an establishment will give locals and visitors “peace of mind”, said Keith Tan, CEO, Singapore Tourism Board, which aims to audit and certify 570 hotels, attractions and other tourism establishments in the next two months and 37,000 eventually.

Assessment is done by independent organizations such as KPMG and, along with certification, is free. For hotels, the criteria include appointing an SG Clean manager to oversee the property’s practices, temperature and health screening of employees, arrangements for engaging external suppliers and contractors, cleanliness and hygiene practices, and compliance with health and travel advisories and government orders on Covid-19.

The first hotel to be certified was Grand Hyatt Singapore, which suffered when several coronavirus cases were linked to a private company meeting held at the hotel on January 20-22.

The hotel’s manager Parveen Kumar said as an international operator, strict operating standards were already in place at the property before Covid-19. Getting an all-clear with an SG Clean mark is “yet another step in the right direction to raise domestic and global confidence through independent auditing of public hygiene standards,” he said.

A fast-growing chain Asian chain, Park Hotel Group, which operates six hotels in Singapore hotels, also said prior to Covid-19, procedures for cleaning and sanitation of rooms and facilities and ensuring personal hygiene of team members were already aligned with world standards.

“What makes a hotel SG Clean certified are the extra precautionary steps: ensure general wellbeing of anyone entering the hotel premises by temperature screening; increase frequency of disinfecting the common areas and guest rooms [now hourly, from every four hours previously]; documenting and recording all preventive measures; and proper management of suspect/confirmed Covid-19 cases,” said the group’s executive director, Shin Hui Tan.

Four of its six hotels in the city have earned the SG Clean mark while the remaining two are waiting for it to be issued.

All hotels in Singapore have “upped the ante,” said Gilbert Madhavan, general manager of One Farrer Hotel & Spa. “No property at this stage would want or can afford to be singled out as being errant in maintaining hygiene standards. This will immediately ‘kill‘ any potential business,” said Madhavan.

Park Hotel Group’s Tan believes SG Clean is the new and alternative way for consumers to further filter for hotels with enhanced hygiene standards.

“The pandemic has greatly impacted consumer confidence and they are generally more aware and cautious about where they choose to stay and dine,” she said. “SG Clean was introduced to regain the confidence of locals as well as international visitors to Singapore as a safe, clean destination. I believe that when the crisis abates and travelers still want to choose a safe place to visit, Singapore will be a top choice.”

While a stamp such as SG Clean is a visible proof of hygiene standards, a hotel consultant believes future housekeeping should no longer be invisible.

One of the best proofs is ensuring that cleaning is done in plain view of guests, as Larry Mogelonsky, principal, Hotel Mogel Consulting, wrote in this blog.

Photo Credit: Cleaning in earnest at a Park hotel in Singapore. Park Hotel Group