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Cleanliness standards will guide guest preferences in the years ahead. Short-term rental host practices will have to undergo significant enhancements to cope with that changing consumer behavior — a heightened sensitivity to just how clean their surroundings are as an outgrowth of the coronavirus pandemic.

While some airlines may be mulling shedding middle seats, Airbnb is rolling out two voluntary sanitization and coronavirus prevention programs for hosts, including one that would block guest arrivals for 72 hours between stays.

With the knowledge that the depth of such cleanliness programs could be a defining factor in post-coronavirus guest confidence, Airbnb’s plan has some hosts opting to use a booking buffer tool that would automatically block reservations for an established period, such as 72 hours, between stays. Cleaning would be the only permissible activity during this duration.

Booking Buffer Tool

The buffer tool, which grew out of Airbnb’s practice of making hosts’ homes available for medical personnel and first-responders, would be the less rigorous of the two programs that Airbnb is rolling out globally in May.

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The booking buffer program is geared for hosts who may not have the necessary resources and products to commit to a certification process in the other program, the stricter cleaning protocol plan.

Cleaning Protocol Program

Under the cleaning protocol program, hosts could pledge to clean every room in a home using enhance guidance and procedures, according to Airbnb, and there would be a certification process.

There is a 24-hour between stays requirement for the more rigorous cleaning protocol program, and currently the Booking Buffer plan default is set at 72 hours.

“However, we appreciate that not all hosts are able to meet the requirements of the Cleaning Protocol, so the Booking Buffer — currently set at 72 hours — is an alternative<” an Airbnb spokesperson said. “We have seen signals that the COVID-19 pandemic will shape future guest preferences, and we believe that opting into the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative is the best way for hosts to show guests that our community takes cleanliness and sanitization seriously.”

When searching for stays on Airbnb, guests would be able to identify whether hosts have joined either of the two cleaning and coronavirus prevention programs that Airbnb recommends. Some hosts may choose neither, but then may risk losing bookings from guests concerned about cleaning standards.

“The Cleaning Protocol will also include specific information on COVID-19 prevention, like a wait period before entering, use of personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves, as well as disinfectants and sanitizers that are approved by regulatory authorities,” Airbnb stated. “These standards will be available to all hosts and we encourage them to commit and adopt these enhanced cleaning practices.”

To develop the two programs, which Airbnb calls its “Enhanced Cleaning Initiative,” Airbnb got guidance from former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, and used U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s published standards. USA Today reported the launch of the program earlier on Monday.

A Flurry of Cleaning Initiatives

You can expect a flurry of such cleanliness initiatives from booking sites, property managers, and hotels around the world in coming weeks as the hospitality industry recovers from the pandemic.

In China, for example, food delivery, dining, and hotel-booking company Meituan has debuted safe-stay hotels and safe-dining Restaurants.

“We utilized our online capabilities to guide merchants in the process of streamlining, standardizing, and digitizing their pandemic and safety measures to help merchants attract consumers,” said Shaohui Chen, Meituan’s chief financial officer, in the company’s fourth quarter earnings call March 30.

The Singapore Tourism Board plans to audit hotels and attractions under a SG Clean initiative to ensure they comply with cleanliness standards.

In the United States, property management company TurnKey Vacation Rentals is demanding that its housecleaning contractors certify their use of “COVID-19-fighting products,” and provide photo verification of these disinfectants.

For its part, Expedia’s Vrbo is recommending that hosts follow CDC guidelines.

“We know travelers are going to care about cleanliness more than ever; 51 percent of travelers we surveyed said they will be paying more attention to cleanliness standards,” a Vrbo spokesperson said. “We’re figuring out the best way to give them the information they need and want. We’ve shared COVID-19 cleaning resources with property managers and vacation home owners that advise them to adopt new protocols that adhere to CDC recommendations.”

Note: This story has been updated to state that the Cleaning Protocol program requires 24 hours between stays while the requirement for the Booking Buffer plan is 72 hours.

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Tags: airbnb, coronavirus, guests, hosts, meituan, turnkey

Photo credit: An Airbnb Plus property in Cape Town, South Africa. Airbnb is rolling globally two programs for hosts under an Enhanced Cleaning Initiative.

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