As business trickles back, hotels compete on cleanliness

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Marriott

In this April 2020 photo provided by Marriott, a Marriott associate using an electrostatic sprayer to clean public areas at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in New York. Marriott, Hilton and other big hotel companies are used to competing on price or perks. Now they are competing on cleanliness. From masked clerks at the front desk to shuttered buffets, hotels are making visible changes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. (Marriott via AP)

Marriott, Hilton and other big hotel companies are used to competing on price or perks. Now they are competing on cleanliness.

From masked clerks at the front desk to shuttered buffets, hotels are making visible changes in the wake of the pandemic. Signage will tout new cleaning regimens: Red Roof Inns promise “RediClean,” while Hilton boasts of “CleanStay with Lysol.”

Hotels are still mostly empty; in the U.S., occupancy stood at 37% the week ending May 30, down 43% from the same period a year ago, according to STR, a data and consulting firm. But leisure travel is starting to pick up, and hotels see cleaning standards as a way to soothe jittery guests — and possibly win back business from rivals like home-sharing companies like Airbnb.

“I think, more than ever, customers are going to be looking for that seal of approval,” said Phil Cordell, Hilton’s head of global new brand development, who is leading the group developing the company’s new cleaning standards.

Some hotel brands are more stringent than others, says Larry Yu, a professor of hospitality management at George Washington University. He notes that Accor Hotels, a French company, has developed accreditation standards that its hotels must meet in order to reopen.

But Yu said enhanced cleaning is happening everywhere.

“Everybody is doing it, because it is now expected by consumers,” he said.

Guests are already seeing differences. David Whitesock, the chief innovation officer for Face It Together, an addiction counseling company, moved from Denver to upstate New York over Memorial Day weekend. He stayed at Marriott hotels in Iowa and Ohio along the way.