Hotels And Airlines Have To Ramp Up Cleaning If They Want People To Come Back

One reason that the economy won’t return quickly to the way that it was is that people’s preferences are shifting. It’s going to be hard to get people to return to movie theaters, concerns, and sporting arenas – places where large groups congregate, and people are forced close together. Restaurants may have to halve their capacity for some time to move people farther apart. These changes in consumer preferences, which will persist once lockdowns lift, will change what products people want to buy and change how companies need to market to them.

Cleaning is going to be an important selling point to bring back travel. Ideally it would become like safety in the airline industry, so baseline that no airline advertises it or criticizes another carrier for it, and when there are breaches even in paperwork we’re appalled.

Initially though it’s going to be something that travel providers have to aspire to if they want to bring customers back. There’s an entrenched idea that most people buy on price. That was true in the past, in part because people viewed travel providers as all the same (no difference in the product you’d buy) and in part because the most reliable information people had access to was price (or location for hotels, schedule for airlines).

Delta already understands that cleaning matters, they will disinfect planes between every flight. Once travel starts to come back though, and they want to schedule flights with less time on the ground, how committed to this will they remain?

Traditionally cleaning was one of the first things that got cut during tough economic times for the airlines. And in the current crisis some airlines and hotel chains were slow to respoind to the need to clean more.

One of the interesting dynamics of the coronavirus crisis has been,

A hotel that fails to change the sheets beween guests will be signing its own bankruptcy filings.

Singapore has launched a new initiative to certify the stepped-up cleaning practices hotels, SG Clean (.pdf). The first hotel that’s been certified is the Grand Hyatt Singapore, which had several cases linked to an event held there in late January.

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.

Several additional hotels have earned the designation, with more certifications pending. It’s not a guarantee, but would you stay somewhere that doesn’t meet the standards?

Social distancing will persist, too, do you want to sit crammed into a middle-of-middle seat on a U.S. airline whose seats have already been crammed more tightly together?

There’s going to be demand to pay for more space, and people who won’t travel because they can’t obtain that space. And many – not all of course – travelers will avoid travel providers who don’t maintain the highest cleaning standards, much higher than before, and market their adherence to standards.

More people who know about the option will buy more than one seat for themselves and an airline will generate loyalty by introducing middle seat blocking as an elite benefit.

Eventually travel companies will be able to stop marketing cleanliness, and that will signify a return to normal, and an expectation that heighten cleanliness standards are happening in the background. They’ll still need to execute on it though and failures that are exposed could become scandals.

How we think about travel marketing is changing because consumer preferences are changing in ways we do not yet understand.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Very true until there’s an effective vaccine. After that there will be a gradual (but not complete) reversion to the standards that prevailed before the crisis. I do think that when people feel safe due to a vaccine they will go back to attending large events, sitting in stadiums, and then sitting in full airplanes.

  2. I don‘t think, most of these scenarios are going to happen. At least not in Europe. People easily and quickly forget and most are too keen to travel again.

  3. Hotels in major cities are currently being used to house homeless and/or emergency room medical professionals and some folks who are quarantining. Until things return to normal I have zero inclination to stay in a hotel. That point is possibly at least six months away.

  4. Not attending large events for me brings to mind the issue of sports.

    Less people in seats in any sport immediately means less revenue from fans as they might have to space out seats in some way to make people feel more comfortable similar to airlines. This then affects players salaries and on down the line.

    As Gary mentions it will be interesting to see how people’s preferences around the world change in regard to cleanliness.

    Also, since countries be handled the virus on an individual basis it will be interesting to see how citizens of different countries view other countries and their cleanliness standards.

    Will people who have been in Italy and Spain locked down for weeks think much more closely about the tourists they let in from the us or China. And conversely when Europeans travel abroad or anyone for that matter, what expectations will they have for the places their going from the time they enter the country to they time they depart.

  5. I will no longer go to restaurants that do not take reservations. No more – wait outside for an hour do we can create a buzz about how busy we are. Accept reservations or people will go elsewhere.

  6. If you use 9/11 as an example of how psyche and policy changed there is no doubt that this will also bring on a paradigm shift in how we travel. Just as security at airports and on aircraft altered forever our ease of movement this will certainly come with a new reality. I don’t think it will be as far reaching as what we saw after 9/11 but I do expect that cleaning will become more a priority. People will wear masks more often (as we saw develop in Asia as a norm). More importantly a new Government will be voted in resulting in better agency funding and staffing to prepare for the next one. Including not ignoring it as fake news as it gets out of control. We will be better prepared and know what to expect under reasonable and proper leadership.

  7. What is not being discussed – the santiary conditons aboard our airlines. I am fearful and will postpone flying. Consider those who are asymptomatic of the virus. Well known, the virus remains on stainless steel for hours or days. Consider how many passengers touch the (a) lavatory door, (b) the flush button, (c) aerosol spread of toilet water when flushed, (d) water faucets, etc. According to CDC guidelines, airline lavatories appear to be a major spreader of the virus!!!!. Consider the viral ‘load’ if 100 passengers use the lavatory during a flight. Cleaning between flights will not solve the problem. Flight personnel lack the time to clean after each passenger nor will they want to. The answer will be a vehicle to sanitize the bathrooms via a UBC light after each use or some other sanitizing vehicle. Each airline is keenly aware of the age of their passengers via flyer miles, etc. Questions: What percentage of passengers are age 60 plus and/or have underlying health conditions? What is the gross and net operating income of these passengers? ** What is the dollar amount of the $60 BILLION airline bailout devoted to passenger safety??? Health safety???.** To date, airline execs and stockholders have enjoyed the financial rewards of corporate buybacks of stock, bonuses based on profitability, increased operating revenue via increased seating by squeezing passengers like sardines. Passengers NEED to feel safe flying. So what are their plans?

  8. The good news is the bedbugs on the BA planes will have died of starvation by the time we take our seats again.

  9. I’m surprised you’re not using this as another launching point for a salvo against bulk shampoo/semen dispensers.

  10. Maybe most people will avoid crowds but I will be back in a casino as soon as it opens, have no problem staying in any hotel or traveling on an airplane and glad to attend a sporting event.

    Not that I’m bulletproof but by fall likely half the people in the country (or more) will have either been exposed to the virus or have immunity even without a vaccine. Official numbers now are 550,000 in US but that is only people who have tested positive. Many with minor symptoms are being told don’t even have a test provided they recover at home. Also doesn’t could anyone that previously got virus and recovered. Keep in mind that up to half of people that get the virus (based on study in Iceland which has tested highest percentage of its population) have NO symptoms and another 40% have minor ones. Finally there is evidence from testing in Italy that some people have natural immunity.

    I’m willing to bet if 550,000 in US test positive then actual number including all categories above is at least 5,000,000 (or about 1.6% of all people in US. Will continue to spread until enough have immunity.

    As for me, never been a germaphobe and not in a high risk group (yeah I KNOW it can kill anyone, even healthy young people, but statistics show vast majority (over 90%) of most severe cases are very old and/or people with other conditions.

    Not living my life afraid of things but all of you are certainly welcome to. In the end not sure it will make much difference as practically everyone will be exposed at some point.

  11. I am willing to roll the dice on safe air travel but not on travel quarantines which pretty much eliminate any reason to engage in business or leisure (vacation) travel. If airlines and hotels want to get people moving again they need to convince world leaders to open the borders and relax home quarantine requirements. And that may not happen until we have sufficient quantities of instant testing kits.

  12. I see great demand for UV-C and Xenon-pulsed UV-C.

    Who wants to go into business with me?

    BTW, if you stay at an MGM property, ask for a clean comforter.

  13. It’s going to be the usual where those that can’t afford will be stuck with middle seats. I dread the idea of being on an airplane/hotel room/sporting event/restaurant until a vaccine is discovered. I’m in that higher risk category and I’d not take the chance of not being around for short term pleasures in 2020.

  14. With occupancy so low, I hope hotels take this opportunity to do comprehensive bed bug inspections. Science shows those suckers can live 6 moths to a year between feedings. Right now my fear of getting bedbugs from a hotel is still higher than getting COVID.

    I also hope the comments about Iceland being “open” for the summer come to fruition. I have a trip planned for the end of July!

  15. @AC

    All well and good – but there appears to be growing evidence that Covid19 can mutate as in re-infections of those previously infected, and that Covid19 seems to have the ability to damag T-Cells ala HIV.

    Since we are not looking at cruising until 2021 I’d imagine Casinos are at least that far.

  16. Its no longer enough to have just a clean room but one thats sanitized and decontaminated
    Having sheets not changed for your stay with the Green movement led to the occasional no sheet changes, mattress pads changes and comforters between guests @ hotels.
    Even at an 800 dollar luxury hotel in Beverly Hills I found pubic hair and stained sheets by lazy housekeepers that hadn’t likely changed them in weeks once we stripped the bed and looked
    And those outsourced housekeepers were a bad way to go too
    It use to be you only had to worry about the remote control and drinking glasses
    I’d say thats the least of our worries for now.Bad housekeeping may equal death

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