New cleaning, social distancing protocols could cost US hotel industry $9b, report finds

Hotel asset management company quantifies increase in necessary operational costs.

New cleaning protocols in response to COVID-19 could potentially cost the US hotel industry as much as $9 billion, according to new research by hotel asset management company, Hotel Asset Value Enhancement (hotelAVE).

Post Script, hotelAVE’s operational efficiency division, estimates new cleaning protocols could potentially cost the hotel industry as much as $9 billion on an annual basis, based on factors such as the increased frequency of cleaning guest rooms and public spaces, new supply costs and reopening expenses.

“Hotel operations are fundamentally changing as result of this pandemic, and the ability to create staffing plans and job classifications that reflect the new reality will serve as a major differentiator as hotels prepare to reopen and welcome back their employees and guests,” Michelle Russo, CEO of hotelAVE, said.

“It is absolutely necessary for hotels to reimagine many fundamental standards and practices if they expect to address guest concerns and eventually recover profitably.

“Rather than assuming that new cleaning and social distancing protocols require additional staff and operating costs, owners, asset managers and operational efficiency experts should quantify a customised solution for each hotel in order to install the necessary cleaning and sanitation protocols, mitigate additional costs and adapt to changing consumer behaviors.”

Post Script estimates the average hotel housekeeper will incur an additional 5-7 minutes of cleaning time per check-out room in order to address new and necessary cleaning standards.

While high-touch and non-porous surfaces such as door handles, light switches, lamps, clock radios, remote controls and phones will require additional attention, the process to remove and launder terry and bedding will also be different, as will the application of electrostatic equipment to spray soft goods and other hard-to-clean surfaces.

According to Post Script, public spaces will also require as much as 50 per cent more labour in order to effectively disinfect high-touch areas at an increased frequency. The study states hotels can also expect to see a 30 per cent  increase in related cleaning supplies, which will be driven by greater cleaning frequency and potentially more expensive disinfectant products.

Post Script estimates the addition of in-room personal sanitisers, single-use collateral and costly PPE changes required for each room cleaning could cost the average hotel an additional $3.00 per occupied room (POR).

In order to combat these increases, the report recommends reducing the amount of in-room terry, exchanging vs adding bath amenities and decluttering rooms of collateral, compendiums and other infrequently used items to reduce cleaning and restocking requirements.

In addition to ongoing PPE purchases, hotels must also account for the cost of implementing and communicating the new safety initiatives and measures to guests throughout the property.

The average 150-room hotel should plan to budget approximately $30,000 for related supplies, such as hand sanitiser stations in public spaces, plexiglass barriers and new signage and floor markers to ensure proper guest distancing.

While employee training, personal thermometers and hand-held electrostatic sprayers will be as necessary as vacuums, it will come at four times the cost.

The report notes hotels must adapt to changing consumer behavior which will mandate less frequent face to face guest interaction and more technology. That affects everything from the arrival experience and role of the bell staff to mobile check-in.

Hotels must approach the new cleanliness/sanitation requirements as one component of the “new normal” that should be implemented simultaneous with other operational modifications to ensure a guest driven solution that also manages to the bottom line.

The release of the report comes as many global hotel chains ramp up their cleaning protocols, including RadissonHiltonHyatt and Marriott International.

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