The hospitality industry has undergone an incredibly challenging 18 months. The path ahead as we emerge from the pandemic has presented new opportunities, methodologies and ideas on how we view the health and safety of our guests and employees. One department which has played a crucial role in securing the industry’s recovery post-pandemic is housekeeping. In 2020, as research into the pandemic was emerging, the New England Journal of Medicine issued a study on how long the virus could live on surfaces. This ultimately changed everybody’s perspective and meant cleaning practices and standards from housekeeping teams required enhanced protocols, to tackle the ever-changing challenges and expectations presented by the virus.
At the start of the pandemic, we received regular circulars from Dubai Municipality and DTCM in parallel to internal information including guidance and procedures from our cleaning chemical suppliers. It was immediately apparent that cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces regularly became an important precaution to lower the risk of infection. We were concerned with how we could prevent the spread of the virus, whilst at the same time minimising movement and ensuring hygiene standards were followed by every individual. As a result, cleaning protocols needed to be reviewed and adjusted. Looking back, I remember how crucial it was that any new information was shared and filtered down to every employee. We formed WhatsApp groups, started regular Zoom meetings and set daily email alerts for ‘breaking news in the cleaning Industry’, to be kept well informed about the latest cleaning solutions and technologies that could help to shape the new normal.
In order to provide the highest standard of health and safety, our Standard Operating Procedures for various cleaning processes also required constant updating. With new information being received daily, we focused on developing updated hospitality cleanliness standards, norms, and behaviors intended to reduce risk and improve safety for both consumers and associates. Continuous training for our staff was therefore extremely vital, especially as there were many changes at the beginning of the pandemic. Examples included learning to understand the ‘dwell time’ of disinfectants so that they would be effective, the implementation and importance of colour coded micro fibre cloth and ensuring enough supplies were available to prevent cross contamination. In addition, a second, final round of touch-point cleaning with disinfectant was implemented. We also provide a check list, which especially helps new team members to remember everything that needs to be covered in terms of touch points. Cleaning contributes to one of the most important aspects of life, our health, by providing effective infection control in the areas being cleaned. I think we can all agree that cleaning will never be the same post pandemic, especially as global awareness of the subject has been made more important and people are seeing the value of routine cleaning.
Technology has also played a vital role in how housekeeping has adapted methods for more effective cleanliness and hygiene standards. Breaking the chain of infection, especially in washrooms, using new gadgets such as the Dubai Municipality approved fogging machines which mist the areas with disinfectant are incredibly useful. Some tech companies have also come up with cleaning robots, mainly for floor cleaning which can be a great asset, especially when you have larger back-of-house areas. Another technological advancement is the use of UV lights to sterilize room keys, phones and other small objects, while larger UVC lamps can be used to decontaminate objects and surfaces in guest rooms for example. Lastly, there are sanitizer liquids and sprays, which promise to keep your skin protected from germs for up to 24 hours and other surfaces for up to 30 days. It is important that we make use of the many new products and technologies available to offer total hygiene solutions throughout our properties and create a safe environment for our guests and our colleagues. Last but least, it is prudent to consider the sustainability angle of any cleaning and hygiene regime. Many chemicals are harmful to the environment and should be used with caution. A great alternative is to use electrolyzed salt water, a modern form of technology that uses electricity to change the chemical structure of salt and water into a greener cleaner and disinfectant that is as effective as bleach but without chemicals.
I’ll be raising all of these concepts and more as a speaker at The Hotel Show Dubai 2021, utilizing this prominent platform for people within the Housekeeping industry to share ideas and their own thoughts. It will also be the ideal opportunity to network with other members of the Housekeeping community at the UAE Professional Housekeepers Group Meeting and the Housekeepers League of Champions. As one of the leading forums bringing together sectors across the hospitality industry, The Hotel Show Dubai, 2021 is helping to make strides towards a bright, safe and clean future for all