By GIO BENITEZ and MINA KAJI, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As more Americans hit the road for what experts are calling the “summer of the road trip,” hotel chains and Airbnb hosts are stepping up their cleaning game and using new technologies in an effort to convince guests they are safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hotel giant Marriott International is using electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant — a tool U.S. airlines have also begun using — to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel.
The sprayers can be used to clean guest rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas, according to Marriott.
“A lot of the cleaning that you will physically see is going to be happening in public spaces,” Chip Rogers, the president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) said. “So when you’re in a lobby at the pool and a workout room in hallways, anywhere where the public is gathering or passing each other, you’re going to see a lot more cleaning people physically cleaning more than they have in the past.”
The Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles and its sister property, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, are now using a UV light robot, which the manufacturer says reaches a 99.9% level of disinfection.
“UV light disinfection has been around about 100 years,” James Malley, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire, said. “Done well, it can be a great tool in the toolbox, because it’s an extremely rapid physical disinfectant that is chemical-free and it literally works at the speed of light.”
Rogers said hotels have been cleaning against viruses for many years, “well before coronavirus.” But even with these new technologies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends various precautions.
Before arriving at any hotel, the CDC recommends travelers use options for online check-in when possible and call to ask if the hotel’s staff are all wearing cloth face coverings.
The agency says to minimize time spent in areas that may lead to close contact with other people as much as possible, like break rooms, patios, lounging areas, pools, salons and fitness centers.
If the hotel has multiple floors, the CDC says to “consider taking the stairs” or wait until the elevator is empty.
Dr. Jennifer Lighter, an associate hospital epidemiologist and pediatric infectious disease physician, said travelers should pay the most attention to frequently-touched surfaces in a hotel like doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches.
Travelers “should look for a hotel that cleans the frequently-touched surfaces often, and that they require everyone to wear a face mask when not in their hotel room,” Lighter said.
Although each home is not checked, since it is privately owned, short-term rental companies like Airbnb are also promising an enhanced cleaning protocol.
The company issued a checklist of items for hosts, stating that places must be cleaned and sanitized between each guest’s stay. This includes fans and lamp chains, window handles, thermostats, condiments, faucet handles and more.
Airbnb has also encouraged hosts to consider adding a few extra supplies of hand soaps, paper towels, tissues and toilet paper.
“What we require is those hosts who have participated in the cleaning protocol to attest that they are, in fact, applying it,” Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s senior vice president for global policy and communications, said.
The company has seen more travelers looking to visit less urban and more rural destinations, including the Adirondacks, Catskills and Hudson Valley in New York, The Berkshires in Massachusetts, and North Carolina’s Outer Banks and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
American Airlines and United Airlines are seeing the same trends — both airlines are adding flights to areas with mountain hiking and national parks for the summer.
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