Hotels Tout Cleaning, But Guests Say, ‘My Room Was Dirty’

Henry Harteveldt, the founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a San Francisco-based travel market research firm, also conducted a survey of 2,500 business and leisure travelers in the United States last month. Three-quarters of respondents said they were somewhat or very concerned about catching Covid-19. Of the approximately 1,060 respondents who had stayed at least once in a hotel in the previous year, over 80 percent said it was important that hotels exceed guidelines for cleaning guest rooms issued by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The C.D.C. guidelines include, among other measures, the frequent use of E.P.A.-approved disinfectants on “surfaces and objects touched by multiple people,” as well as practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

If hotel owners fail to maintain cleanliness standards, Mr. Harteveldt said, “guests may be fearful about what else could go wrong. This could affect their willingness to return to the hotel and their brand loyalty to the hotel group.”

Although hotel companies, including Marriott and others, have instituted these new cleanliness standards, in many instances they do not own or operate the hotels bearing their brand names. According to STR, 61 percent of the 56,300 hotels in the United States today are branded, while 39 percent are independent. Most branded hotels are independently owned and operated by third parties, who are responsible for maintaining a brand’s cleanliness standards.

“Just because you walk into a hotel that has a brand name associated with it, that doesn’t mean the brand has any direct management involvement with that property,” said Mr. Harteveldt.

Not surprisingly, cleanliness issues also pose problems for some hotel housekeepers.

Lydia Hernandez, who has worked as a housekeeper for 15 years at the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing, is a member of Unite Here, a hospitality workers’ union in Canada and the United States. When the pandemic began, she only worked one day a week; more recently, she has been working five days a week, 8.5 hours each day. Ms. Hernandez said the hotel currently has between eight and 10 housekeepers working full-time; before the pandemic, she said there were 35.

Her greatest concern now is the number of guest rooms she is assigned to clean daily. Before the pandemic, she cleaned all guest rooms every day, a process she said took half an hour per room. Now she only cleans a guest room when a guest checks out and must follow Hilton’s new cleanliness standards. These include deep-cleaning 10 high-touch areas, decluttering paper amenities and placing a seal on the door of the guest room to indicate it has not been entered since it was cleaned.

Many guests today, she said, are “messier. They leave rooms to the point where it’s a disaster. They drink, eat chips, throw these all over the floor, in the bathroom, bathtub. It’s really bad.”

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