While the housekeeping staff did their job quietly, since COVID their role has taken on utmost importance as travelers seek properties that prioritize cleanliness and are cleaned.
Hoteliers have invested in personal protective equipment, improved cleaning techniques and disinfection infrastructure, and many of these new methods include adopting the latest technologies to ensure that every corner is clean and disinfected. As the hospitality industry faces the current labor crisis, these new techniques offer hoteliers the ability to get the job done with minimal labor and maximum efficiency.
While major hotel brands declined to participate in this story about how technology can help meet the housekeeping challenge, several vendors were willing to share their thoughts.
Robot vacuums are common in many hotels and are generally considered a quick fix for cleaning large areas. However, these tiny machines are better suited to simple, repetitive tasks and, to some extent, customer satisfaction, said David Grossman, president of Renue Systems. Robots need to improve and evolve much more before they can be used for daily housekeeping and nighttime janitorial work, he added.
Although they use less electricity, cleaning robots can be inefficient for hoteliers and cannot compensate for human intelligence in the cleaning procedure, said Albert Sledge, director of sales and business development, Visual Matrix . “Robots fail to detect stains on carpet, whereas humans can, and robots are unable to reach tight corners. Robots are also unable to provide detailed and deep cleaning of a surface. “said Sledge.
As robots fill in the gaps as the industry grapples with the labor crisis, the best way to manage is to automate tasks that can be automated and focus staff on tasks that require critical thinking and hospitality, said Mark Heymann, CEO of UniFocus, which has software. for automatic shift scheduling and focuses on optimizing staffing needs. Housekeepers can provide information about their availability and shift preferences, helping head housekeepers step in and assist with room rotation.
Renue offers electrostatic disinfection, which involves spraying an electrostatically charged mist and then allowing the chemical to disinfect the targeted surface. “Compared to a low-tech fogger, it’s faster and more efficient because it reaches the entire surface, including the non-visible sides,” Grossman said.
Some hotels have also installed UV-C lamps to sanitize high-touch items. Although these lights are very good at locating contaminated surfaces, they are not a very user-friendly option. “UV-C lamps are very expensive, which makes the economic case difficult. As their price drops, they could be a viable option,” said Sledge, whose company has a tool to help eliminate confusion and manage wasted work, as well as modules like onboarding text messages, Alexa integration and an employee safety device.
Deep and restorative cleaning is required to disinfect surfaces, as opposed to daily housekeeping, with frequency ranging from annually to quarterly.
“Our cleaning is especially needed since the start of the pandemic recovery due to hotel labor shortages and increased guest desire for clean properties,” Grossman added. “For many years we have offered disinfection services, but there was very little interest before COVID.”
Grossman believed that this reluctance was largely due to the fact that unlike every other service where there is a very visible difference before and after work, there is nothing visible about sanitizing. “Since the start of this pandemic, we have had some interest in disinfection, but still very little,” he added.
Renue and other suppliers offer hotel cleaning solutions to meet needs such as carpets, tiles and grout, curtains, furniture, marble/natural stone, concrete and kitchens. “We have measured our productivity against in-house staff and can clean at least three to five times as many rooms per day, reducing the labor cost per room and allowing hotels to use them faster” , Grossman said.
Return on investment for Renue’s cleaning methods is derived from increased customer scores, increased RevPAR (both through rates and occupancy) and deferred capital expenditures.
For Heymann at UniFocus, ROI is a two-pronged issue. “The first issue focuses on increasing the productivity of existing staff,” he said. “In the current state of the industry, overstaffing is not an issue, so we are focused on maximizing the productivity of our existing staff. The second ROI is balancing productivity and expectations Our systems have the ability to investigate customer experiences and review scores to determine “the right amount of service” to ensure customer experiences and value expectations are met or exceeded. , in turn, can lead to repeat customers and return business.
Persistent personnel crisis
The biggest challenge in housekeeping is the severe staff shortage and lack of experienced employees. Rooms are often not as clean as they are supposed to be due to lack of housekeeping staff, which impacts hotel sales. The significant shortage of employees continued in 2022.
Last-minute bookings can be difficult at understaffed properties and it can be difficult for hotels to have staff simultaneously overseeing essential on-line functions like reception and housekeeping . In fact, some hotels have been forced to turn away customers because they are understaffed to operate at full capacity.
“The hospitality industry is desperate to minimize its human resource needs. Tactics range from automated check-in to limited take-out meal service and reduced housekeeping frequency. Some of these developments will likely persist even when labor supply recovers,” Grossman said.
Suggesting that hoteliers and businesses need to adopt an “employer first” mindset, Heymann said even the increase in wages hasn’t been enough to retain employees.
“Employees appreciate the flexible working hours and work-life balance. Even with improved employee attraction and retention measures, customer expectations are difficult to meet. This forces hoteliers to get creative with staff productivity to meet guest satisfaction goals while managing staff burnout,” he added.
The future of the household
With the ongoing labor shortage in hotels, will housekeeping become an opt-in service in hotels? Although travelers have become accustomed to hotels not offering daily cleaning services, it seems a 60/40 ratio between those who want the service and those who don’t is emerging, said Sledge. “Due to staffing issues, hoteliers are finding creative ways to reduce the amount of cleaning they do daily during the stay. Whether it’s offering points instead of providing housekeeping or provide only the cleaning of the stay only on request.
Housekeeping will become opt-in for many brands, although mandatory cleaning will be done every three to five days, Grossman suggested. “Some of the higher end properties will continue with daily housekeeping. Many guests prefer less frequent housekeeping, so assuming that desire continues, less daily service will remain. One caveat is that vacationers tend to cause more wear and tear than business travelers. So some hotel managers want to at least inspect the rooms frequently to minimize any major damage to the rooms.
Eventually, housekeeping will have lower room quotas, offer higher wages, and attendants will spend more time per room, Grossman says, adding that while housekeeping was primarily a behind-the-scenes act, it will now intentionally become more visible.