Safe, Separate, Sanitary: Your Cheat Sheet to AHLA Guidelines

Get an in-depth breakdown of how you can use “Safe Stay” guidelines to keep guests and employees informed and secure as you reopen.

Earlier this week, the AHLA revealed their new “Safe Stay” guidelines, a set of recommended hotel safety measures for American properties. As Chip Rogers, AHLA president and CEO, told USA TODAY, “It’s really an effort to make sure that no matter if you’re staying at an extended-stay economy hotel or you’re staying at the nicest luxury resort, that there will be at a minimum common standards across the entire industry.”

The regulations essentially have three core goals:

1. Keep everyone safe.

Everyone has a part to play when it comes to hotel safety in the future, from management to employees to guests. Since safety is the largest section of guidelines, it can be broken up into two key sections—communicating effectively and following CDC recommendations. Here’s how:

Communicate effectively:

  • Implement front and back of the house signage to remind employees of the health standards they need to maintain and guests of CDC recommendations surrounding hand washing and face masks.
  • Inform employees about new policies, like when to stay home and self-isolate and how to report a colleague or guest who has symptoms.

Follow CDC recommendations:

  • Install hand-washing/hand sanitizer stations at key guest and employee entrances and contact areas, like lobby reception areas and employee entrances. Hotels are specifically encouraged to consider touchless options that further minimize risk.
  • Train all employees on COVID-19 safety and facility sanitation protocols and include more comprehensive training for employees that come into contact with guests most often.
  • Make hand-washing and personal protective equipment (PPE) mandatory for employees. Hand-washing should be done either for a minimum of 20 seconds with soap and water or with hand sanitizer that has 60% alcohol content or higher. Employees should also have access to PPE and training on proper utilization and disposal.
  • Keep local health officials in the loop as soon as significant health issues emerge, and let them know immediately if you confirm an employee or guest has tested positive for COVID-19.

2. Keep everyone separated.

While lockdown regulations are lifting and hotels are looking to reopen, the country is not yet back to normal—and it would be dangerous for people to interact as they normally do. As such, the hotel guidelines focus heavily on keeping people separated and minimizing contact as often as possible. Here’s how:

  • Implement physical distancing for employees and guests. Employees are advised to practice distancing in dining rooms, locker rooms, and other common spaces. On the guest side, one-way guest flow with marked entrances and exits in common spaces is the recommendation. In meeting and pool areas, physical distancing is to be enforced as well. Meanwhile, the hotel can clearly mark areas to make people aware of appropriate space for distancing. Overall, employees and guests alike should look to practice physical distancing whenever possible.
  • Provide and encourage contactless service wherever possible, especially for check-in and check-out, parking, front desk, and concierge services. The less physical contact, the better. If you’re unable to provide contactless services through technology, try to create as much separation between people as possible—and where impossible, disinfect contact points regularly.
  • Give guests control over their housekeeping services, cleaning only when they request service or when safety measures require. Then, clean thoroughly upon check out.

3. Keep hotels sanitary.

The final goal is, of course, sanitation. It’s not just housekeeping that needs to pay attention to sanitation (though they’ll do the lion’s share of the work), but also food and beverage staff, front desk staff, and more that can pitch in to ensure the hotel remains as clean as possible. Here’s how:

  • High-touch, hard non-porous surfaces and items are extremely important for sanitization standards and protocols. These surfaces carry the novel coronavirus longest and are the most dangerous when it comes to spreading the virus. Spaces and items like front desk counters, elevator panels, door handles, and public bathrooms are to be cleaned and disinfected multiple times per day to limit the chance of infection.
  • Isolate and remove from rotation any room that has hosted a guest with a presumptive case of COVID-19 until deep-cleaned using EPA-approved products and CDC-recommended cleaning protocols.
  • No-contact food delivery, minimized dining options, and increased sanitization are now priorities for food and beverage departments. When food must be served in-person or in a buffet, it must be accompanied by an attendant wearing PPE. In the case of buffets, a sneeze and cough guard must be up at all times. In short, minimize physical contact and maximize cleanliness around food.
  • Housekeeping will bear the heaviest load and should be trained accordingly: from laundry to guest rooms to common spaces, cleaning will both increase and decrease as the virus remains active. Common areas are going to require much more daily attention and recently vacated guest rooms will undergo CDC-guided deep-cleans, but maintenance for occupied guest rooms will likely decrease as daily housekeeping is eliminated to prioritize distancing. To bear the increased workload, housekeeping will need extra training on safety and CDC recommendations and may need extra hands to help out.

As you look to follow the guidelines and best practices laid out in the AHLA “Safe Stay” report, keep in mind that they’re the baseline standard for hotel safety around the country. Research what your local regulations are and keep an eye out for new federal regulations as the situation evolves. Then, look for ways to augment them with your own protocols and standards. Safety, separation, and sanitization will be paramount to revitalizing your business in the post-coronavirus world—get a head start on delivering them now.

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