By Brian Stern
The current worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the entire hotel industry, as well as general tourism, air and cruise ship travel, the convention industry and all other travel-related categories. Even though the situation will change for the better in the future, some of the basic things in life will never be the same. This is particularly true for the hotel industry as the plunge in reservations and RevPAR were precipitous, beginning their dramatic tumble in the first weeks of March, which unfortunately continues the same downward trend even now.
Due to the most recent spike, many states are experiencing the next wave of infections, threatening renewed hotel closures as we are fast approaching the holiday season.
The hotel and travel industries, like so many other industries from manufacturing, sales and services, were simply caught unprepared for the advent of the novel coronavirus. The concept of “preparedness” becomes important when we consider the typical market forces that have guided the vast majority of companies since the beginning of the 20th century.
American enterprise, and even the valuation of most companies, is based on placing efficiency and cost containment over resiliency and preparedness. The obvious result of this orientation is the difference between short-term thinking and long-term planning.
The truth is, it’s hard for many companies to shoulder the costs associated with being prepared for “whatever may come” in their desire to operate in the most cost-efficient ways possible. Even for higher-end luxury hotels, costs are often weighed against the perceived benefit. Buying and stockpiling expensive disinfection equipment, materials and even employee hours, when not faced with a potential pathogenic threat is nearly unthinkable—more of a Hollywood movie plot than anything that might occur in real life.
Things Have Changed
This pandemic has forced the hotel industry, as well as so many other industries, to reevaluate the notion of efficiency vs. preparedness. And, as we consider the future of travel and hotel accommodations, the implications for hotel design and remodeling creates new opportunities for resiliency and survival in the months and years to come.
Technologies exist today that not only help in the short term, but can be powerful solutions in the future, if the hospitality world places more value on being prepared for any future infectious event. And, it’s important to consider that travelers, driven by concern and in search of peace of mind and higher standards of safety, will be searching for accommodations that provide for higher levels of disinfection. The traveling public will not soon forget the impact and fear created by this pandemic.
UV light disinfection is the technology that can significantly impact the future of the hospitality industry. More than ever, hotels and resorts are turning to the germicidal properties of UV light to quickly disinfect guestrooms, fitness facilities, bathrooms and other public spaces in order to earn the confidence of re-emerging travelers searching for safety protocols that can protect them against the COVID-19 virus. UV light products, if powerful enough, can make spaces where people gather up to 99.9% pathogen-free.
Build Toward Preparedness
UV disinfection light technology, delivered through small yet powerful units integrated into rooms, restaurants, spas, event spaces and other public areas of a hotel, is one way of seamlessly bringing disinfection into the overall operation of a hotel. The disinfection qualities of UV light have been scientifically proven for well over 100 years.
Recent innovations of this technology have made the delivery of UV light disinfection more powerful, flexible and affordable than ever. From UV lighting products mounted into the ceilings of bathrooms, to portable units that can disinfect all surfaces and the air in hotel rooms, to autonomous robots that follow predetermined paths throughout unpopulated halls and large public areas, hotels can build in clinical-level disinfection cycles to keep guests, staff and visitors safe from infectious diseases.
Unlike traditional housekeeping protocols that use harsh chemical cleaners to wipe down surfaces, UV light can not only inactivate up to 99.9% of viruses, including today’s COVID-19 virus, but can destroy molds, fungi and bacteria that plague so many hotels nationwide.
As architects and lighting specifiers consider helping their hotel clients be as prepared as possible for any future pathogen, as well as provide real solutions for containing the growth of bacteria, molds and fungi, building in UV lighting solutions from the very start will allow hotels to continue to operate responsibly and profitably come what may. The cost of this layer of preparation can be far less than the cost of operational shutdown. And, in time, the overall cost of building in sanitation by UV light can be less than the constant cost of stockpiling additional chemical cleaners and the labor hours needed to do all disinfection by hand.
As we navigate the world beyond COVID-19, it’s important to realize that this is simply not the end, and the next time we are faced with an event such as this pandemic, we will take comfort in knowing that we have innovative solutions to create a safe place for guests, travelers and the public in general.
Brian Stern is the CEO/cofounder of Puro UV Disinfection Lighting and LED Supply Co., LLC.
This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.