One of the challenges of infection control within a hotel environment is the movement of people. Guests, staff, and visitors are in almost constant motion, particularly through your common areas, and every person brings a potential infection risk that could shut your business down. It wasn’t long after pubs and hotels opened that we saw the first premises close again, often within days of reopening, because a former guest or patron had tested positive for Covid-19, and sadly, this is a pattern that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.
Current guidance for managing infection risk within hospitality is threefold:
1. introduce cleaning routines that enhance the depth and frequency of cleaning and therefore keep on top of potential spread through surface touching
2. keep accurate records of everyone who frequents the premises so that contact tracing is possible
3. adapt your business environment to reduce interpersonal contact including social distancing, face coverings, increased ventilation, and a Covid-19 risk assessment for example.
Some businesses are going one step further and investing in monitoring to identify high-risk guests, such as infrared thermometers for example. The question is whether these steps are actually enough, or whether they just create the perception of safety within an environment? According to research by King’s College London, who ran an antibody testing study, at least one in five people from the testing control group didn’t show any symptoms at all of Covid-19 despite having / having had the virus, meanwhile more than 25% who did fall ill, did so without having any of the three core symptoms that commonly identify those with Covid-19. Hoteliers are not and cannot claim to be infection control experts, but how do you manage the real risk effectively without these skills?
It is for this exact reason that hospitality businesses should be utilising cutting-edge air sterilisation techniques to keep their teams, guests, and visitors safe. Traditional cleaning is an effective method of preventing infection transfer temporarily, but it is not an efficient one. To be truly safe, you would either have to follow every guest around the hotel cleaning everything they touched, or you have to trust that those people moving through your hotel are not one of the super spreaders that show no symptoms but leave the virus in their wake. That’s a big ask and totally impractical, so how do you bridge the gap between cleaning times to ensure that your guests are safe? Air sterilisation units provide the solution, and with costs as low as £193 + VAT for 24/7 protection, it is no surprise that we’re seeing hotels and hospitality businesses starting to invest in this kind of technology to keep guests safe.
So how does Air Sterilisation work?
Air Sterilisation units can be wall mounted or mobile and vary in size according to power, room size and room type. Most are discrete and easy to overlook. They work by drawing in air and passing it through a series of infection control systems which combine to kill 99.9% of germs and viruses, before releasing the purified air as a plasma back into the room which causes air borne contaminants to fall from the air as well as breaking down contamination in the air and exposed surfaces, damaging microorganism cell walls and thus stopping reproduction and destroying the cell. Not only does this help to manage airborne pathogens and aerosolised germs, but the draw of air over surfaces – any surfaces including hard and soft materials – also kills the germs which are left behind by touching, breathing and coughing or which have settled in the environment.
At CorrMed, we work with internationally acclaimed air sterilisation brand AIRsteril and supply these into businesses across the UK, including for use in ambulances and medical environments. The AIRsteril technology combines sterilising, cleaning, and purifying technologies, including germicidal UV light, dual UV operation, Photocatalytic Oxidation (PCO) and a purifying plasma of superoxide ions and optimal ozone. It might sound like scientific jargon, but the reality is that it works, and independent testing by Leeds University shows airborne microorganisms were undetectable after just 60 minutes. The core advantage is that it works constantly, so even if guests move around and leave pathogens behind in between your cleaning schedules, virus and bacteria will likely be eliminated in a matter of minutes if not hours. To put this into context, AIRsteril was tested in a quantified NHS call centre environment, prior to the pandemic; constant air sterilisation resulted in a 42% reduction in absenteeism, particularly for asthma, cold, cough, influenza, chest, and respiratory problems. The equivalent cost saving was £213,704 over the nine-month monitoring period. While the priority in a hospitality environment is guest safety rather than absenteeism of staff, this model translates to significantly reduced infection transfer, and significantly reduced disruption to guests and businesses through suspected Covid-19 cases.
There is an additional advantage to introducing air sterilisation units into your property and that is odour control. Air purification helps to tackle and ultimately eliminate odours from chemical contaminants such as cleaning chemicals, traffic fumes and paint fumes for example, as well as organic odours such as food and body smells, cigarette smoke, and washroom smells. This creates a more pleasant environment with less need for odour management and air fresheners, which is of course an added advantage.
Air sterilisation in practice
The Calcot Collection of Hotels has introduced air sterilisation throughout the collection, following an initial pilot with the housekeeping team at the Barnsley House Hotel. As part of a desire to go the ‘extra mile’ and provide 24/7 protection to guests and staff, the trial initially included a mobile sterilisation unit to enhance the cleaning routine in bedrooms, but the group has since deployed mobile units throughout the properties and extended to fixed units in the spas where ventilation is more challenging. Executive housekeeper Olive Hannah says “The technology is marvellous. I was sceptical at first, thinking this would be a machine with chemicals and how it would corrode our buildings, fabrics, and materials. We take such care to manage our buildings, some of which are grade II listed, we were so thrilled to find a chemical free system. What was an added bonus, is that AIRsteril also eliminates unpleasant odours. Sometimes we struggle to turnover a room to the standards we expect if a child has been ill or similar events have caused offensive odours. Now with the AIRsteril system that CorrMed provide, we no longer have this problem as within a couple of hours all is cleansed and the rooms is fresh as the country air outside.”
General Manager Michele Mella comments “As a hotel group we strive to ensure guests have a relaxing stay knowing that we are taking the utmost care of them. What appealed to us with the Air Sterilisation system that CorrMed provide was the chemical free aspect. We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and try at all times to reduce our carbon footprint, avoid unnecessary chemicals and plastics, and use sustainable resources. AIRsteril is a chemical free solution to provide fresh air, kill virus and bacteria and protect our staff and guests and for us this was exactly the right solution.”