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by Jena Tesse Fox
Hotel guests may well appreciate seeing visible protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19, but they might be unaware of how hotels are changing their laundry operations—from laundry facilities available for guest use to the industrial-sized machines back-of-house—to keep them safe.
Travis Murray, VP of operations at McNeill Hotel Co., said teams at each of the properties in the management company’s portfolio visit the guest laundry facilities “every hour on the hour” to make sure the maximum occupancy limits are being observed. These limits, he added, vary depending on how large the laundry rooms are. “We haven’t had any complaints,” he said. “Most guests, they see another guest in there and they wait until the other person leaves.” The guest laundry facilities also have sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer available for anyone who needs it, he added.
Laundry facilities at Extended Stay America hotels are similarly limited, said Mike Kuenne, SVP, chief customer experience officer at Extended Stay America, with signs outside each laundry room door specifying capacity. “We thought that was a good balance of providing the amenity that our guests need and rely upon—because this really is their home—but also making sure that we have safety protocols in place.” The company also has stepped up the rollout of contactless credit card readers—which also work with phone payment apps—for the machines, making it easier for guests to touch as little as possible.
Robert Rauch, managing partner at the Hilton Campus San Diego/Del Mar and the Fairfield Inn & Suites San Diego North/San Marcos, has not heard complaints from guests at his properties about limited access to the laundry facilities. “Every one of our guests understands the law, and also understands that it’s been suggested that it can help reduce the spread of the virus, and that’s what we want to do—protect all of you.”
Back of House
Safety protocols have forced a sea change in back-of-house laundry procedures. At McNeill’s hotels, only one housekeeper goes into a guestroom at a time to collect the linens. The collection bins then go directly to the laundry room after each floor is serviced and are then cleaned to prevent cross-contamination from floor to floor. “But the biggest thing is just limiting the amount of people that are collecting and moving the dirty linens,” Murray said.
Rauch said his properties have reduced sending out guest laundry dry cleaning from daily to weekly. “There are not a lot of guests who are sending their laundry out right now,” he said. “When they do, we call the laundry company and they come pick it up.”
Some guests at Rauch’s properties have opted to forego housekeeping entirely in order to minimize contact and limit the risk of exposure—which can make getting fresh linens somewhat challenging. “Some of them want to make their own beds,” he said. “They will actually strip their own beds, give us their linen and we’ll give them fresh sheets, pillowcases [and] towels.”
Extended Stay America has implemented a similar contactless linen exchange, Kuenne said. At check-in, guests can opt out of housekeeping and, instead, leave dirty linens outside and collect clean linens they can put on the beds themselves. “By listening to them, we’re able to have that linen exchange more frequently if they want it, or without having us to interact with them in their guestroom.”