Out of sight, out of mind. That's a mantra hotel guests tend to adopt as they tuck into rooms inhabited by hundreds of previous guests -- and possibly the microscopic germs and debris they leave behind.
Best Western International on Thursday announced a new approach to cleaning those things visitors can't see. The chain said its aggressive cleaning program was inspired by research showing a lack of consumer confidence in cleanliness among midscale hotels.
Starting this year, Best Western housekeepers will be equipped with ultraviolet sterilization wands to use on highly touched areas such as telephones, bathroom fixtures and light switches. UV black lights will be used during housekeeping inspections to detect biological matter and other particles, the chain said.
Rooms will be outfitted with remote controls that are easy to clean or wrapped for cleanliness. Pillows, blankets and towels will be wrapped to show they're freshly cleaned.
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Best Western plans to roll out the "I Care Clean" program throughout 2012 after pilot programs yielded increased guest satisfaction.
"We are unlocking the potential of the housekeeping profession by providing new tools and training to help ensure customer satisfaction, loyalty and ultimately trust," said Ron Pohl, Best Western senior vice president of brand management, in a statement.
Howard Adler, a professor at Purdue University's School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, said he suspects Best Western's move was prompted by media reports of bodily fluids found on hotel surfaces. He said most hotel companies have excellent standards.
"In many cases hotel rooms are cleaner than peoples' (own) bedrooms or bathrooms," he said via e-mail.
Enforcing standards of cleanliness can be a challenge though.
"Housekeeping personnel are often called upon to take heavy loads and adding additional components to the routine will probably not be the answer," he said. Solid training and a diligent follow-through are the most important factors to maintaining high housekeeping standards, Adler said.
But new policies are sometimes adopted to calm guest fears.
"I relate this to homeland security. We are not any safer, but many people believe that we are," he said.
What do you think? Is there a surefire way to eliminate germs? Do you really want to know what's in your room?