Clean and Fresh Bathrooms

When an Inspector calls…                                                                                    

Clean and fresh; Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism, talks bathrooms. Deborah manages a field force of more than 40 assessors, as part of the accommodation assessment scheme for VisitEngland; each assessor grades around 500 properties a year, ensuring that they are safe, clean and legal.

Bathrooms are one of the more contentious issues for guests, with cleanliness and hygiene a top priority, not forgetting the need for comfort and luxury. It is a fine line between clinical and clean, and cosy and comfortable, and one which guests are adept at expecting and quick to criticise.

Bathrooms feature heavily in our inspection criteria, accounting for between 10% and 15% of the overall grading. They are a key focus for inspector training, and are one area where the criteria vary according to the type of accommodation and the size of the business and the property. For example, Hotels must provide private or ensuite facilities for all guests, to qualify for a star grading, with ensuite facilities a must to achieve a three star rating or higher. Guest accommodation on the other hand, including self-catering cottages for example, can provide shared facilities, as long as guest numbers do not exceed six in any self-contained property. 

All our gradings incorporate ‘provision’ i.e. what type of facilities are available and where; ‘quality’ including practical fixtures and fittings, flooring, and décor; ‘size’, ‘quality of the water supply’; ‘lighting, heating and ventilation’; and ‘towels and toiletries’. These criteria assess everything from whether there is a toilet lid, properly fitted and useable, through to whether there is evidence of wear and tear, or areas of concern such as cracked tiles. We assess the quality of the deep cleaning, including mould-free seals, washable flooring (recommended as best practice rather than carpet), and the opacity of any external windows. Finally, we assess the non-fixed items which change with the guests, including the towels and bath mats, and the toiletries.

Bathrooms are an area which combine health and safety with style and comfort, quality with longevity, and are important contributors to overall guest experience. Not only do we assess the physical attributes of the room, alongside the processes and procedures for maintenance, but we also offer best practice guidelines to business owners and managers, that maximise the potential grading level. These are:

  • When planning any bathroom, identify ways to maximise space and if possible, try to opt for the best solution rather than the cheapest. For example, wet rooms can save space and provide more room to manoeuvre than a shower tray, but these benefits will be lost if the drainage is bad and your guests are left with a sopping wet room. Choose the best for your space, as simple but effective wins out over luxury but impractical every time!
  • Go for practical, washable flooring over carpet. Carpet can get wet, start to smell and is difficult to clean. There are many washable floor surfaces which are practical, yet remain tactile and welcoming, and if your bathroom space is large enough, you can always offer a carpeted ‘dressing’ area for an extra luxury touch.
  • Think about the practical applications of your bathroom, through the eyes of your guests. Yes it needs to look nice and have all the amenities, but it also needs to work well if a guest is staying a few days. Speaking to our inspectors, ‘magic’ touches include plenty of space to leave out your own toiletries, as well as the opportunity to sit down in front of a mirror if possible.
  • Balance the environmental considerations. Although many guests may not notice or even value your environmental approaches, bathrooms are a prime area for environmental adaptations including hippos or low flush toilet cisterns, controlled-flow shower heads, towel reuse rather than replacement and the like. As well as being part of your business responsibility and ethics, there are also cost-savings to be gained by putting environmentally-friendly technologies front and centre.
  • Be true to your brand. Bathrooms are an area which can be neglected by businesses and are often graded one or two grades lower than the rest of the business. Give as much attention to the bathroom as you do to the bedrooms and front of house, so that your bathroom experience is on a par with the rest of the business. This may be in providing robes and high-end branded toiletries for five star, while high-quality towels are expected for a three star for example.

A bathroom is a bathroom is a bathroom, but the quality of the fitting, combined with the calibre of the clean can make a world of difference not only to your guests’ experience of the actual bathroom, but to the overall feeling of security, comfort and positivity of their entire stay. Even the New York Times travel section dedicated a feature to the rise of luxury hotel bathrooms and their role in helping a customer decide where to stay.

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