16 November 2020
A recent investigation by Which? Travel has found that some hotels are failing to adequately sanitise every room between guests, despite claims that cleaning regimes have been enhanced.
The secret inspectors went undercover in two Brittannia properties, the Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone and Brighton’s Royal Albion. Using germ simulation powder and swab tests, they uncovered poor cleanliness and hygiene practices. Both substances are washable and invisible to the naked eye, but glow red under ultraviolet light.
Brittania claims that their rooms are ‘freshly sanitised’ to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the investigation showed that items such as TV remote control, door handle, plug socket, kettle & coffee mugs had not been thoroughly cleaned in between guest stays. In the bathroom, the taps, soap dispenser, toilet brush and flush also glowed red.
This discovery is especially worrying as according to The New England Journal of Medicine, COVID-19 can remain on surfaces for up to 72 hours.
The inspectors went on to review a further five hotels during August with Sofitel and Old English Inns performing well in the tests.
All of the hotels that Which? Travel inspectors visited all had been verified by the Visit England We’re Good to Go scheme: an industry standard developed to reassure guests that government and Public Health guidance is being followed. Hotel operators only need to complete a basic self-assessment form to be accepted on to the scheme. If all the criteria are met, then the endorsement can be displayed to reassure the general public. Random spot checks are also due to be carried out, but when Which? visited in late summer only 151 of the 7,000 properties had been inspected.
Which? discussed the findings with VisitEngland and they sent an assessor to the Britannia Grand Burstin Hotel, but found no reason to remove it from the We’re Good to Go scheme.
The Safe, Clean & Legal scheme is then recognised as being ‘more robust’, with the application process requiring detailed answers and highlighting that ALL properties are inspected by an independent third party.
Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism says “Part of the development of the Safe, Clean & Legal scheme was to reassure guests that their stay was safe. Originally focused on the sharing economy to highlight responsible operators, we updated the scheme earlier this year in line with COVID-19 guidance. We believe that each and every property should be inspected, and the Safe, Clean & Legal schemes underpins all of our other offerings such as REST, star gradings and WellBMe. We are delighted that Which? Travel, has recognised the quality of our scheme and what support we offer to the operators in order to navigate the changing requirements.”
Badge schemes that are little more than 'box ticking' can too easily be taken advantage of and lull guests into believing a stay is safer than it is. As our tests show, promises of enhanced cleaning aren't always happening. This won't just ruin a stay, it may be dangerous. Given VisitEngland is doing so few inspections, look instead for the Safe, Clean & Legal badge (although it covers far fewer properties). With smaller B&Bs and owner/ host stays you can call ahead and ask about cleaning. They should be using an EPA-registered disinfectant, and be willing to tell you so. Under the Consumer Rights Act, your hotel must provide 'reasonable care': so even a cheap room must meet basic cleanliness levels. If you're unhappy, insist on a different room or ask for your money back.
To read the full article visit the Which? Travel website