Dirty Hotel Rooms and the Negative Impact on Traveler Loyalty

written by Jackie Kavege, Senior Manager, Global Built-in Marketing

Dirty Hotel Rooms vs Traveler Loyalty

Maintaining customer loyalty is key in the hospitality industry, as acquiring a new customer is anywhere from five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Traveler loyalty is impacted by the perceived and actual cleanliness of hotel rooms, as travelers note room quality as the number one reason for selecting a hotel. Missing the mark on dirty hotel rooms has a lasting impact on the overall guest experience.

Anyone who travels for business has felt that uneasy feeling when you open the door to your hotel room, holding your breath as you walk through the threshold. We are hoping for a clean, well-appointed room that will make a great home-away-from-home. However, what we sometimes get is a dirty hotel room that makes us wish we hadn't left our disinfectant wipes at home. As a result, we spend the next nights trying to avoid touching compromised spaces and holding the remote control with our sleeve. A recent article in Time Magazine highlights the dirtiest places in your hotel room. Light switches and TV remote controls were at the top of the list - not surprising as they are high touch surfaces that are not often cleaned. However, bedspreads, drinking glasses and coffee pots were also highly ranked. In addition, the bathroom has been shown to be a breeding ground for bacteria in a study in the American Journal of Infection Controlsimply because of the spread of bacteria from flushing the toilet.

Additional studies around this issue demonstrate that even higher priced hotel rooms still have cleanliness issues. A hidden camera report in USA Today found that cleaning protocols were not followed closely across a wide range of hotel brands and price points. This is an issue of growing concern for travelers, as there doesn't appear to be a way to escape dirty hotel rooms.

Why Should Hotels Care About Bacteria in Guest Rooms?

We know that there are potentially harmful impacts as a result of bacteria exposure. Although most of the bacteria we come into contact with is not harmful, precautions should be taken to manage exposure, especially if a guest is already sick. In addition to respiratory issues that may result from dirty vents, hotel guests can also contract infections from significant bacteria exposure. Frequent hand washing and practicing basic hygiene will help travelers avoid potentially negative impacts, but hotels do not have control over guests' habits. 

A recent Reader's Digest article highlights the specific illnesses that travelers can be exposed to, based on the types of bacteria found in hotel rooms. Bacteria causing everything from gastrointestinal issues to skin infections can be found on common, high touch surfaces.

As the hospitality industry becomes more competitive, hotel management companies are looking for ways to differentiate their brand and grow customer loyalty. Hotel chains are implementing programs centered around everything from water conservation to sustainability in efforts to reach their consumers and grow market share. However, research shows that 77% of business and leisure travelers value the quality of the room in determining preference. Travelers want to know that extra effort has been taken by their hotel of choice to ensure a pleasant experience, including provision of a clean hotel room.

Solutions to the Dirty Hotel Room Problem

There are very specific actions that can be taken to impact cleanliness in hotels. Although we know facility maintenance in the hospitality industry can include lapses in adherence to cleaning protocols, taking steps to make the cleaning process more effectively can have a positive impact on the issue. For example, a University of Houston study recommends replacing cleaning liquids during housekeeping shifts to help avoid cross-contamination of sponges and mops used the clean the rooms. Simple changes to the way a hotel staff cleans have been shown to have a positive impact.

In addition, hotel managers and manufacturers of products used in the hospitality industry should seek products that directly address the issue of dirty hotel rooms. Products that are easier to clean and remain cleaner between cleanings can be a key factor in a systems approach to establishing one's travel brand as the "cleaner" hotel option.

While not a replacement for normal cleaning practices, products enhanced with Microban built-in antimicrobial product protection are proven to remain cleaner between standard cleanings. The constantly active technology incorporated at the point of manufacture creates an environment where bacteria growth is inhibited, reducing the risks of bacteria spreading on the surface of high touch products. Incorporated into building materials, Microban technologies help reduce the growth of mold and mildew, increasing product durability and longevity.

The hospitality industry is already responding to this growing concern by implementing antimicrobial technologies in products for a cleaner hotel experience. TV remote controls by Amertac (Zenith), phones, bedding and even wallpaper sold into the industry can be found with built-in protection against the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.

However, more can be done. Nearly every product and surface within hotel rooms, from furniture to bathroom fixtures and sanitary ware can be treated with Microban protection. 

Contact us today to learn more about establishing a trademark of cleanliness in the hospitality industry.