Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, the travel industry has suffered badly, with some hotels’ occupancy in Hong Kong reaching as low as a single digit a day. With significantly fewer guests at the hotel and fewer ways to gather feedback on services and guest satisfaction, plus financials under extreme pressure, many hotels risk losing sight of what are meaningful experiences during this time of unfamiliar adversity.
In the hospitality industry, having guests and staff being a top priority is easier said than done. The team and I stand firmly to believe that guest and staff safety come first, because we want them to know and truly experience that we are doing everything we can to welcome them to a safe and clean hotel environment. COVID-19 will completely modify the way travelers travel and select their hotel. We know the incremental investment on hygiene and health care technology is inevitable and that the hotel’s health care innovation will be progressive, even when COVID-19 is behind us.
UV light air purification
In April, we kicked off the first phase of our air purification system. Knowing COVID-19 could be an airborne disease, the air conditioning system is one of the top priorities and thus we are working with a local company that specializes in UV light air purification systems. Our buffet restaurant, The Market, and the Silverbox ballroom are now equipped with this system, which is installed in the air handling units (AHUs) and fan coil units (FCUs) found in the air conditioning system to eliminate pollutants circulating in the systems. The second phase is to implement this technology in guest rooms, staff canteen and changing rooms.
The UV light technology utilizes photochemistry and photoplasma. Photoplasma is the disinfection of organic compounds by breaking down the compounds’ electron bonds with the help of photons in the ultraviolet spectral range. The machine also helps create cold plasma that helps break down organic contaminants as well.
Sometimes, investments do pay off. When designing this hotel, I brought together architects, interior designers and engineers to help curate a sustainable, green and spacious hotel. The rooms are purposely designed to be larger than normal, and each room was built with individual air conditioning systems that delivers fresh air to each guest room separately. Nine years ago, the concept of being a hotel that is green by design, today enables more guests to realize the value of these designs, and is truly a testament to these collaborators who helped build this creative space.
The science behind every guest room’s ventilation is that air pressure is slightly negative to prevent air leak to the public area. Overall, this helps reduce the chance of cross-contamination between our guest rooms. Besides, the air intake and air exhaust outlets of the ventilation system are separated at least 5 meters apart where the air is free from contamination or odor, adhering to requirements on fresh air intake of mechanical ventilation system from the Buildings Department of the Hong Kong Government.
The total cost of the installation of UV lights in the AHUs, PAUs and FCUs is approximately HK$520,000 (about US$67,000) and works will be completed before mid-May.
Sealing the guest room
In addition, each guest room is thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and sealed to ensure the guest rooms will not be accessed or contaminated prior to guests’ arrivals. We target high-touch surfaces and areas such as table surfaces, faucets, toilet, bathroom counter and switches.
First, we clean the surfaces and remove any contaminant, dust or debris by wiping them with soapy water or a cleaning spray. Relevant surface-appropriate disinfectants for killing influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or other coronaviruses will then be applied. All our laundry and beddings are washed at high temperatures with the use of qualified detergents.
To justify or equate the amount of investment to the benefits of health to our community is a challenging one, but the tremendous purpose that this has given us with our “We Love to Care” service philosophy, we believe it would be worthwhile to stay committed to safeguarding the health and safety of everyone at Hotel Icon.