Worldwide: In response to the heightened attention on guest safety and cleanliness within travellers’ accommodations, Airbnb has launched its ‘Enhanced Cleaning Initiative’, which comprises two voluntary sanitisation and Covid-19 spread prevention programs, one of which could block reservations between stays over a proposed 72-hour period.
Airbnb’s latest initiatives were rolled out off the back of guidance from former U.S. Surgeon General Doctor Vivek Murthy, as well as the health standards published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is in partnership with EcoLab, a global provider of cleaning and hygiene technologies and service.
The first program is a booking buffer tool which would automatically block out reservations between stays during a pre-established period of up to 72 hours, when only cleaning could take place. The tool would specifically target hosts who do not necessarily have the means or resources to undertake Airbnb’s other more stringent cleaning protocol plan, which would involve a certification process as well.
For the second initiative, the cleaning protocol pr0gram, hosts would be required to block reservations over a 24-hour period between stays, unlike the booking buffer tool which pre-establishes a gap of 72 hours between stays. Furthermore, the cleaning protocol program would involve hosts cleaning every room within their property in line with guidelines and procedures set out by Airbnb.
An Airbnb spokesperson said: “However, we appreciate that not all hosts are able to meet the requirements of the cleaning protocol, so the booking buffer — currently set at 72 hours — is an alternative. We have seen signals that the Covid-19 pandemic will shape future guest preferences, and we believe that opting into the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative is the best way for hosts to show guests that our community takes cleanliness and sanitisation seriously.
“The cleaning protocol will also include specific information on Covid-19 prevention, like a wait period before entering, use of personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves, as well as disinfectants and sanitisers that are approved by regulatory authorities. These standards will be available to all hosts and we encourage them to commit and adopt these enhanced cleaning practices,” they added.
When searching for stays on the booking platform, guests will be able to see if hosts have joined either of the two cleaning and coronavirus prevention programs recommended by Airbnb. As time goes on, those hosts who initially decline to join the programs may feel under pressure if, as expected, they receive more requests for verification of their cleanliness safety standards from travellers.
Doctor Murthy told Airbnb’s website: “As a society, we need to observe the physical distancing recommendations made by public health officials while finding ways to preserve and strengthen human connection. I’m looking forward to helping the Airbnb community as it develops a health and science based approach for safe travel lodging and experiences.
“These approaches will continue to evolve as our knowledge and understanding of Covid-19 grows,” he added.
He also led the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and responses to Ebola and Zika outbreaks, hurricanes and health care shortages.
The World Health Organisation [WHO] states that the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes the illness known as Covid-19, can last on various surfaces for a matter of days or hours depending on the material but even experts are still unsure just how long it can remain and infect humans who come into contact with it.
According to Healthline, the virus can last on plastic for up to three-seven days, stainless steel for three-seven days, copper for four hours, paper for four days, glass for four days, cardboard for 24 hours, and wood for up to two days.
The fact that the standards put forward by Airbnb are only suggested and not mandatory has led some people to believe that the solution does not go far enough and there should be a minimum of 72 hours between stays before it is established how long the coronavirus lingers on surface materials.
Airbnb is not the only booking platform or vacation rental company to launch cleaning initiatives in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Vacation rental management software tool and housekeeping platform, Properly, is piloting a program in partnership with Booking.com in order to enforce stricter quality and safety standards to help operators manage their way through the coronavirus and lead a post-pandemic recovery.
San Francisco-based Properly is working closely with a number of short-term rental operators who have fallen foul of Booking.com’s minimum cleanliness threshold as part of its integrated quality rating system.
Meanwhile, property management company TurnKey Vacation Rentals is now making it obligatory for its housecleaning contractors to certify their use of “Covid-19-fighting products”, as well as to provide photographic proof of their disinfectants.
International hotel chains such as Hilton and Marriott are also committing to new procedures.
Hilton is teaming up with RB, the maker of Lysol and Dettol disinfectants, and the Mayo Clinic to develop new cleaning procedures that will be implemented by June, while the latter has created a cleanliness council to develop new standards.
Judging by events in recent weeks, the short-term rental industry can expect a renewed focus on sanitisation and cleanliness initiatives from now on, as a key factor in regaining the confidence of guests when they seek to travel again after the pandemic recedes.