Hotel Cleanliness in 2020

Approximately a 6 minute read

I took a quick 24 hour poll on my Instagram to find out how many people have stayed in hotels since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. Interestingly, 36% of respondents said yes, they have stayed in a hotel… and that is coming from people who love to travel. As we continue to learn more daily about the properties of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, perception is continuing to shift around what is and isn’t safe behavior. I was lucky enough to receive an invitation for a hotel cleanliness webinar facilitated by Staypineapple, and I want to share some of what I learned.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

The Staypineapple webinar was hosted by 2 Staypineapple VPs, Sharon Andrade and Marco Baumann; Ramzi Kamel – Chief Commercial Officer of Accommodations Plus International; and Lexi Smith, Instagrammer and dog mom at Hi Wiley.

Signs of a Great Hotel

First, the panelists discussed what they as industry insiders consider to be signs of a great hotel. The best sign of a great hotel is when “the hotel is the destination.” A great hotel is not forgettable. An exceptional experience builds loyalty to the hotel and others in its chain. This description of a great hotel resonated with me because when I go to the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs, I basically forget the rest of the world exists and I don’t leave the campus for my whole trip.

My Visit to Ace Hotel & Swim Club in 2019

A hotel that genuinely values its guests does three things – provides consistently excellent customer service, employs staff members who live out a culture of hospitality, and maintains the premises in top-notch condition and cleanliness.

Is your room really clean or does it just look clean?

One of the Staypineapple VP’s gave us a rundown of some areas to consider when evaluating your room’s cleanliness.

  • Are there decorative pillows or other bedding made of a special fabric (often rougher or satiny)? These are honestly less likely to be laundered than the sheets and comforters.
  • Check under the bed… It should be just as pristine as the rest of the room.
  • Some hotels have turned towards hard floors instead of carpet. In any case, white socks worn on carpet should stay white, and bare feet should not pick up any grit.
  • Check the coffeemaker and the iron. Both of these items should be dry inside, not filled with stale water.
  • Check the telephone handset for makeup or facial oils. This is a “spot check” that will show you if the cleaning staff skips the details.
  • Lastly, the bathroom is where the truth will come out. Obviously, look in the shower. But peek under the sink as well to see if any dust has collected on the pipes, and look in the corners for grime.
My Stay at Staypineapple Hotel Rose in 2018

What has changed during the pandemic?

Top-level hotels have always prioritized cleanliness in order to retain discerning customers. But in a pandemic world, the priority has shifted to sterilization on top of overall cleanliness/tidiness. The new trend among hotels is not just assuming your guests will understand the room is clean, but explicitly communicating how the room was cleaned before their arrival.

The Good

  • All front-of-house and back-of-house staff have undergone increased training protocols for staff based on CDC guidelines.
  • Hotels are replacing HVAC filters more often than they did previously, according to local & CDC guidelines.
  • Common areas and soft surfaces which cannot be laundered (such as sofas) are being cleaned with CDC antibacterial mist. Previously they may have just been vacuumed.
  • Social distancing signage upon entering, by elevators, and anywhere else guests would congregate… bonus points for friendly, quirky reminders instead of generic ones.
  • Staff wears facemasks and gloves when interacting with guests and guests’ luggage; this may very by establishment, management, and local government mandate.
  • We have already seen a pivot to contactless technology. More technology will be leveraged before check in and after checkout to create a touchless, paperless experience.
  • Many hotels are giving guests the change to opt-out of daily housekeeping to keep staff from entering their room.

The Bad (but in many cases understandable)

Basically, when in doubt call the front desk before arrival and ask specific questions if something’s unavailability will be a deal-breaker for you. You might be able to negotiate a deal based on this, but please be sympathetic that room stays are down sharply and some hotels are struggling to get by.

  • In many hotels, amenities have dried up to pretty much zero. No breakfast, no snacks, and things you used to call down to the desk for will be declined. (The webinar hosts said it will be a long, long, long time before we see another buffet).
  • In better hotels, snacks and such are being provided in single-serve packaging.
  • Pools and spas might be closed due to hotel chain policy or local ordinance. Call within your free cancellation window to double check as this can change daily.
  • Some hotels are no longer offering valet to protect the drivers from getting in strangers’ cars.
Don’t be afraid to ask if all textiles are laundered between each guest!

More Thoughts…

I opened up my instagram DMs to comments and I got a lot of them.

  • Important!! A nurse friend of mine emphasized the importance of mask-wearing. Research has continued to reveal that the virus is spread through the air, and not as commonly through touching surfaces.
  • Some travelers felt more comfortable in an AirBnB since there weren’t multiple guests passing through common areas like they would in hotels. Others exhibited skepticism that AirBnB hosts would be fully up to code on CDC recommended cleaning methods.
  • One frequent traveler has already stayed in 7 different hotels and says that consistency varies from one establishment to another. She was horrified when one hotel in Florida sold pool day passes to locals, resulting in an extremely crowded poolside experience. On top of that, they were charging extra fees to reserve your own distanced chair or cabana.
  • Many people have already carried hand sanitizer and wipes with them before, but now it is top of mind for almost every traveler. (Some hotels are passing out hand sanitizer or wipe kits upon check-in.)
  • Another commenter who moved across country and stayed in a number of hotels during the trek was sharply disappointed with the lack of food, especially since the price did not reflect cut services. On top of that, some of her rooms didn’t even have cups available in the room.
  • One of my friend said she is now bringing her own pillow with her on all of her travels.
  • One of my good friends sent me this relevant article from the New York Times. It’s interesting to see overall trends and another deep dive into the new protocols from the perspective of housekeeping staff.
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I hope you found this interesting and informative. I know I learned a lot from the webinar and wanted to pass this information along to you. Have you traveled since March 2020? I would be so interested to hear your experiences. Please share in the comments!


Staci blogs about travel at


1 Response

  1. Interesting post! We’ve had mixed experiences. We stayed at a “fancy” hotel a few weeks ago and they decided it might be a bit inconvenient for their guests if they reminded people that Covid exists, so… they just pretended it didn’t. Reception was actually set up really well so on arrival I was quite impressed with it all, and also their breakfast was really good because it was set up like a buffet but with people behind screens serving the food for you. But then masks were optional, including in the restaurants where the government guidance states you have to wear them when walking around. They allowed a group of 15 people to sit next to us at dinner and it became clear it was like a work trip or something so they were 15 different households (again, government states max. 8 people from 3 households) all walking round the table talking to each other, not one of them wearing masks. I complained to the hotel and they shrugged and said “oh well, it’s only guidance so we don’t have to follow it”. Put me off staying in any hotel again during all of this!

    But everywhere else we’ve stayed (which is only a couple, to be fair) have been much more stringent and seemed clean. I think it’s a tough time for hotels keeping up with all the regulations and I’m sure it’s the same in the US where it will vary from state to state. But I definitely think they should be taking extra measures to keep their guests safe, and equally I think guests have to expect less amenities at the moment. Now more than ever we are being reminded that travel is a privilege.

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