New Delhi: As governments handle the health crisis and begin to review restrictions in advance of reopening their communities for travel, how does one ensure they can be safe and healthy?
Leading travel website Airbnb prepares for this very predicament with a focus on health and prevention.
The travel portal launched an Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, which includes the first overarching standardized protocol for cleaning and sanitization in the home-sharing industry. The work is informed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published standards; leading experts such as Dr. Vivek Murthy, former Surgeon General of the United States; and companies in the hospitality and medical hygiene sectors, such as Ecolab, a global leader in cleaning and hygiene technologies and services.
In May, the new Cleaning Protocol, with enhanced procedures and guidance on how to clean every room in a home will come into play. These guidelines will include a learning and certification program to empower their host community. Guests will be able to identify and book accommodations included in this program soon after hosts enroll. This effort builds off of Airbnb's strong historical track record of cleanliness.
To date 94 percent of all Airbnb reviews show that guests are satisfied with the cleaning, scoring it at 4 or 5 stars after their stays.
The host Cleaning Protocol will include specific information on COVID-19 prevention, such as the use of personal protective equipment, like masks and gloves for hosts or their cleaners, as well as disinfectants that are approved by regulatory authorities. A CDC recommended 24 hour wait period before entering is also required, as a precaution to address the possibility of particles that may remain airborne for a few hours. The protocol will be available to all hosts who will be encouraged to commit to and to adopt these enhanced cleaning practices. Listings enrolled in the Cleaning Protocol will be available for stays immediately after the enhanced cleaning is performed.
If hosts are unable to commit to the Cleaning Protocol, they can alternatively opt in to a new feature called Booking Buffer, to create a vacancy period between stays. Hosts can commit to keeping their home empty for a set period in between stays, with no activity other than cleaning. Reservations will be automatically blocked during that time frame, currently set at 72 hours. This option includes the same 24 wait period before entering, and hosts should still observe CDC recommendations and other applicable local guidance.
This concept is expert-backed and was first conceived for Airbnb's Frontline Stays project, through which hosts have offered over 200,000 places for medical workers and first responders around the world.
"As a society, we need to observe the physical distancing recommendations made by public health officials while finding ways to preserve and strengthen the 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," said Dr. Vivek Murthy. He also led the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and responses to Ebola and Zika outbreaks, hurricanes, and health care shortages, among others.
"Homes have become a place of shelter, and the future of travel will also rely on a new comfort zone, with the privacy and benefits of a home away from home, without crowds or high turnovers. We are working with leading experts in health and hygiene so that our community's trademark hospitality can incorporate official guidance and fulfill new personal preferences, with hosts and guests uniting to offer, manage and enjoy cleaner accommodations," said Greg Greeley, president of homes at Airbnb.