Several countries have demonstrated that COVID-19 transmission from one person to another can be slowed or stopped. This document has been prepared based on the evidence currently available about Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) transmission (human-to-human transmission primarily via respiratory droplets from, or direct contact with, an infected person), and is designed to ensure that the accommodation sector can protect the health of its staff and clients.
It should be used in conjunction with up-to-date information on the WHO COVID-19 website.
The document is addressed to collective tourism accommodation establishments such as hotels and similar establishments, holiday and other short-stay accommodation, and campsites. Private tourism accommodation providers are invited to follow the operating guidelines to the greatest extent possible.
In addition, the document will help any authority involved in public health to respond to a public health event in hotels and tourism accommodation establishments, including the International Health Regulations (IHR) National Focal Point (NFP), local health authorities, local, provincial, and national health surveillance and response system.
The measures proposed here should be reviewed and adapted to the local context by the accommodation establishment’s Workplace Health & Safety Committee, Prevention Officers and Services, and Health Consultants, or other relevant stakeholders who are responsible for health-related issues within an establishment, including administration and industry associations.
According to current evidence, COVID-19 virus is transmitted between people through respiratory droplets (particularly when coughing). Direct contact with an infected person or indirect contact, (touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with respiratory secretions) and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes is another route of transmission. Although most infected people develop mild symptoms, severe disease may result in older people and/or people with other medical conditions and they may require rapid hospitalisation.
Prevention measures include regular and thorough hand hygiene, social distancing, avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and good respiratory hygiene. In public areas, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces can help reduce the risk of infection.
Specifics of the tourism accommodation sector
Hotels and tourism accommodation establishments are no more susceptible to contagion than other public establishments visited by large numbers of people who interact among themselves and with employees. Nevertheless, they are places where guests stay temporarily in close cohabitation and where there is a high degree of interaction among guests and workers.
It is these aspects—the lodging of guests in along with the services this entails (food and beverage, cleaning, activity organization, etc.)—and the interactions specific to these establishments (guest-guest, guest-staff, and staff-staff) that require specific attention.
Every staff member must strictly comply with the basic protective measures against COVID-19 recommended by WHO, such as hand hygiene, physical distancing, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, practice respiratory hygiene and to heed the advice to stay home and seek medical attention if they have symptoms consistent with the disease.
The management of the establishment should adopt a responsible attitude to address the health threat of COVID-19.
1. Action plan
The Management Team, in consultation with local health authority, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, and Tourism administration and industry associations should establish an action plan tailored to the situation and implement it in accordance with the recommendations of local and national public health authorities with the aim to prevent cases, effectively manage cases, and mitigate impact among clients and staff, including cleaning and disinfection of rooms occupied by ill persons. The plan, which may incorporate teleworking, should be updated when necessary as a consequence of new guidance, procedures, or regulations issued by the pertinent authorities.
2. Mobilisation of resources
The Management Team should make sufficient human and economic resources available to ensure that the action plan can be implemented rapidly and effectively. The action plan should also include the provision of equipment and procedures, developed in collaboration with local health authorities, for the management of
suspected case(s) and their possible contacts.
The implementation of the action plan and the effectiveness of the measures undertaken should be evaluated frequently to verify compliance, identify and correct gaps, and adapt the plan to practical experience. A Crisis Team involving members of each relevant department can support Management in the implementation of the action plan and timely identification of required adjustments. It is necessary to be alert to any unusual rise in worker absenteeism, especially those due to acute respiratory infections, possibly caused by COVID-19.
4. Logbook of actions
It is advisable to keep a logbook of the important actions and measures carried out and to record them in enough detail (e.g. including date and time a disinfectant was used, by whom, where, etc.). This logbook can be used to improve the actions implemented.
Communication should be maintained between Management and staff, including through the managers in charge of the different departments, in order to predefine an information policy for guests as well as to rapidly provide and obtain information on incidents that may arise in the establishment and to know the status of the situation at all times. Providing guidelines to the staff on how they should communicate the action plan to guests and other stakeholders can ensure alignment consistency.
Short documents or informative posters can amplify the key messages among guests and staff, including the promotion of hand-washing (at least 20 seconds, all parts of the hand), respiratory hygiene, and coughing etiquette.
Official leaflets on basic hygiene practice and COVID-19, in different languages, could be useful information tools.
It may be useful to have an up-to-date list of the contact information of the staff, including emergency telephone numbers.
6. Training and information
Management should inform all staffs of the measures to be adopted and the measures that could protect their health and that of others, including the recommendation to stay home and seek medical attention if they have respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or shortness of breath. Management should organize information briefings that should cover all the basic protective measures against COVID-19 and the signs and symptoms of the disease. Training may be needed for specific procedures.
Reception and concierge
1. Information and communication
Reception desk staff should be sufficiently informed about COVID-19 so that they can safely carry out their assigned tasks and prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 within the establishment. They should be capable of informing guests who inquire about the establishment’s policy in terms of the preventive measures established or other services that guests may require (for example, medical and pharmacy services available in the area or at the establishment itself). They should also be able to advise guests with respiratory symptoms to stay in their rooms until they are seen by a doctor—management should arrange it immediately—as well as to provide basic hygiene recommendations when asked.
Reception desk staff, if possible, should not be older or with underlying health conditions. Reception desk staff must take all necessary precautions, including physical distancing.
Official, up-to-date information should be available about travel to and from countries or areas where COVID-19 is spreading.
Reception Desk staff should be familiar with the room occupancy policy for accompanying persons in the event of a suspected case of COVID-19. The latest definition of suspected case of COVID-19 can be found on WHO website.
The reception desk should have immediately available the telephone numbers of the health authorities, medical centres, public and private hospitals, and assistance centres for use whenever there is the possibility that a guest may be ill.
2. Necessary equipment and medical kit at the reception desk
Although the use of masks is not recommended for the public as a preventive measure, but only for those who are ill with COVID-19 symptoms or those caring for them, the reception desk should have a medical kit that includes the following items:
• Germicidal disinfectant/wipes for surface
• Face/eye masks (separate or combined, face
shield, goggles). Note that disposable face
masks can only be used once (see Advice on the
use of mask).
• Gloves (disposable)
• Protective apron (disposable)
• Full-length long-sleeved gown
• Biohazard disposable waste bag
3. Social distancing measures, hand cleaning, and respiratory hygiene
Social distancing measures, together with frequent hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, are the main measures to prevent transmission of COVID-19. Although it is probable that guests are already familiar with these measures, they should be reminded as a form of hospitality.
• Social distancing includes refraining from hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with guests as well as among staff. It involves maintaining a distance of at least 1 m (3 ft) and avoiding anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
• Hand hygiene means regularly and thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water. Also avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Hand disinfection is indicated after exchanging objects (money, credit cards) with guests.
• Respiratory etiquette means covering mouth and nose with bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. The used tissue should be disposed of immediately in a bin with a lid.
4. Monitoring of guests who are possibly ill
While observing regulations in relation to the protection of personal data and the right to privacy, it is advisable to monitor potentially ill guests in the establishment. Reception staff should note all relevant incidents that come to their knowledge using a questionnaire (see annex 1 a sample questionnaire), such as requests for doctor’s visits. This information will aid guests through appropriate advice, facilitating early detection, and rapid management of suspected cases with local health authorities.
Reception staff must treat all this information with discretion, leaving it up to the management and to medical services to evaluate the situation and make appropriate decisions.
Technical and maintenance services
1. Water disinfection
It is necessary to maintain the concentration of disinfectant in water for consumption and in pools or spas within the limits recommended according to international norms and standards, preferably at the upper limits of the range.
2. Dishwashing and laundry equipment
The proper functioning of the dishwashing and laundry equipment should be checked, particularly the operating temperatures, as well as the correct dosage of cleaning and disinfecting chemicals.
Although COVID-19 is not transmitted by air but from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth when an infected person coughs or exhales, attention should be given, as in normal circumstances, to monitoring the condition of filters and maintaining the proper replacement rate of indoor air. The proper functioning of ventilation, air exchange, and dehumidification equipment of covered pools should be checked.
Regular checks should be carried out to ensure the proper functioning of soap and disinfectant solution dispensers, hand dryers, disposable tissue dispensers, and other similar devices. Defective units should be rapidly repaired or replaced.
The hotel action plan should include installing units to dispense disinfectant gel in the different areas of the hotel, including the public restrooms used by guests and by staff, and other areas of interest (e.g. entrance to the dining hall, restaurants, and bars).
Restaurants, breakfast and dining rooms and bars
1. Information and communication
Restaurants, breakfast, and dining room and bar staff should perform personal hygiene (frequent regular handwashing, cough hygiene) as strictly as possible.
Guests should be reminded when entering and leaving the restaurant, breakfast, or dining room to disinfect their hands with disinfectant gel, preferably located at the entrance to those facilities.
2. Buffets and drinks machines
At the buffets, guests should avoid handling food. When necessary, change tongs and ladles more frequently, always leaving these items in separate containers. Clean and disinfect the buffet surfaces after each service.
The coffee machines, soda machines, and others, in particular the parts more in contact with the hands of users, should be cleaned and disinfected at least after each service and more often if necessary.
3. Washing dishes, silverware, and table linen The usual procedures should be used. All dishes, silverware, and glassware should be washed and disinfected in a dishwashing machine, including items that have not been used, as they might have been in contact with the hands of guests or staff.
If for any reason manual washing is required, the usual steps should be followed (wash, disinfect, rinse), taking the maximum level of precautions. Drying should be carried out using disposable paper towels. Likewise, tablecloths and napkins should be washed in the usual manner.
4. Table setting
Whenever possible, it is recommended to have a maximum of 4 persons for 10 square metres. Tables shall be arranged such that the distance from the back of one chair to the back of another chair shall be more than 1 m apart and that guests face each other from a distance of at least 1 m.
Recreational areas for children
Although the current evidence indicates that most children appear to develop less serious respiratory symptoms of COVID-19, there are reports of children infected with COVID-19 who have developed severe or critical disease, and some children have died. The persons responsible for children should be vigilant for any signs of respiratory disease and should immediately inform the child’s parents and the management of such circumstance.
Depending on the local context, including the number of children and instruction from national health authorities, consideration should be given to closing the recreational areas for children. In any case, special cleaning and disinfection protocols should be applied to these facilities.
Cleaning and housekeeping
1. Cleaning and disinfection
Even in the absence of COVID-19 cases in the establishment, it is recommended that hygiene services be enhanced. Special consideration should be given to the application of cleaning and disinfection measures in common areas (restrooms, halls, corridors, lifts, etc.) as a general preventive measure during the entire COVID-19 epidemic. Special attention should be given to objects that are frequently touched such as handles, elevator buttons, handrails, switches, doorknobs, etc. Cleaning staff should be instructed accordingly.
As part of the tourism accommodation establishment action plan for COVID-19, there should be a special cleaning and disinfection plan for situations in which there are sick guests or employees staying at the establishment or identified with COVID-19 within a few days after leaving the establishment. Written recommendations for enhanced cleaning and disinfection should describe the enhanced operating procedures for cleaning, managing solid waste, and for wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).
The following should be implemented for rooms or specific areas exposed to COVID-19 cases:
• Any surfaces that become soiled with respiratory secretions or other body fluids of the ill person(s), e.g. toilet, handwashing basins, and baths should be cleaned with a regular household disinfectant solution containing 0.1% sodium hypochlorite (that is, equivalent to 1000 ppm). Surfaces should be rinsed with clean water after 10 minutes contact time for chlorine. Surfaces should be rinsed with clean water after sufficient contact time for the chlorine.
• Service staff may require additional training in the preparation, handling, application, and storage of these products, mostly bleach, which may be at a higher concentration that usual. The cleaning staff should know how to make sure the bleach is not disintegrated and how to rinse it off after 10 minutes.
• When use of bleach is not suitable, e.g. telephone, remote control equipment, door handlings, buttons in the elevator, etc. then alcohol 70% could be used.
• Whenever possible, use only disposable cleaning materials. Discard any cleaning equipment made of cloths and absorbent materials, e.g. mophead and wiping cloths. When pertinent, disinfect properly non-porous cleaning materials with 0.5% sodium hypochlorite solution or according to manufacturer’s instructions before using for other rooms.
• Textiles, linens, and clothes should be put in special, marked laundry bags and handled carefully to prevent raising dust, with consequent potential contamination of surrounding surfaces or people. Instructions should be given for washing them in hot cycles (70ºC or more) with the usual detergents. All used items must be handled appropriately to mitigate the risk of potential transmission. Disposable items (hand towels, gloves, masks, tissues) should be
placed in a container with a lid and disposed of according to the hotel action plan and national regulations for waste management.
• In general, public areas where a case has passed through or has spent minimal time in (corridors) do not need to be specially cleaned and disinfected.
• Cleaning crews should be trained on use of PPE and hand hygiene immediately after removing the PPE, and when cleaning and disinfection work is completed.
• All rooms and common areas should be ventilated daily.
2. Monitoring of sick guests
Housekeeping and cleaning staff should inform the management or the reception desk of any pertinent incidents, including possibly sick guests in their rooms. They must treat all this information with discretion.
3. Availability of materials
Cleaning staff should be trained on the use of and provided with personal protection equipment as listed below:
– Disposable gowns
– Closed shoes
– If doing procedures that generate splashes (e.g. while washing surfaces), add facial protection with a face shield and impermeable aprons.
They should also have access to sufficient disinfectant solutions and other supplies.
4. Optional housekeeping programmes
All programmes where guests can voluntarily forego housekeeping services should be suspended in the service of maximizing health
and safety of hotel staff and guests alike.