Five-star ho­tel hy­giene scan­dal set to take its toll

Global Times - Weekend - - OPINION - By Liu Jianxi The au­thor is a reporter with the Global Times. li­u­jianxi@glob­al­times.com.cn

Ly­ing on a soft bed af­ter a bub­ble bath at a five-star ho­tel is no doubt a bonus. But is it still a fab­u­lous ex­pe­ri­ence if the bed­ding is un­changed and bath­tubs un­ster­il­ized be­tween guests? A video re­leased by Lan­mei Test, an in­de­pen­dent watch­dog, has raised con­cerns over hy­giene con­di­tions in Beijing’s five-star ho­tels.

The team marked the bed linen, bath­tubs, toi­lets and tum­blers with in­vis­i­ble stamps, which can only be seen un­der UV light but come off eas­ily in the laun­dry, at five in­ter­na­tional ho­tels – the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal, Shangri-La, Hil­ton, JW Mar­riott and its sub­sidiary W Ho­tel – in Beijing. The stamps re­mained af­ter the team re­turned the sec­ond day. The video con­cluded that the bed­ding hadn’t been changed, and that the bath­tubs and toi­let seats hadn’t been wiped down.

Al­though the jaw-drop­ping find­ings have yet to be ver­i­fied, the video has thrust hy­giene man­age­ment in China’s ho­tel in­dus­try into the spot­light. In the wake of a se­ries of scan­dals at ho­tel chains, the group was alarmed to dis­cover that hy­giene stan­dards at five-star ho­tels are also an is­sue for con­cern. “The first thing I will do af­ter check­ing in is to ask for the bed­ding to be re­placed,” a ne­ti­zen said.

Poor man­age­ment is un­doubt­edly a key rea­son for the dis­ap­point­ing hy­giene con­di­tions. For years, fives­tar ho­tels have been fo­cus­ing their at­ten­tion on brand pro­mo­tion and mar­ket­ing, pour­ing large sums of money and re­sources into ad­ver­tise­ment and pub­lic re­la­tions. In most cases, or­di­nary peo­ple get ac­quainted with Hil­ton, Shangri-La and other big names and their so-called first­class ser­vices from ad­ver­tise­ments, rather than ac­tual ex­pe­ri­ences. With mar­ket­ing as a pri­or­ity, fives­tar ho­tels have grad­u­ally lost the mo­ti­va­tion to op­ti­mize their ser­vices, and as a re­sult, al­lo­cate a de­creas­ing amount of funds and en­ergy to main­tain hy­giene con­di­tions and other room ser­vices. Mea­gerly paid and laxly su­per­vised, house­keep­ers’ un­will­ing­ness to per­form their du­ties is a pre­dictable re­sult.

Other ex­ter­nal fac­tors are also to blame. Cus­tomers, who of­ten pay ex­ces­sively high room rates, as­sume high-qual­ity ser­vice from five-star ho­tels as a mat­ter of course. While there are al­ways in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the clean­li­ness of ex­press ho­tel chains, few peo­ple ex­am­ined or doubted the hy­giene stan­dards of five-star ho­tels in China be­fore Lan­mei’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which was in­spired by an ex­posé in New York last year where nine up­mar­ket ho­tels were found to have hy­giene prob­lems. The sad truth is, five-star ho­tels lack ef­fec­tive su­per­vi­sion both from cus­tomers and the rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties. Pri­vate spa­ces, for in­stance, such as guest rooms, are most likely to be­come dead zones of reg­u­la­tion.

The hy­giene scan­dal at up­mar­ket ho­tels will un­doubt­edly have un­de­sir­able reper­cus­sions. The pub­lic has grad­u­ally lost their con­fi­dence in the clean­li­ness of ho­tels at var­i­ous lev­els, prompt­ing many ne­ti­zens to vow to bring their own sheets and quilt cov­ers be­fore vis­it­ing a ho­tel. Worse still, pub­lic con­fi­dence is see­ing a down­ward trend not only in ho­tels, but also in ca­ter­ing and other in­dus­tries, in the wake of scan­dals in other fields, such as one over hot­pot chain Hai Di Lao’s san­i­tary prob­lems. This is un­doubt­edly a sad re­flec­tion on so­ci­ety, where trust is sup­posed to play a vi­tal role.

There­fore, it is high time to ad­dress the prob­lem and strengthen su­per­vi­sion on ho­tel man­age­ment so as to re­vive the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence in the in­dus­try. It is un­re­al­is­tic to rely on ho­tels to im­pose stricter reg­u­la­tions to im­prove their ser­vices on their own ini­tia­tive. Cus­tomers, in this sit­u­a­tion, can pres­sure ho­tels by turn­ing to other al­ter­na­tives. Some ne­ti­zens have al­ready sug­gested cus­tomers form an al­liance and leave in­vis­i­ble marks on the bed­ding and toi­let seats so that the next cus­tomer can check for them­selves.

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