There has been a sudden demand for specialized, scientifically-designed air purification and filtration systems which not only ensure clean, virus-free air, but also boast features like maintaining medical-grade air quality and spreading ions onto surfaces through the air.
The Crowne Plaza Albany — The Desmond Hotel in Albany, New York, for instance, uses a 24×7 air purification system that treats the air and surfaces, whose technology was originally developed for NASA and is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.
“We follow the IHG Way of Clean program. It seemed that common sense dictates that you deal with the air,” said Michael Chain, vice president of Delta Holdings and GM at The Desmond. “Just filtering the air seems a daunting task when considering the behavior and introduction paths of these viruses, and other potentially harmful allergens. We did not select a filtration system. We selected this 24×7 purification system that is active.”
The InterContinental Houston — Medical Center, which also follows the IHG Way of Clean, has installed an Integrated Viral Protection (IVP) Bio Defense Indoor Air Protection Filtration System, which is a mobile, plug-and-purify device that claims to eliminate the COVID-19 virus (99.99%), anthrax spores (99.8%) and other airborne contaminants through a heated filter without affecting the ambient air temperature.
The Ameswell Hotel in Mountain View, California, filters air with a Dedicated Outside Air System, which is then processed through a MERV 13 filter. These filters are frequently used in medical facilities and universities to capture microscopic particles like allergens, pollen, bacteria and viruses.
The pandemic has resulted in a demand for scientifically-designed systems that guarantee the purest form of air.
The InterContinental Houston — Medical Center’s mobile IVP machines were designed in conjunction with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Texas Center for Superconductivity at University of Houston, University of Texas Medical Branch, and the Texas A&M Experiment Engineering Station. The hotel is the first property to install this system.
“The portable IVP units are relatively quiet. They originally found a home in the hotel lobby, meetings rooms, and restaurant and lounge areas. Newer, smaller units can be placed in guest rooms to cleanse the air without creating any clutter,” said the hotel’s GM Jorge Landa.
Hoteliers say many guests demand individual high-quality air filtration options inside their rooms, instead of a generic system which centrally purifies air for the entire hotel. For pet-friendly hotels, the need for such kind of individual systems becomes even more significant, as rooms and surfaces must be kept free from pet-derived allergens and dust.
Responding to these requirements, the pet-friendly dusitD2 Hua Hin in Thailand has equipped each guest room and public area with a Panasonic Nanoe X machine, which filters the air and prevents the activity of airborne bacteria, viruses, animal-borne allergens, while removing odors as well.
“Unlike standalone air purifiers, the Panasonic device actively spreads ions through the air and onto surfaces,” explained Sascha Kunze, GM of dusitD2 Hua Hin. “According to Panasonic, these ions reach deep into the fibres of clothing, sofas and carpets, and inhibit up to 99% of airborne and adhered bacteria and viruses.”
Easy to adapt
Installing these new-age technologies does not always require hotels to change the existing infrastructure. While the portable nature of IVP units makes it easy to quickly install it in rooms or lobbies with an electrical outlet as the only requirement, at The Ameswell Hotel, no additional changes were made to accommodate the new technology.
“We did not need to change our air filtration system in response to COVID, so everything was installed as part of our original construction plans,” said Philip ‘Flip’ Maritz, lead owner and developer of The Ameswell Hotel.
Honeywell Healthy Buildings, a product developed by Honeywell Building Technologies, helps hotels monitor air quality, use portable air purifiers and deploy indoor air quality sensors without replacing existing infrastructure.
“Earlier this year, we conducted a computer modelling study with a hotel customer that examined indoor air quality in hotel common areas, focusing on filtration and purification methods used to help mitigate potential airborne contaminants,” explained Bhavesh Gupta, Director of Engineering — Hospitality & Healthy Buildings — Air Quality, Honeywell Building Technologies. “The computer modelling study found that mobile HEPA air purifiers may help reduce airborne contaminants by capturing particles 0.3 microns or smaller.”
Driving consumer confidence
While ensuring safety and wellbeing of guests and staff is a priority of all hotels, these modern and innovative air purification systems have also become a means to assure guests of the hotel’s stringent hygiene protocols and promoting it to drive more business.
Dusit highlighted their air filtration machine in their opening media release and ensured potential guests were aware of the latest technology, both on their website as well as on other marketing materials, Kunze said. “The pandemic has boosted awareness about indoor air quality overall, so we are sure the new system will help to drive consumer confidence and more business to our property.”
The Ameswell Hotel’s Maritz feels the investments are considered as table stakes in the future of hospitality.
Stressing on the exclusivity of these new-age devices, Doug Kelly, director of sales and marketing, InterContinental Houston — Medical Center, said their technology is an important amenity that not many hotels can boast of owning. “On the ground level, signage is placed next to the larger IVP units to let guests know their wellbeing is a priority,” Kelly said. “Outside the hotel, we’ve worked with the ownership group to generate publicity and showcase the innovative filtration units to bolster guest confidence. The new technology has been covered by local press and trade publications.”
Most hotels say the decision to install an efficient, high-technology air purification system was driven by the need to provide a safe and healthy guest experience. Since most of the hotels had remained shut for a long time, purification systems were installed before doors were thrown open for guests again.
At The Crowne Plaza Albany — The Desmond Hotel, the cost was approximately US$100,000 to purchase, install and service, according to Chain. “ROI is impossible to determine as there was no calculation of additional revenues. The only issue was the inability to find grants or public assistance, especially considering the effect these viruses were having on our population and economies,” he said.
The ROI of InterContinental Houston — Medical Center’s air purification system has been measurable in guest reviews, the management feels. Thanks to the IVP’s portable nature, the hotel could wheel them in into high-traffic areas, find a suitable spot and simply plug them in. “Based on occupancy numbers, the InterContinental Houston — Medical Center was able to weather the slowest period over the last 18 months better than many area hotels and recover quicker in part due to the extensive sanitization and cleanliness initiatives,” Landa added.
Combination of solutions
Despite all the modern techniques that hotels adopt for the safety of their guests and staff, both guests and hotels must ensure all safety protocols are maintained.
“There isn’t one solution that will keep everyone healthier and safer,” said Honeywell’s Gupta. “It requires using a layering of safeguards, or a combination of solutions, within a building to create safer spaces – from improving ventilation and air filtration, to practicing recommendations like facial coverings, cleaning procedures and social distancing. Many people will be anxious about returning to travel, so transparency and visibility into the actions taken will help reassure travelers.”