Typically in a hotel, guest complaints may arise over service or something tangible that interrupts their experience. But what about air quality? Does it matter? Can it be a demand generator that guests might even pay a premium for? Haley Payne, director of account management at Pure Wellness, talks to host Robin Trimingham about the impact air quality can have on the guest experience and the bottom line.
Highlights from Today’s Episode
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For the last 50 years, Groupe GM, has been a leader in the luxury amenity industry. The Group proposes a 360 solution from manufacturing to distribution on cosmetics amenities and dry accessories. groupegm.com
Haley Payne: At a million particles per cubic foot of air. An allergy or asthma specialist might say, Hey, you’re going to need medication to make yourself feel better, right? Because there’s just too much going on. Our promise is to always keep our rooms at 50% of that threshold or 500,000 particles per cubic foot of air. But the reality is most of our rooms are under 100,000 particles per cubic foot of air. So like I mentioned, if you go from 8 or 12 million particles, right, which is probably very common in Bermuda to 100,000 particles, there is that noticeable difference in the air and how you feel and how you sleep.
Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast brought to you by Hotels magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham. Heightened expectations of a germ free hotel stay went mainstream during COVID with hotels at every level, stepping up their hygienic practices in an effort to comfort guests that their stay was safe. Now that the COVID concerns have subsided throughout most of the world, hoteliers are recognizing that a segment of their guests still want heightened protocols to be followed. But they also recognize that with ever rising labor and material costs, they have to find a way to cover the costs of these services in order to cater to this clientele. Hoteliers are turning to products like Pure Wellness, which enables them to deliver the heightened service that some of their clientele desire while being able to not only offset the associated costs, but to turn this segment into a profit center. Today we’re speaking with Hayley Payne, a pure wellness about room hygiene, the guests for whom it remains the utmost importance and the benefits of offering a revenue generating amenity that’s both profitable and appreciated. Join me now for my conversation with Haley. For the last 50 years, Groupe GM has been a leader in the luxury cosmetic amenities industry. The group proposes a 360 solution from manufacturing to distribution with over 40 international brands in its worldwide distribution network, Groupe GM offers different shapes and sizes of eco friendly products in hotels all over the world. Discover more on www.GroupeGM.com. That’s group with en E GM.com. Welcome, Haley. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Haley Payne: Well, thanks for having me, Robin. I’m so excited to be here.
Robin Trimingham: I think this is going to be a bit of a different conversation because, you know, the air we breathe, it’s like literally all around us. And I think in pre-COVID, it’s probably something not too many of us really thought about very often. But I think we better give some people a bit of a context here. So there’s a relationship between indoor air pollution and viruses such as COVID, I understand. How significant is that relationship?
Haley Payne: Well, there’s definitely a relationship. The significance is that with air, there is particulate matter and particulate matter travels through the air and everything attaches itself to it. So viruses and bacteria and mold spores and fungus, even odors. Right. So the idea is that if you can remove particulate out of the air, then you can get rid of those things like COVID, Right. That would make you sick.
Robin Trimingham: So the almost like the Covid’s hitchhiking then on some of the other stuff. Sure.
Haley Payne: Yeah, that’s what it does.
Robin Trimingham: Oh, goodness me. Okay, so I understand that your company offers something called a pure room. Why is there less chance of somebody staying in a pure wellness room at catching a cold or the flu or, heaven forbid, COVID?
Haley Payne: Well, I’m so glad you asked that question, because that’s the world we live in. We take a percentage of inventory at a hotel and we convert the rooms to a pure room. And what that means is we put it through a patented seven step process that removes things that can trigger respiratory challenges. It’s also designed to eliminate invisible toxins on the surfaces and in the air. So we start by doing a very deep clean of the room to get rid of living microorganisms. And then we put processes in place to kind of keep that at bay, right? So we apply what’s called a bacteriostatic barrier that stops virus or bacteria growth on surfaces. And then we complement that with air purification. And this air purification is going to filter out things that are staying airborne. Right? Kind of like what we just talked about. Our air purifiers use all the regular levels of air filtration that most air purifiers do. But we have an additional level called DFS technology. And this filters out 99.9% of all airborne viruses and bacteria. This technology is great because it will, while HEPA filtration will filter down to 0.3 microns, but DFS technology will filter down to 0.007 microns. And why that’s significant is because most viruses are smaller than 0.3 microns. So it does a very good job of getting rid of things in the air that would make you feel bad. But besides the surface treatment and the air purification, we also address the bedding. We encase the bedding in an encasement that protects the guest from dust and dust mite allergens, and that includes the pillows, the mattress and the duvet insert. And in addition to that, we filter the shower water to remove chlorine and other irritants that might bother you. So all of that just creates an environment for the guest for them to have a healthier stay.
Robin Trimingham: Okay. So that sounds incredibly sterile to me. You said air filter, so help us understand a little better what that means, because I know an awful lot of the hotels that I’ve stayed in, especially the great big ones, you know, it’s a central air system and there’s that one great big vent thing that’s invariably blowing stuff over the top of the bed. Where does your filter come into play with all of that?
Haley Payne: Okay, that’s a really good question. So sometimes I say things because I know them and I don’t realize that I’m not painting the right picture. So there is a standalone air purification unit that’s in the guest room. So you have the HVAC system, right? That’s in the room. Maybe it’s a tank that’s on the wall under the window that you see often, or sometimes it’s in the wall being a V tech and you have it run through the walls. We clean and sanitize the air handler that’s in the room. That is the hotel rooms, air handler, because that’s a perfect breeding ground for like mold and bacteria and things like that. So we want to make sure that the air you’re breathing from there is the best air you can breathe. But in addition to that is an air purifier that has this HEPA filtration and the technology that’s also removing the as the air is coming through, it’s removing the particulate out of the air.
Robin Trimingham: So this is something that the guest will see in the room when they’re right. I imagine that’s very reassuring. Talk to me a little bit about how sleep is impacted by all of this. Is there any data that talks about whether you get like better quality sleep, better quantity, sleep longer, better rest at night?
Haley Payne: Well, there are studies out there that say poor indoor air quality can increase the likelihood of you can develop sleep apnea. But I can tell you when you remove triggers that really cause you to have a respiratory challenge and you improve the air quality, you’re going to sleep better because your body can get to a resting state much easier. You can get in that level of REM longer and you wake up and you feel refreshed. I know when I travel and I’m fortunate enough to stay in a pure room, I dream more in that room. And I think it’s because I’m in that better level of sleep, so I enjoy it.
Robin Trimingham: That’s a crazy, interesting side effect. Yeah. So I think you said something about 5 to 10% of the rooms in the hotels that you work with being pure rooms. Is that the magic number of rooms that a hotel might need? Talk to me a little bit about that.
Haley Payne: Well, this is a premium room that’s designed to generate revenue. So there’s a delicate balance in picking the right amount of inventory. If a hotel puts too much inventory in, they end up using it a lot as loyalty upgrades. If there’s not enough inventory, then the front desk and revenue management typically won’t maximize the revenue that can be generated. Kind of like a suite, right? When you only have 1 or 2 suites, you typically don’t charge for them. So the 5 to 10% seems to be our sweet spot, but it’s really just a guide for us. We take into consideration the location of the hotel, the layout of the hotel, the clientele, and then from there we kind of help them make a determination. Sometimes it’s even the room type mix of Kings two doubles that use or something like that. But I’ll tell you, we’ll start with 5 to 10%. It may end up being a floor or something else.
Robin Trimingham: Now you’re making me think of another question. I was wondering, would there be more demand for this? Would it make more economic sense in regions that have particularly bad air quality? I’m thinking in my head of Mexico City.
Haley Payne: The answer to that is, of course, right. Because one of the things and I think we may talk about this a little bit later, but one of the things we measure is the amount of particles per cubic foot of air in this pure room. So if you can reduce the amount of particles, it’s going to help you right from a whether you have allergies or asthma, it’s going to make you feel better. So if you go from outdoor air quality that’s got 8 to 12 million particles per cubic foot of air, and you go into an environment that has 100,000, of course it’s going to make you feel better. So that’s sure that it works that way.
Robin Trimingham: It almost sounds to me like your ears might pop when you went into this room because it was so clean.
Haley Payne: I’ve never thought about that.
Robin Trimingham: I don’t know. I’m wondering, though, is there like a demographic profile for who a wellness room customer would be?
Haley Payne: Well, I would say everybody who wouldn’t benefit from a pure room. But I’ll tell you, like most businesses, we’ve kind of evolved over time. We started out really focused on the allergy and asthma sufferer, and certainly that group of travelers would benefit greatly from this room. But as hospitality has embraced the wellness minded traveler, we know that the guest that likes this room has broadened quite a bit, the guest with multiple chemical sensitivities, the senior traveler families traveling with kids. Orlando is a huge market for us. And when you save all that money to go to Orlando and spend time at Disney, you don’t want your kiddos not be in their best, right? So this is an environment where we sell a lot of pure rooms, but even the business traveler, that person is a road warrior. They understand the value of a good night’s sleep and a worry free environment. And we find that it kind of goes across everybody. I will tell you that our airport properties, this was a surprise to me learning, but they do very well because average length of stay is usually one night. That guest has usually had a tumultuous day, right? Yeah. This is a very enticing room and a good night’s sleep for them, so they do well.
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Haley Payne: Of course I would say yes. I mean, if you can have a great night’s sleep, wouldn’t you want more of them? Right. There’s things we see on the news every day about people not being able to sleep well. So I think that this environment hopefully gives you a better night’s rest. It’s not at all uncommon for a guest to spend the night in a pure room, have a great night’s sleep, and then reach out to us to order a purifier for their home because they want that same experience at home.
Robin Trimingham: That’s interesting. Yeah.
Haley Payne: You brought it up earlier. Visually, when you walk in, you don’t notice everything else that we’ve done in the room, like the shield on the surfaces, the way we clean the air handler, the bedding. But you do notice the air purifier. So when you sleep well, you think that’s the reason and you want that at home.
Robin Trimingham: I never really thought about that, but yeah, I can see how that would be a thing. Why is it equally important to be thinking about the impact of indoor air quality for staff?
Haley Payne: Oh, that’s a really good question. Look, we all understand the struggles of hospitality staffing, right? Especially now. So this environment put in locations where people congregate together, it’s just kind of a worry free. You don’t have to worry about things traveling through the air. We’re not wearing masks like we used to wear, right? So things travel and it’s easier to pick something up. In fact, this is kind of how pure office space was evolved. We wanted to create an environment where employees returning back to the office could feel safe. So I think it works the same in the back offices of hotel spaces.
Robin Trimingham: That would be things like the lobby, the bar, maybe the spa.
Haley Payne: Yeah, absolutely. And even areas where employee break rooms or meeting space.
Robin Trimingham: So I think it would be great for meeting space. I actually sold large group for a major brand for a few years. And one of the things that the meeting planners would all be always talking to me about is, Oh, they needed rooms with windows that open because they’re people are always falling asleep in the meeting rooms. And I bet having air filter system like this would improve the air quality and keep people awake.
Haley Payne: Absolutely. I think it’s a great idea.
Robin Trimingham: Hey, I’m happy to help you with your marketing. So are there other types of contaminants that hoteliers need to be thinking about in interior spaces?
Haley Payne: A couple of things come to mind. First is fragrances. I mean, I know hotels love to have a signature fragrance in the lobby and in their common spaces, right? Everywhere. Everywhere. But people with multiple chemical sensitivities, it’s very harmful to them. And we have guests that reach out to us all the time planning their trips and where they can stay in pure rooms along their journey. And that’s one of the things is they really complain about can you do something about the lobby? So that’s one area. But the other thing I can tell you is mold spores. Mold spores are in every environment. You can’t really get rid of them completely, but they affect people and you don’t even realize they’re affecting you. You might have a slight headache or a runny nose or something like that and not know why. But a lot of times it’s the mold spores that attach themselves to particulate that are in the air.
Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I imagine that’s a big thing, particularly in in the south. You may not know this. I’m home based in Bermuda. That’s where I’m talking to you from today. We are the mold capital of the planet, the warm, humid atmosphere all year round.
Haley Payne: You sure are. And I don’t know why we didn’t do this in person. You know, that could be a thing. It really could be.
Robin Trimingham: Okay.So you talked about an assessment when you first start working on a room. Can you explain what indoor air quality testing involves and why that’s so important? Like, why can’t you just take an air filter and go plug it in?
Haley Payne: Well, I mean, you can because any filtered air is better than non filtered air. But for us to make sure the room maintains its integrity and is in a pure is a pure room, we do have to do some testing and make sure it meets our standards. Indoor air quality testing can range. It can be so many things. You might be checking CO2 levels, HVAC companies and pure. We really like I mentioned earlier, we really want to know the particles per cubic foot of air. So let me kind of give you an example. At a million particles per cubic foot of air, an allergy or asthma specialist might say, hey, you’re going to need medication to make yourself feel better, right? Because there’s just too much going on. Our promise is to always keep our rooms at 50% of that threshold or 500,000 particles per cubic foot of air. But the reality is most of our rooms are under 100,000 particles per cubic foot of air. So like I mentioned, if you go from 8 or 12 million particles, right, which is probably very common in Bermuda to 100,000 particles, there is that noticeable difference in the air and how you feel and how you sleep.
Robin Trimingham: Well, that totally makes sense. I did a little reading in preparation for our conversation because I’m not the air quality expert here, as we all know. And I came across something and I’m not even really sure if I understood it. Is there a correlation between air quality and a hotel’s carbon footprint? If so, can you explain that a little bit to us?
Haley Payne: The Federal Energy Management Program conducted a study and found that dirty condenser coil lines in HVAC systems really increased power consumption by upwards to 10%. And so if you can keep your units clean and sanitized, then that reduces the carbon footprint.
Robin Trimingham: Okay. So that makes sense. Something else that I came across, I was reading about something called volatile organic compounds or VOCs. What is that and why should hoteliers be concerned about it?
Haley Payne: So that’s something everybody should be concerned about. They are compounds that have high vapor pressure and low water solubility. So most of them are man made and they can can contain carcinogens so they become dangerous when they’re mixed with nitrogen. Our air purifiers contain a filter that has carbon potassium and zeolite. And this all put together neutralizes the VOCs. But to give you an example of VOCs in hotels would be after they do a major renovation and the carpeting and the glue behind the carpeting or the wall vinyl or the paint off gas is all of this VOC. And that’s what needs to be filtered out of the room.
Robin Trimingham: Okay, so it’s that brand new sofa smell, right?
Haley Payne: Or the new car smell or something like that.
Robin Trimingham: All right. That makes a little more sense. All right. I realize that every jurisdiction has its own air quality standards, air quality legislation. Why should every hotelier, in your opinion, make every effort to not just meet, but exceed whatever the legislation is where they are?
Haley Payne: Robin, this is a pretty dramatic statistic, but it makes the point of why we should all do our part. According to the World Health Organization, air pollution is the number. Number one reason for environmental related deaths. It’s estimated that 7 million premature deaths happen every year, and in 2020, 3.4 million of them were from indoor air quality. So I know that’s extreme, but that’s something that we need to address and it can be fixed.
Speaker4: Yeah, when you.
Robin Trimingham: Put it that way, I mean, okay, who wouldn’t want to be part of making things better? I totally agree with you. So my listening audience, the hoteliers, it always comes down to revenue. So can you help us out here? How long does it take to offset the cost of setting up rooms with the pure wellness system to by generating revenue from those rooms?
Haley Payne: That’s a really good question. We have different financial options available. Most hotels will choose to spend CapEx dollars to purchase the program and then they can keep 100% of the premiums that they generate from the program. We have other financial options available like a rev share, but again, most hotels will choose CapEx dollars. Let me give you a couple of revenue examples. A hotel, we have an Embassy suites in Palm Beach that in 2022, they have 17 pure rooms and they captured a $23 premium on these rooms 66% of the time. So that generated an additional $95,000 in premium revenue for them. And the cost of the program for them was $87 per room per month. So for 17 rooms it was around $18,000. So that’s a pretty good return on considerable.
Haley Payne: Yeah. And you’re giving the guest not only is it financial, but you’re also creating a guest that hopefully comes back because you have pure rooms, right? We have a hotel in Boise, Idaho, that’s an independent. It’s called the Hotel 43. They have 25 pure rooms. In 2022, they captured a $20 premium 45% of the time and generated an additional $70,000 in premium revenue. So whether you’re in a primary market or a secondary market, guests love this room and they’ll come back and you can see that if you offer a room type to guests that are looking for this haven, there’s nothing the hotel has to do. It’s turnkey for the hotel because we service the rooms every six months. Then it’s also a great revenue generator.
Robin Trimingham: So it sounds to me like really making your revenue is all about an effective marketing campaign to let people know that you have this.
Haley Payne: Sure, the hotel creates a room type. So there is when you go and you’re looking for there’s a king, there’s a king balcony, there’s a king view or something like that. There’s also a pure king. And so you can choose that room.
Speaker4: Type, pure.
Robin Trimingham: King. I like that. Haley, I want to thank you so much for chatting with me today. You’ve shared a lot of interesting information. I think you’re giving our hoteliers quite a bit to think about. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast. Join us again soon for up to the minute insights and information specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.