Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Is Your Hotel Room Always Set To Freezing?

For hotel engineers, there are three "T's" that are often the source of guest complaints: televisions, temperatures, and toilets. So then why is your hotel room always set to "freezing"?

Odor Control

The fact is it's very difficult for hoteliers to control what occurs inside a guestroom once it has been rented. Since guests bring with them various lifestyles and habits, it's safe to assume that rented hotel rooms will continue to be exposed to a wide range of smells and odors. Everything from pet smells, body odor, cologne, perfume, residual smells from smokers and even the occasional stench of in-room cooking smells tend to find their way into hotel rooms.

Bacteria Control

Hotel guests leave behind more than just socks and old paperbacks: A new study found viruses on TV remotes, light switches and even hotel pens after cold sufferers checked out.
The germ testing was done before the rooms were cleaned, so it likely overstates the risks that most travelers would face. Nevertheless, it shows the potential hazards if a hotel’s turnaround amounts to little more than changing the sheets and wiping out the tub.

“You sure hope the cleaning people were good,” said Dr. Owen Hendley, the University of Virginia pediatrician who presented at a meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. “We know that viruses can survive on surfaces for a long time — more than four days,” said Dr. Birgit Winther, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the university who led the study. Its aim was to test the survival of rhinoviruses, which cause about half of all colds in children.

Researchers had 15 people with lab-confirmed rhinovirus colds spend a night in individual rooms at a nearby hotel and, after they checked out, tested 10 items they said they had touched. About one-third of the objects were contaminated with rhinovirus. "We were surprised to find so many,” Winther said.

Viruses were found on 7 out of 14 door handles and 6 of 14 pens. Six out of 15 light switches, TV remotes and faucets tested positive, as did 5 of 15 phones. Shower curtains, coffee makers and alarm clocks also harbored viruses. Surprisingly, virus turned up on only one of the 10 toilet handles tested. Experts did not test items like bedspreads because cloth dries out germs, making them far less likely to survive than they do on smooth or moist surfaces.

Some in the hotel industry say they have strict policies on how to disinfect rooms between guests. “We do wipe everything down, from the remote control to the telephone,” said Michelle Pike, corporate director of housekeeping for Hilton brand hotels, which has 1,900 hotels around the world. Most of them are independently operated but the chain does have rules for disinfection, she said. Hilton, like many hotels, has taken steps to make common items easier to clean, like encasing phone books in plastic and replacing bedspreads with duvet covers than can be washed between each guest, she said.

Ultimately, it comes back to temperature, something the hotels can steadily control. Setting lower room temperatures also ensure that that prevailing bacteria are not given the opportunity to flourish, as they would were temperatures lower.

Varying Sensitivities

Especially during summer months, some guests are far more temperature sensitive than others. To ensure optimal comfort, hotels prefer rooms be colder rather than moderately set or set at an inadequate level. The last thing a hotel wants is the bad PR, as was suffered by Choice Inn when a hotel guest died of an in-room heat stroke.

What to do if Your Hotel Room has Limited Cooling

If you know you'll be staying in a place that has less than desirable cooling, you may want to consider bringing a compact mobile room air conditioner with you. This option is particularly advisable if you'll be staying in an area with intense heat or if you'll have an extended stay for any number of reasons. You can even request your hotel manager purchase one and have it available in the lobby for use or rentals. If they refuse, at this point it may be a good idea to inform them of the recent untimely departure of the Choice Inn guest or the studies held by Dr. Hendley.

Shireen Shah is a writer with