April 28, 2020 — Private accommodations along the Adriatic may have to ditch their usual post-checkout cleaning practices to continue using online booking services. Gloves may be worn and then tossed, hands washed repeatedly and disinfectant maniacally sprayed. The early days of tourism during the coronavirus era offers new, still-evolving protocols that may slice into profits even in the best of seasons. Hosts and cleaners along the Dalmatian coast suggest they might be shuttled into hibernation, or worse, close up shop.
New hygienic protocols, like cleaning recommendations Airbnb released on Monday, are designed to lure travelers by highlighting accommodations’ cleanliness. The voluntary and extensive to-do list reportedly reads like an obsessive-compulsive germophobes’ ritualistic scrub-down, but following it earns a prominent certification which could innoculate against rampant vacancies. The company argues hosts will benefit from the positive feedback of providing clean accommodations while guests will rest easy knowing their room is thoroughly disinfected.
But at the other end stand private cleaning services and hosts along the Adriatic, who consider the measures cumbersome, excessive, and costly.
“It is, in my opinion, pure nonsense,” Mira Barbarić, owner of “Čisto,” a cleaning services company, told Slobodna Dalmacija, among others who complained to the paper. “I clean as I always clean. I don’t know what else I can do that’s better than what I’ve been doing until now, except drew my soul out of my own body. All this together is on the verge of madness.”
Barbarić and other cleaning services are sometimes a one-person operation, arriving at apartments just as guests checkout. They transform into a whirligig of spray bottles, vacuums, rags, and mops as they prep for new guests scheduled to arrive in a few hours. All of that work may not be enough anymore.
Airbnb announced its Enhanced Cleaning Initiative on Monday, creating a de facto checklist for all hosts which will affect the flow of guests to their homes. The crib-sheet reportedly reads like a minimal routine at a healthcare facility. Rigorous hand washing is followed by donning personal protective equipment (disposable gloves, masks, and aprons) and opening all doors and windows to let through a breeze.
Surfaces must first be cleaned with water and detergent (or soap), then sprayed with disinfectant which stands for a few minutes before being wiped dry with disposable wet wipes or paper towels, if possible. (Cleaning rags are allowed, but must be clean).
Linens and towels should also be washed at higher temperatures while wearing disposable gloves. Then, empty the vacuum cleaner after each cleaning and disinfect it.
Barbarić said a market already awash in black-market exchanges and deals will only grow thanks to this measure and thinning wallets. She’s been in the business for 15 years, currently charging about 70 kunas an hour but expects it to fall.
“Anyone who is relatively healthy can take a cloth and clean,” she said. “Of course, someone who has no money won’t call the cleaning service.”
Airbnb said its protocols align with recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as epidemiologists and companies in the hygiene and hospitality sectors. Hosts can enroll in the program and earn a certification which signals to guests they’re adhering to the new guidelines.
Airbnb’s initiative is voluntary for now, but the certification inherently incentivizes enrollment, since guests will likely seek certified accommodations.
The crux of the guidelines for hosts lies in the waiting period after checkout, where a room remains untouched for 24 hours first before cleaning begins. The recommendations follow epidemiological suggestions to reduce the odds of renters contracting a previous occupant’s illness. The measure eliminates the chance of stacking guests in rapid succession, building immovable vacancies into a host’s schedule.
Many hosts and cleaners rely on razor-thin margins, high volume, fast turnover, and low overhead to turn a profit. Every night a room stays vacant is a loss. In the corona era, that will happen more and more often as online travel agencies and short-term rental apps continue searching for some semblance of normalcy (and revenues) during the coronavirus era.