Five-star hotels get a 'clean-up' call

Hu Min
At least eight top international hotels, including five from Shanghai, apologized yesterday after their unhygienic room cleaning practices in China were exposed online.
Hu Min

At least eight top international hotels, including five from Shanghai, apologized yesterday after their unhygienic room cleaning practices in China were exposed online.

A blogger with the pseudonym “Huazong” posted the 11-minute video late on Wednesday on his Weibo social media account. It had been shared 78,000 times by yesterday afternoon, prompting authorities to act.

The video shows cleaners wiping cups and sinks with dirty towels and sponges. Some use the same towel to wipe the toilet seat, while others could be seen soaking cups in shampoo!

The video had footages from 15 luxury hotels, seven of them from Shanghai.

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai said it has taken action and launched an investigation to ensure that all hygiene and cleaning operations meet the national sanitary management standards. It apologized in a statement as well.

Mandarin Oriental Pudong also apologized and said it had carried out a thorough investigation and acted on the results as well. The hotel said it does not tolerate any improper cleaning practices by its room attendants.

Ritz-Carlton Shanghai said in a statement that it has launched self-checks and an investigation found that the room attendant in the video had received training on room cleaning standards and procedures, but still failed to carry out his job properly.

The hotel apologized and said it would conduct the training again to ensure that standards are strictly maintained and would also boost room checks.

Four Seasons also issued an apology saying it would enhance training and supervision to make sure that workers stick to regulations and service standards at work. An investigation is under way, it said in the statement.

The Shangri-La Hotel in Fuzhou said the actions in the video violate its hygiene standards, while the Park Hyatt in Beijing claimed it was an isolated occurrence.

The Sheraton in Guiyang City and Le Royal Meridien Shanghai also apologized. Sheraton said it was reviewing its procedures.

Le Royal Meridien said it would take measures, such as training, procedure improvement and management, to ensure cleaning standards are implemented.

Hilton and Marriott group properties were among the 15 luxury hotels included in the video.

The Shanghai Health Inspection Agency under the Shanghai Tourism Administration said it had ordered inspection authorities in Jing’an and Huangpu districts and the Pudong New Area to investigate the hotels that are featured in the video.

Beijing tourism authorities also issued a statement requiring hotels to check and rectify their practices. It added that it had asked the Beijing health commission to conduct sanitary inspections of four of the hotels named in the video.

The video, reportedly shot over two months, also shows luxury hotels in Nanjing and Nanchang indulging in similar practices.

The Shanghai Tourism Administration said if the video was confirmed to be true, it would impose severe punishment on the hotels involved.

It said it would advise authorities assessing the hotels’ star ratings to get tougher on their evaluation criterion.

A cleaner at Bvlgari Hotel Shanghai was found using a disposable plastic cup cover from a garbage bin and using it repeatedly after wiping it with a T-shirt. The cleaner also wiped glass and washbasin with a used towel.

A staff at the Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai used the same sponge used in the bathroom to clean washbasins and glass. The cleaner also used a dirty towel to clean basins and cups as well.

Cups were soaked in shampoo and bath towel was used to clean the floor and wipe bathroom glass at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai.

Shanghai’s PuLi Hotel and Spa also features in the video.

“It is really disgusting,” said Lydia Qian, who works in an advertisement company and travels on business trips often. “I carry my own towels, but now it seems I have to carry my own cups, too.

“I just can’t imagine such things happening at five-star hotels,” she added.

Cindy Yu, a former public relations staff at a five-star hotel, said she carried her own “disinfectant when staying in hotels.”

“I think luxury hotels should learn a lesson and educate their staff after this incident.”

Industry insiders say often basic cleaning procedures such as changing bedsheets are skipped during peak season.

“Some room attendants just sprinkle water and flatten quilts if there are no obvious dirt or stains,” said Yi Xin, who has experience working in a five-star hotel for over five years.

Wang Li, who has five-star hotel work experience, said when hotels receive big number of tour groups, cleaning procedures were sometimes skipped. Hotels don’t clean beds or toilets if not necessary.

Huang Tiemin, a Shanghai Tourism Trade Association official, blamed the intensity of work, the hotels’ pursuit of speed cleaning rather than quality and cleaners’ low pay for the scandal.

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