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Hotels, airlines and sports venues turn to Clorox and Lysol to vouch for cleanliness

By Hugo Martín
Los Angeles News

If you jump on a United Airlines flight, you are likely to see the Clorox logo on signs and posters as you board.

Check into a Marriott or Hyatt hotel and expect to see stickers emblazoned with the name of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, an arm of the world’s cleaning-products industry trade group.

Customers of Delta Air Lines, Avis car rentals and Hilton hotels might run into placards and stickers touting the Lysol brand.

Trying to reassure a nervous public about their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, hotels, airlines, car rental companies and sports arenas have teamed up with the makers of popular cleaning products to vouch for their cleaning protocols.

FILE - A detail of a label on a bottle of Clorox bleach is displayed in a supermarket, in Walpole, Mass. in a In this Aug. 1, 2011 file photo. Clorox’s fiscal fourth-quarter sales jumped 22% as consumers continued to buy cleaning supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

These protocols focus mostly on disinfecting public spaces and high-touch surfaces, whereas medical experts note that COVID-19 is primarily transmitted through the air after an infected person coughs, sneezes or exhales.

And the new partnerships and accreditation programs touted by such travel and hospitality companies do not guarantee that the makers of the popular cleaning products have inspected the facilities — so they’re very different from, say, restaurant letter grades, which assure that local health inspectors scrutinize the eateries on a regular basis.

Also unlike government health departments, the cleaning-product makers expect to profit by charging fees to the venues or boosting sales of their products.

Venues embrace these programs for good reason, hospitality experts say, because travelers are no longer as preoccupied with getting the best price for their next trip as they are with protecting themselves from COVID-19.

“It’s a critical move,” said Anthony Melchiorri, a hospitality expert who hosts the Travel Channel series “Hotel Impossible.” “Not only do your guests have to feel safe but your employees must feel safe.”

Although brand names can inspire confidence and comfort, human behavior is key to safety, health experts note.

“What you hope hotels are doing are things like encouraging physical distancing in common spaces and limiting the number of people who are riding in elevators,” said Dr. Timothy Brewer, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine. “Those are things, in addition to cleaning, that will be very important in minimizing the risk of infection.”

The hotels, airlines and sports arenas that are partnering with the cleaning-product makers say social distancing and wearing masks are elements of their new protocols but the emphasis is still on disinfecting surfaces with name-brand products.

In some of the partnerships, the cleaning-product makers simply help draft cleaning standards for their business partners. In others, the cleaning specialists develop accreditation programs — like a pass-or-fail exam — that the hotels and arenas must pass to earn the brand’s endorsement.

The Global Biorisk Advisory Council, also known as GBAC, and Ecolab Inc., a Minnesota-based maker of cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance products, have each created accreditation programs for several hotels and sports arenas.

The accreditation is not free and it usually doesn’t involve in-person inspections.

A GBAC accreditation program costs as much as $15,000 a year per facility. Ecolab declined to disclose its fees, saying only that the costs “vary by industry and customer, depending on the components included in the program and implementation needs.”

For Lysol and Clorox, the financial benefit from such partnerships is expected to come from promoting their brands in hotels, airlines and rental car companies and from the boost in sales as the partner companies stock up on cleaning products to meet the new protocols.