The future is cleaner: Q&A with Gordon Bruce, director at Room to Breathe

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Gordon Bruce, director at Room to Breathe, spoke to BHN about how the coronavirus crisis will inevitably prompt a change in consumer demand and industry priorities.

Room to Breathe launched in October last year, merely a couple of months before the outbreak of coronavirus. What were the problem areas that you identified prior to this launch, and how has the spread of the virus impacted the business?

The concept of Room to Breathe (RTB) was created in the Summer of 2019 following many years of work and research into the dangers of poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and trying to get health and local authorities, government departments, landlords and insurance companies to understand and recognise the harmful nature of toxins, mould, and VOC’s (volatile organic compounds).

The research has been available worldwide for many years and it only appears to have been very recent, before Covid-19, that the world is waking up to these dangers. Covid-19 is the catalyst to the new awareness, that’s all.

With the hospitality sector slowly moving towards the acceptance of these issues which has been driven by the wellness movement, we believe RTB is a perfect fit to further enhance customers health, safety and wellbeing. 

As commercially driven entities, hotels or temporary accommodation providers are all looking for a USP, hence we felt this was an opportunity to use our products in an integrated and symbiotic way to enhance the travel experience. 

Our ‘Bio-Security’ system at Insite Specialist Services, the company behind RTB, is called Kill, Prevent, Protect (KPP). It was created for these markets and to date still is carried out providing a unique and unrivalled service. We did however consider this branding as not quite appropriate for your relaxed stay in a hotel! The name Room to Breathe was arrived at quickly and universally accepted as a very descriptive message.

With the country now in lockdown, it has meant that the business now has another priority, one that is the first step of our process: deep clean. After being approached by several of our clients, we developed our own protocol which incorporates the initial introduction of our solution. With the majority of cleaning companies using harsh chemicals which creates a toxic environment for their housekeeping team, our solution guarantees the safety and security for up to 28 days, giving guests and staff alike ‘room to breathe’.

How will the COVID-19 pandemic change professional attitudes and personal perceptions of the hospitality industry?

The future, we believe, after we come out of this pandemic, will involve changes in perception of guests. When we eventually return to ‘normal’ life, we will all have become acutely aware of how Mother Nature can rapidly alter the status quo and severely affect each and every one of us; where we go, who we see, what we do. Now, more than ever, people are aware of their environment, and guests will seek out accommodations that have solutions in place that puts their health and wellness first.

The personal and commercial effects of the current outbreak will be felt for years to come, of that there is no doubt. And personal and social hygiene awareness has increased exponentially, with a growing scepticism of what and what is not clean. 

Whether we are at our workplace, attending leisure facilities, or travelling for business or pleasure, we all now have a heightened awareness of how we interact and will now expect and demand a higher level of service from providers that takes cognisance of the perceived risks as a result of this. Covid-19 will change the way we work, how we live, and how and where we travel.

Few markets have felt the full force of this pandemic more than the hospitality sector. It has decimated trade, scattered the labour force and threatened the very existence of the supply chain.

Travellers, holiday makers and businesspeople alike will now become even more difficult to satisfy and will seek to be given as much reassurance as possible. 

A single night stay will become a hotelier’s biggest issue, as each and every night new customers require that peace of mind that rooms are as safe as possible for them to stay in. Failure to address these new concerns could result in the long-term repeat visitor more likely to go somewhere else next time. Capturing this feeling of assured safety every time must be seen as the focal point for customer satisfaction.

Can you please explain the cleaning process at Room to Breathe?

Originally developed to provide safe, clean accommodation for the millions of travellers who have a hypersensitivity to various toxins, pathogens and allergens, RTB also kills 99.99 per cent of viruses and bacteria including coronaviruses such as influenza, SARS, and MERS.

The KPP system mentioned earlier differs from RTB in that we use a more aggressive ‘killing’ product when we are dealing with either an incident following a flood or burst pipes, as mould, bacteria, viruses, yeasts, spores and toxins are at an absolute high - situations where there is a real and significant risk to people’s health. This first ‘kill’ is carried out by using ‘flood-hit’ or ‘clean-site’, a product developed by ourselves that once it has annihilated the contagion, it reverts back to water.

For the ease of comparing both systems, this would be the preparation phase for the first application of our RTB products, or in other words, this would be like saying the hotel room has been deep cleaned. Our hotel room deep clean consists of a number of elements from UV lamps, to ULPA hoovering and fogging the air with our PB2012, which is a proven virucide, bactericide and fungicide. It can destroy single cell, low level living organisms like mould, yeast, bacteria as well as viruses, but is completely safe to humans.

The next step is the application of our unique ‘BioTouch’ antimicrobial coating which is fogged onto all surfaces including textiles and soft furnishings. This creates a surface that only under an electron microscope would resemble a ‘bed of nails’. When a microbe lands on a surface, the little nails or needles rupture their membranes and they become defunct.

Where we have soft furnishings, mattress, seating and or cushions, we will apply Protext which is a treatment for bed bugs and interrupts their life cycle. It is not a poison, toxin or leaching effect solution. This is a blend of BioTouch and PB2012, and is our own unique formula.

With the introduction of our air sanifiers we provide another level of continuous air and surface treatments. These do not contain filters that require constant changing or cleaning but create an environment that is continually cleansing the air and surfaces. This is based on NASA technology that was used on space missions to prolong the life of fruit and vegetables, as well as clean the astronauts air. 

We are not finished just yet! Whilst the hotel is obliged to provide certified hypoallergenic pillows and mattress protectors, we then insist that the housekeeping only use water and microfibre cloths to clean. Only where there is a sticky residue would we allow a slight degreaser to be used, which we can also supply.

Furthermore, we have a range of products from environmentally friendly ‘spill kits’ to fragrance free shampoos and soaps that can further enhance the guests stay.

So how can hoteliers and property owners reassure customers of the steps taken to address such demand?

A new approach to a new problem must be the way forward. It needs to address the worries and concerns of customers and, just as importantly, be cost effective.

Firstly, we provide a certification that is displayed either outside or within the room to provide that peace of mind to customers and employees alike. Step one of our system is carried out regularly every four months as part of our certification procedure, which will be recorded in a room information pack that explains the RTB system. 

By providing a room that can demonstrate continuous and permanent self-cleaningprovision, you can provide customers with an unrivalled level of service and commitment to their needs and concerns.

Secondly, the cost of a deep clean between every guest is neither practical nor affordable, which is where RTB comes into its own. Based on an occupancy of 72 per cent, our cost model demonstrates that a ROI of 100 per cent can be achieved in the first year with a surcharge of just £15 per night per room.

On-site training is also provided to housekeeping staff in order to ensure the efficacy of the RTB system is maintained. This is no more onerous to staff and in fact will simplify their cleaning protocols.

BHN predicted that regular and more thorough contamination checks were to be a top trend back in 2014

Further information about Room to Breathe can be found here.

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