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BUSINESS & TECH

Five-Star Hotels Once Again Accused of Improper Cleaning

By Zhang Erchi and Coco Feng
At the Sheraton Harbin Xiangfang Hotel, a cleaner folded a quilt on the floor. Photo: Pearvideo
At the Sheraton Harbin Xiangfang Hotel, a cleaner folded a quilt on the floor. Photo: Pearvideo

Five-star hotels in China, including a Shangri-La and Sheraton, are once again mired in sanitation scandals, after their housekeepers were found to be using the same brushes to clean water glasses and toilets.

The city government of Harbin — the capital of Heilongjiang province in China’s northeast, where the hotels involved are located — confirmed Wednesday that such missteps did take place and that it would punish the hotels.

The scandal arose after online video-news site Pearvideo sent undercover personnel to film room cleaners at the city’s Kempinski, Shangri-La and Sheraton hotels.

At the Kempinski hotel, a cleaner used the same brush to clean both water glasses and the toilet, and wet a bath towel with toilet water to wipe the floor. At the Shangri-La, an employee cleaned the bathtub with a toilet brush and said, “When the customer is in, don’t brush like this.” At the Sheraton, a cleaner folded a quilt on the floor.

The Harbin Kempinski said on its Sina Weibo social media account that it “deeply regretted” the transgressions and has enhanced protections to ensure that all staff work in accordance with the strictest hygiene standards.

The Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts Group told Caixin that it is investigating the issue, and if the video shows what was purported, it is “unacceptable” and the company will immediately strengthen training and supervision and make sure that all employees follow its quality standards.

The Sheraton Harbin Xiangfang Hotel said on Sina Weibo that it was “deeply sorry” that certain employees did not strictly execute sanitation standards and re-trained its entire staff on Wednesday.

This is the second instance in three months of sanitation mismanagement at luxury hotels in China. In September, the Intercontinental Beijing Sanlitun, Hilton Beijing, W Beijing Chang’an, JW Marriott Beijing and Shangri-La Hotel Beijing were found to be failing to properly clean hotel rooms in between guest stays.

The issue has also aroused concerns over heavy workloads and low payment for hotel staff.

In the Harbin video, a Kempinski cleaner said that her work schedule is very tight, which makes it difficult to properly clean rooms. “But (workers there) can’t say it (to others),” she said.

As hotels aren’t allowed to install surveillance cameras in rooms, managers can only judge cleanliness by post-cleaning inspections, said Wu Ben, an associate professor in the Department of Tourism at Fudan University who teaches hotel management.

Wu said that the core problem is that even five-star hotels have trouble hiring highly-qualified staff because of their attempts to reduce labor costs.

Contact reporter Coco Feng (renkefeng@caixin.com)

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