The number of hotel rooms reserved for smokers is on the decline according to research,(*) and with the profitability of remaining smoking rooms in question, it's no surprise that major national hotel chains are beginning to decrease their total number of smoking rooms or become non-smoking facilities altogether.
The challenge of converting smoking rooms to non-smoking rooms and keeping remaining smoking rooms livable is not something hotel managers take lightly. The prospect for success with both can be summed up simply: cost-effective odor removal.
Removing odor from a smoking room can be a difficult task since cigarette smoke is absorbed into many of the room's surfaces, including bedspreads, drapes, carpet and rugs, and upholstery.
"Because soft materials are so porous, it's very easy for odors to become trapped inside," said Bill Shaw, general manager of the Hampton Inn(R) in San Antonio, Texas.
Traditionally, converting a smoking room requires replacing all of the items in the room. Many smaller properties can't afford that expense and need a cost-effective cleaning alternative since standard cleaning isn't sufficient for attacking residual odor and can have a negative effect on guest satisfaction. The cigarette odors that are trapped deep within fabrics and linger in the air demand products known for odor-removal capabilities that maximize productivity with minimal rework.
When it comes to removing odors from fabrics, it isn't easy to get the job done right the first time without powerful products. The first step to eliminating cigarette odor is to wash bedspreads and curtains in a near- neutral pH laundry detergent, like Tide(R), that won't damage these materials intended for long-term use.
Secondly, a deep carpet cleaning can go a long way to removing cigarette odor from the most expansive soft surface in most hotel rooms. To tackle any remaining odor in the carpet, as well as odor in furniture upholstery, hotel housekeepers can benefit from a product that neutralizes odor and doesn't just mask it. This product should seek out and eliminate odors on fabrics, leaving a light, fresh scent.
"We use Febreze Fabric Refresher on carpets, chairs and curtains," Shaw said. "It does the trick. Odor is gone and the only thing left is a light, fresh smell."
After odor is removed from fabrics, residual odor may still linger in the air. The knee-jerk reaction is to use a traditional air freshener that simply masks odors with heavy perfumes that are often as offensive as the cigarette odor housekeepers are trying to remove. Instead, hotels can choose an odor- removal product designed to effectively encapsulate and eliminate odor molecules without the use of heavy perfumes, leaving the air feeling clean and fresh.
"We're a non-smoking hotel, but occasionally we'll have a guest smoke in one of our rooms," said Andre Bohnote, assistant general manager of the Clarendon Hotel + Suites, a Kerry Hotel, in Phoenix, Ariz. "We spray Febreze Air Effects thoroughly throughout the room to diffuse odor. The results are swift, effective and lasting. The room smells clean because Febreze doesn't have an overpowering scent. I absolutely adore Febreze."
The end result of this comprehensive cigarette-odor removal strategy is guest satisfaction, whether the guests are non-smokers in a refurbished smoking room or smokers in a smoking room. Staying in an odor-filled room isn't pleasant for smokers either, so basic odor removal techniques for fabrics and the air should be performed daily in smoking rooms, too.
"Cigarette odors can be an enormous barrier to guest satisfaction," Shaw said. "A lot of times, especially during our busier season, a non-smoker will end up in a smoking room because that's all that's left. It's up to us to clean the room as much as possible to ensure the guest has a pleasant stay."
Smoking rooms don't have to be a barrier to guest satisfaction. With the right cleaning strategy and products, former smoking rooms can become odor free and even current smoking rooms can provide the pleasant home-away-from- home experience all hotel guests desire.
(*) according to PricewaterhouseCoopers