Home Air Quality Scandic’s New Standard Further Muddies ‘Allergy-Friendly’ Definition

Scandic’s New Standard Further Muddies ‘Allergy-Friendly’ Definition

Glenn Hasek

The definition of an allergy-friendly room has often been in flux in our industry. More than a decade ago, PURE Allergy Friendly Rooms were introduced. At that time, the PURE process included steps ranging from ozone shock treatment to an air purification system to a showerhead with a chlorine filter. PURE Allergy Friendly Rooms have since evolved and are now called Pure Rooms as part of a Pure Wellness experience. The current seven steps include: ozone shock treatment, sanitize air handling unit, deep clean soft and hard surfaces, apply Pure Shield Barrier, install air purification system, install antimicrobial tea tree oil cartridge in air handling unit, and install mattress and pillow encasements. At some point the chlorine filter in the showerhead was removed from the process.

In the most recent Lodging Survey published by AHLA and STR (2018), survey participants were asked if they make allergy-friendly rooms available to their guests. Twenty-eight percent of the almost 11,500 respondents said they do—down from 30 percent in 2016 and 45 percent in 2014. (A downward trend at a time of growing wellness awareness? Perplexing.) No definition of an allergy-friendly room is provided but apparently more than half of those responding in the upscale, upper upscale and luxury segments provide them. One must wonder how many of those respondents have different definitions of “allergy-friendly.” Interestingly, survey recipients were also asked in another question if they offer air purifiers in the guestroom. Just 11 percent said they do. Isn’t the core of an allergy-friendly room in the United States the air purifier? Again, more reason for allergy-friendly confusion.

Scandic’s New Standard

This past week, Scandic introduced a standard for allergy-friendly rooms. The following is a summary of most of that standard:

  • The rooms must always have wooden floors.
  • Only fragrance-free bathroom products must be provided.
  • The room must be a room where nobody has ever smoked.
  • It must be possible to open a window in a room (a ventilation window is sufficient).
  • The rooms must be placed on their own floor or corridor where fur-bearing pets would not be permitted.
  • A newly painted room cannot be sold as an allergy room until after three months have passed, as the paint must harden first.
  • Pillows/quilts must be of synthetic materials.
  • The mattress must be of synthetic materials.
  • The rooms and beds must not have bedspreads/bed blankets or decorative cushions.
  • Bedclothes and bathroom towels must be washed with an eco-labeled detergent.
  • Avoid fragrant flowers and plants near the rooms.

Most striking to me is Scandic’s ditching of carpeting in guestrooms. Of course, it makes sense not to have carpeting—one of the best dirt and dust collectors there is. Also, Scandic believes an air purifier is not necessary. Maybe it isn’t in the room they have created? And, does it really take three months for paint to dry? (Do you need to wait that long if the paint is low VOC?) The Scandic rooms are also cleaned according to strict cleaning procedures. Scandic’s goal is to have all its hotels offer at least two allergy-friendly rooms within a year.

“While we’ve offered allergy-friendly rooms at Scandic for some time, we’re particularly proud that they’re now part of our accessibility standard,” says Magnus Berglund, Director of Accessibility at Scandic.

It is great to see an increasing number of hotels offer allergy-friendly rooms. I suspect, however, that if you ask 100 different hoteliers what that means exactly, you will get just about 100 different answers.

One must wonder if there will ever be a call for some industry-wide standardization of what an allergy-friendly room is. We are a long way from that point but until that happens there will be both hotelier and consumer confusion about its meaning.

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