NATIONAL REPORT—According to the recently released J.D. Power 2020 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index (NAGSI) Study, meeting guest expectations for cleanliness continues to be a strong driver of guest satisfaction. “In fact, satisfaction with guestroom cleanliness has been climbing steadily for many years,” says Andrea Stokes, Hospitality Practice lead at J.D. Power. With guest attention to cleanliness at a hyper level due to COVID-19, making sure guests need not worry about lingering cigarette or marijuana odor is even more critical.
As far as the hotel industry has come in banning indoor smoking (97 percent of hotel rooms are nonsmoking), it still happens quite frequently. Jack O’Toole, Founder and President of FreshAir Sensor, says an average of 7 percent of a given hotel’s nonsmoking rooms get smoked in monthly, even after guests sign a statement saying they will not. “In states where it is legalized, the marijuana percentage is about 80 percent of the smoking,” O’Toole says. Hotel employees who smoke themselves on their personal time often do not catch the lingering odor. They are not as sensitive to the odor as a nonsmoker. Hoteliers ultimately are forced to add the agreed-upon cleaning fee to the guest’s bill. “Over half the time the guest will contest it and there will be a chargeback and the hotelier will have to pay a fee for the chargeback,” O’Toole says.
In addition to the lost cleaning fee, there are the many ancillary costs to lingering cigarette or marijuana odor. Toxic second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke linger—even in adjoining rooms. Negative social media reviews chase business away. Particularly in rooms where guests have smoked a lot all soft goods must be removed, hard surfaces scrubbed, the room must be ozone treated, and then left empty for several nights. O’Toole says that according to a 2013 study, it is not possible to remove all third-hand smoke. Only painting and other costly action can truly remove the odor.
“I used to travel 200 days a year,” O’Toole says. “I saw this as a pretty big problem. Forty-two thousand Americans die each year from second-hand smoke.”
A Solution to the Smoking Problem
In 2013, FreshAir Sensor began working on a smoking detection solution for hotels. In 2016, its plug-in smoking detection device was released to the industry. The sensor utilizes PolySens technology that immediately detects specific molecules in tobacco smoke and marijuana smoke.
FreshAir devices connect to a building’s Wi-Fi to communicate with FreshAir’s monitoring platform. When smoking is detected in a monitored space, an immediate alert is sent via email, computer desktop, and/or mobile phone push notification. Multiple users on an account can receive smoking alerts. A smoking report is also generated for each alert, which includes a downloadable, timestamped chart that can be used as scientific proof of smoking.
O’Toole says what hoteliers do with that instant verification of smoking varies per property but many immediately go to the hotel room to confront the guest. There, they sign a paper admitting to the violation and agreeing again to pay the fine—as steep as $500. “People usually just confess,” O’Toole says. “If you wait to enter the room, the less obvious the smoking is.”
The sensors, which also help to prevent fires caused by smoking, secure to standard North American (type B) power outlets with tamper-proof screws provided by FreshAir. “Our sensors work like biological receptors,” O’Toole says. Each FreshAir device can cover an open area up to 500 square feet. For areas that are larger and/or easily sectioned off by doors, complete coverage of the space might require multiple devices. The sensitivity of the sensors depends on factors such as the volume of the room, the proximity of the device to the source of smoking, and the direction, speed, and volume of airflow.
O’Toole says no chain has yet made the sensor a brand standard but there are tens of thousands of devices currently in use. “It is the only technology that can detect and monitor marijuana smoke,” he says.
FreshAir Sensor has invented a sensor that can detect vaping. It will be available to current and new clients as soon as it is functional and ready.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.