. Destinations Introduce Hygiene Certifications in Response to COVID-19 Concerns | Northstar Meetings Group

Destinations Introduce Hygiene Certifications in Response to COVID-19 Concerns

Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Portugal have all launched programs that standardize and certify enhanced cleanliness measures.

Abu Dhabi is the latest destination to introduce a destination-wide hygiene-certification program.
Abu Dhabi is the latest destination to introduce a destination-wide hygiene-certification program.

Updated July 7, 2020. As country and city officials look toward reopening venues following coronavirus lockdowns, several have launched certification programs to reassure visitors and groups that virus-prevention measures have been implemented in their destinations.

Abu Dhabi

Most recently, Abu Dhabi launched its Go Safe program, which was developed by the Department of Culture and Tourism with the aim of enforcing global standards of safety and cleanliness at hotels, attractions, and venues across the emirate. 

Go Safe builds on the United Arab Emirate's National Disinfection Program, launched in late March as part of the preventative and precautionary measures taken to move quickly to contain the spread of COVID-19, to position the country for a comeback and to welcome groups as soon as safety allows.

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“Our priority is to ensure that our residents and visitors feel safe and comfortable in Abu Dhabi. And as hygiene and cleanliness have risen to become vital factors considered by all individuals today, we believe that it is imperative for all institutions and businesses to elevate and then maintain hygiene standards,” said Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, executive director of tourism and marketing for DCT Abu Dhabi.

To earn the Go Safe Certificate, venues must complete guided self-assessments as per guidelines and checklists provided by DCT Abu Dhabi. The self-assessments are then verified through thorough site inspections conducted by dedicated teams to ensure venues meet the highest standard of cleanliness. The W Abu Dhabi-Yas Island was the first hotel to be certified; at press time, six more hotels were going through the process.

According to the DCT Abu Dhabi, the program will next be rolled out to attractions, malls, restaurants, theme parks and other public spaces. 

“Abu Dhabi is setting a new standard for best practices in tourism,” said Al Shaiba. “As we look forward to reviving tourism in the capital, we aim to not only meet, but to exceed all existing international benchmarks through a strategy that promotes consumer safety in every step of the way, from the moment they land at our airports to their eventual departure."

Portugal

Portugal's national tourism authority, Turismo de Portugal, launched the "Clean & Safe" program on April 24 — through which tourist attractions and businesses can be certified for following specific hygiene guidelines.

Porto, Portugal
Porto, Portugal

The certificate can be obtained online by declaring a commitment to a cleanliness protocol developed with Portugal's directorate general for health. Qualifying organizations will be assigned a stamp associated with their respective registering body: RNET (National Register of Tourist Enterprises), RNAAT (National Register of Tourist Entertainment Agents) or RNAVT (National Register of Travel and Tourism Agents). In coordination with these registers, Turismo de Portugal will then carry out random audits throughout the year to ensure the measures remain in place.

By verifying and promoting the certification, Turismo de Portugal aims to offer visitors an added level of confidence in the coronavirus-prevention efforts underway throughout the destination.

Singapore

Portugal's initiative follows that of the government of Singapore, which was one of the first to roll out a destinationwide certification program — the expansive SG Clean. This campaign provides a targeted checklist for each type of public-facing business in the city-state, including MICE venues and hotels. Requirements include assigning an SG Clean Manager on each premises, conducting temperature checks of employees and visitors, implementing safe-distancing measures for lines and seating, and increasing the frequency of disinfection — particularly for elevators, handrails, meeting rooms and variety of other high-touch areas.

Singapore was one of the first destinations to roll out a hygiene-certification program, in the form of the expansive SG Clean initiative.
Singapore was one of the first destinations to roll out a hygiene-certification program, in the form of the expansive SG Clean initiative.

After ensuring requirements are met, venue owners must schedule an in-person audit by an approved agency — which for MICE venues would be the Singapore Tourism Board. When approved, the venue receives a certificate to post publicly, reassuring visitors they have met the new elevated standards.

SG Clean Quality Mark certificates now have been earned by more than 800 tourism establishments, including F&B venues and shops within hotels and other tourist destinations, as well as the Sentosa resort area.

"With SG Clean, we aim to provide the sense of assurance for both meeting organizers and delegates that we prioritize their health and safety, as they plan and attend business events in Singapore when activities resume," said Rachel Loh, regional director of the Americas for the Singapore Tourism Board. "It shows that there is a streamlined protocol across all venues throughout the country, and planners will be able to confidently choose from a variety of meeting options and feel safe in the knowledge that they had met the same hygiene and sanitation standards at any location."

She added that the boomerang that Singapore saw this spring -- when the destination had the virus under control and began to loosen social-distancing measures, only to see cases surge back up again -- was a reminder that "we cannot afford to be complacent, and our plans need to be flexible and nimble to respond to new developments." Now, as the destination again eases restrictions, coming out of its "circuit breaker" lockdown, the assurance the certificate provides to individuals and groups has become more important than ever.

The Grand Hyatt Singapore was the first hotel to earn the SG Clean designation.
The Grand Hyatt Singapore was the first hotel to earn the SG Clean designation.

The 677-room Grand Hyatt Singapore in Singapore's Orchard Street shopping district was the first hotel to earn the SG Clean designation. Among the measures in place are twice-daily checks and contact tracing for associates and contractors entering the hotel, hourly cleaning of high-touch areas and social-distancing measures throughout the hotel. 

The property had put many of these measures in place prior to the launch of the SG Clean program, but Parveen Kumar, hotel manager of the Grand Hyatt, emphasized that a nationwide program like SG Clean offers its own particular benefits beyond those launched by individual properties or brands.

"It reinforces Hyatt's commitment toward caring for others by ensuring that our guests, colleagues and contractors are always in a safe and healthy environment when they are with us," he said. But, he added, by making SG Clean a national program, it will "raise domestic and international public confidence of Singapore's hygiene standards, which will go a long way in assuring planners that Singapore is safe and ready for delegates to visit for business and leisure. It is not enough for a single hotel, event venue, restaurant or attraction to be safe — Singapore as a collective community must maintain stringent hygiene standards to ensure everyone's wellbeing and safety."

Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, has taken a number of health steps to earn its SG Clean certificate.
Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, has taken a number of health steps to earn its SG Clean certificate.

Tane Picken, general manager of the 792-room Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, which has also earned the SG Clean certification, echoes these sentiments.

"SG Clean presents a nonbiased, third-party audited national benchmark that recognizes organizations that are upholding good sanitation and hygiene practices, keeping Singapore clean and safe across various sectors," Picken said. "It brings visibility to the housekeeping process and serves as a stamp of approval that the accredited hotels are committed to upholding high standards of sanitation and hygiene practices. This, in turn rebuilds confidence amongst guests, who will have hygiene standards at the top of their minds when making travel decisions."

Some of the steps the Shangri-La is taking are ensuring that food is plated and served individually at events instead of using buffets; decreasing the number of guests seated at each table to maintain safe distancing; checking temperatures upon guests' arrival; and making hand sanitizer available for guests' use. Picken added that the property is also extending flexibility to event planners in changes to their event capacity and dates.

"COVID-19 has changed the way the world views gatherings and even as borders slowly reopen and communities prepare to meet professionally again, meeting planners can be assured that Singapore's robust precautionary measures to combat COVID-19 will be in place to safeguard employees and delegates," said Loh of the tourism board. "Meanwhile, we know that meeting planners continue to research and source for future meetings, and at the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau, we remain available to help facilitate their meeting needs."