06 Nov 2018 | 10:07
Head of Health, Safety and Security Marc Jordan gives an update on our hotel and hygiene programme
As you would expect, my team and I devote a great deal of our time to make sure that all of the hotels we sell around the world adhere to the highest standards, particularly when it comes to hygiene. We want you to know that everything possible is being done to ensure you and your family stay happy and healthy on holiday. We constantly monitor feedback from guests at every single property which Thomas Cook offers to customers. If we find, that for whatever reason, standards have slipped, we take action.
This summer was one such moment. Following the tragic deaths of John and Susan Cooper, we immediately stopped selling rooms there and along with a team of independent auditors I went to investigate. It became apparent that there had been increased levels of sickness at the hotel where they were staying, the Steigenberger Aqua Magic in Hurghada. As a result, we moved all our customers out of the property.
The situation at that property is still under investigation but the findings of our own audit have made us reappraise our processes and our approach to hotel hygiene. As a result, from next season we are introducing an extra level of checks to ensure the highest standards are maintained at all times.
First let me tell you about the checks we already have in place. Right now we audit all of our properties every year, making sure the building, food, pool and security is up to scratch, so we have a benchmark that every property must achieve. If they can’t reach the standards we demand we will help and support them as much as we can, but if customers are at risk we won’t sell the hotel – it’s as simple as that.
Then my team and I monitor properties throughout the season. If we see an increase in reported sickness involving 5% of customers or 10 people, in any property during a one-week period – we get involved and take what we call an intrusive role. This means that we look at the hygiene measures that are already in place and see where improvements need to be made. We look at their processes and procedures, particularly in the kitchens and restaurants. We will then put an improvement plan in place and monitor the hotel very closely. After that, if we don’t see illness levels falling, we stop sending our customers there.
In the light of what we learned over the summer, we are now introducing a new level of screening that looks more closely at hygiene standards. As a first step, any property where more than 0.25% of customers fell ill last season will undergo a full independent hygiene assessment. That might seem like a low threshold to trigger such a reaction, but we don’t want anyone to be ill on holiday for any reason and we need to be alerted if anything at all is going wrong.
These new checks will identify food safety and hygiene issues and will focus on the prevention of spreadable infection. Measures we take may include, a deep clean of the property, temperature checks on food, both hot and cold, the speed at which food is refreshed, additional hygiene measures for staff, raising awareness among customers about their behaviour around food and additional hand washing facilities around the hotel.
The vast majority of hotels surpass the very high standards we set them. But we are determined to keep driving standards up. We will keep working with hotels, governments and independent experts, because I want to know we’ve done all we can to ensure you have a great holiday.