Video sparks hygiene concerns in Beijing hotels

Clip of undercover inspection shows use of items, such as unclean sheets, in rooms

BEIJING • More Chinese travellers are taking along their own sheets, sleeping bags, kettles and bathrobes after a video posted online raised public concern about the hygienic conditions of several Beijing hotel rooms, China Daily reported.

Lanmei Test, an organisation that claims to be independent, released a video on WeChat earlier this month of a recent undercover inspection, during which its employees left marks on sheets, toilets and cups at five of the capital's five-star hotels. The video - which featured the hotel rooms of the W Hotel Beijing, InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun, Hilton Beijing, Beijing JW Marriott Hotel and Shangri-La Hotel Beijing - showed that the marks, visible only under ultraviolet light, were still there when Lanmei employees checked into the same rooms the next day.

The video went viral on China's social media within hours of its release. Since then, sales of bathtub liners and cotton sleeping bags on Chinese shopping sites have also increased, the Beijing Morning Post reported, as anxious Chinese travellers worried about hygiene arm themselves with their own items.

"Sales of disposable toiletries and bedding spiked within two days of the report's release," the paper quoted a vendor of disposable sleeping bags as saying.

Ms Wang Ni, a Beijing resident who travels regularly, said she would consider buying some sheets because the hygienic conditions of hotels had always been a concern for her.

"I haven't bought them yet, but I would never use the towels in a hotel room because it is hard to tell if they are clean enough simply by looking," she said.

Following the video's release, Beijing launched a citywide inspection last Tuesday of all its five-star hotels. Hotels found with hygiene problems face warnings or fines of up to 20,000 yuan (S$4,200), said Mr Wang Benjin, a spokesman for the capital's Health and Family Planning Inspection Office. He said the move was in addition to annual checks on hotels, and that the authorities had taken samples at the five hotels for testing.

All five hotels involved in the report released statements last week saying they had launched internal investigations.

Shangri-La Hotel Beijing said last Tuesday it had "strict policies" regarding cleanliness, and that the recent media reports, which the hotel said it cannot validate, did not reflect its "high standards".

In 2011, the Chinese Health Ministry passed a regulation requiring hotels to change sheets for every guest. For long-term guests, the sheets should be changed at least every week. Star-rated hotels have stricter regulations for sheets.

While Lanmei's report has stirred public concern, questions have also been raised over its independence and its intentions in releasing the video.

Verified information on Lanmei's WeChat account showed it was affiliated with Huanyu-Huilv (Beijing) Technology, whose legal representative is also the founder of qyer.com, an online platform that provides travel strategies and booking services for outbound tourists. It can promote certain hotels over others.

Both Lanmei and qyer.com have released statements saying that Lanmei is an independent reviewer, and its choice of topics is not affected by qyer.com.

Lanmei director Zhang Lu said the video was inspired by similar investigations by foreign media and was selected according to the needs of its users. "The video was planned by us independently. We did not accept any form of sponsorship. The video is meant to be neutral," the director said.

Inside Edition, a television show in the United States, ran similar tests in New York and found three of the nine hotels it tested had unclean, used sheets. An earlier video released in China also showed a cleaner at a hotel in Jinan, Shandong province, scrubbing a toilet with a guest towel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 11, 2017, with the headline 'Video sparks hygiene concerns in Beijing hotels'. Print Edition | Subscribe