SINGAPORE - The Orchard Road hotel linked to several international coronavirus cases has become one of the first in Singapore to attain SG Clean certification, a move Grand Hyatt Singapore hopes will restore confidence among visitors.
The SG Clean campaign, launched last month to raise public hygiene standards amid the coronavirus outbreak, was rolled out for tourism, retail and food service businesses on Thursday (March 12).
To obtain certification from the relevant agencies, firms must meet several requirements tailored to each sector. They include the appointment of an SG Clean manager to oversee the establishment's practices, having processes in place to monitor the health of employees, and ensuring frequent disinfection of common facilities.
Thirty shops and eateries along Orchard Road have also received the mark, a green SG Clean logo that can be displayed on shopfronts. They include the Golden Village theatre at Plaza Singapura, Haidilao Hotpot and beauty retailer Sephora.
The Singapore Tourism Board and Enterprise Singapore, both of which certify hotels, among other establishments, said in a statement on Thursday that they will be encouraging more than 37,000 businesses in the tourism and lifestyle sectors to get certified in the coming months.
The focus will be on certifying establishments that experience heavy human traffic on a daily basis such as malls, hotels and tourist attractions, they said. Assessment and certification are free of charge.
The Grand Hyatt, which hosted a business conference organised by British company Servomex in January, has seen business suffer since the meeting was linked to seven cases, including four who tested positive after returning to their home countries.
The hotel was declared an inactive cluster earlier this week, after not being connected to new Covid-19 cases for more than 28 days. All three local patients who attended the meeting have also recovered.
Hotel manager Parveen Kumar of the Grand Hyatt Singapore said at a press conference that the mark comes at the "perfect time" for the hotel, as its surveillance period has ended.
Asked how badly business at the hotel has been affected and whether it received cancellations in the wake of the cluster, Mr Parveen would only say that every business in the travel industry has been impacted by last minute changes in international travel plans and the hotel has extended flexibility to guests.
The hotel has not had to lay off staff or put employees on unpaid leave during this period, thanks in part to the cross-deployment of staff within the hotel and government training programmes, he said.
The Grand Hyatt Singapore is also launching staycation promotions and turning its focus to the domestic market during the tourist slowdown.
Mr Naidu Thanabal, the hotel's SG Clean Manager, said that temperature checks for guests and staff are in place, along with increased frequency of cleaning for shared facilities.
The SG Clean mark will help to boost confidence among visitors, and will be on display throughout the hotel, said Mr Naidu, who is its hygiene and safety manager.
STB chief executive Keith Tan said it aims to audit and certify 570 hotels, attractions and other tourism establishments over the next two months.
"The SG Clean quality mark sends a strong signal to both locals and visitors that our tourism businesses take their cleanliness and hygiene very seriously and are committed to maintaining these high standards as a 'new normal' for the future," he said.
Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat told the media during a visit to Plaza Singapura that the SG Clean initiative is aimed at boosting confidence among consumers as they go about their daily activities.
Noting that the coronavirus has now been declared a global pandemic, he said Singapore is closely monitoring the situation and prepared to implement additional measures if needed.
Ms Dawn Yip, business development director of Jean Yip Group, said that trust in hygiene standards is especially crucial in the beauty and wellness sector, where treatment often requires close contact with staff.
The group, which has more than 60 hairdressing, slimming and beauty outlets across the island, said that business in the city area plummeted by about 50 to 70 per cent in the first two weeks of the local outbreak.
While crowds are beginning to return to malls, it is not yet business as usual, she said. Salon seats at Jean Yip Hub at Plaza Singapura, the first outlet to be certified, are now spaced further apart as part of precautionary measures. Steam bath services have also been suspended to prevent potential transmission of the virus.
While most of the SG Clean requirements have already been standard practice at its outlets, having the badge to show for it is important, said Ms Yip.
“It’s not about money, it’s about building confidence with the customer that we do our best to protect you and protect ourselves,” she said.
The SG Clean quality mark was first launched last month for hawker centres and coffee shops. Under the scheme, hawker centres are awarded the mark by the National Environment Agency for meeting hygiene standards in aspects such as toilet cleanliness and pest management.
Food stalls must have processes to ensure that food preparation areas and equipment are sanitised, waste is handled properly and systems are in place to monitor staff health to receive the mark.
The Singapore Food Agency said earlier this week that about 2,100 hawker and market stalls and 400 coffee shop stalls have earned the SG Clean certification.
An SG Clean Taskforce, headed by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, has also been set up to raise hygiene standards across the nation.