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AAA – which conducts annual in-person inspections at more than 26,000 hotels across North America – will now test sanitation levels of high-touch surfaces, as part of its evaluation.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many hotels have enacted enhanced cleaning procedures and housekeeping standards, including the promise of cleaning high-touch surfaces.

But are those hotels delivering on that promise? AAA — which conducts annual in-person inspections at more than 26,000 hotels across North America — will now test sanitation levels of high-touch surfaces, as part of its evaluation.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on travelers’ expectations for cleanliness,” said Garrett Townsend, AAA — The Auto Club Group. “Travelers trust AAA for recommendations that focus on their safety and security. The Inspected Clean enhancement to our Diamond Program will help give them extra peace of mind and rebuild their confidence in traveling.”

AAA inspectors will swab surfaces throughout the hotel room

The AAA inspector will conduct this testing on-site by swabbing a surface, adding the sample to a vial containing a special testing chemical, and then inserting the vial into a portable test machine, about the size of a large cellphone. Inspectors will measure eight surfaces in a selection of guest rooms and bathroom locations, which may include guest room door handles, light switches, thermostat controls, guest room desk or writing surfaces, television remotes, refrigerator handles, faucet and toilet handles, hair dryers and vanity surfaces.

Inspectors are testing for ATP

Hotels that meet AAA’s standards for cleanliness, condition and this new surface cleanliness testing will now be recognized as Inspected Clean and then assigned a Diamond designation. The new Inspected Clean criteria relies on an objective method to validate cleanliness by detecting adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — an energy-carrying molecule found in all living cells. ATP is found in most food sources, human skin cells, bacteria, yeast, mold and biological material found in respiratory droplets.

While the test does not provide direct identification of viruses such as the one that causes COVID-19, it will allow for confirmation of properly cleaned surfaces. ATP monitoring is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is used in healthcare, food service, education and other environments that require effective sanitation monitoring programs.