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Spotlight on: the quest for better air

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With our cities becoming ever more polluted, socially-conscious and forward-thinking hotels are introducing air-filtering technology – measures which may ultimately lead to profit. Click investigates.

In public areas at its debut London property, Inhabit Hotels is installing an air-filtration system which uses re-engineered nano carbon filters to remove more than 95% of nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants. It is the latest hospitality brand to make a point of considering its guests’ lungs.

As well as being part of a burgeoning trend, such a quest is also topical. World Health Organisation data released in 2018 estimated that 90% of people globally were inhaling pollutants, while a 2017 Harvard Centre for Health and the Global Environment study linked cleaner air to improved sleep quality.

Inhabit Southwick Street, Bedroom bathroom
Pollutants of particular concern in London are nitrogen dioxide and particles with sources including combustion and car engines. Photo by: Inhabit Southwick Street


The need for eco-consciousness

The motivation for Nadira Lalji, Inhabit Hotels’ Co-Founder, was indeed ecological. “I was exposed to messaging from government bodies, newspapers and NGOs all delivering the same message,” she recalls – “that our toxic air is lowering human life expectancy, possibly by more than two years in heavily-polluted cities. London is one of those, so this urgent problem is close to home.”

Lalji was at pains to pick an area-appropriate product for the brand’s first property, Inhabit Southwick Street, a boutique which has just opened in the Paddington neighbourhood. “Pollutants of particular concern in London are nitrogen dioxide and particles with sources including combustion and car engines,” she explains. “What drew me to our solution, Airlabs, is that it’s one of the only on the market to combine air filtering of nitrogen dioxide and particulates.”

Part of a sustainability ethos that also covers building materials, linens, biophilic design and F&B, an AirLabs system now operates in the hotel’s public areas, and should appear at subsequent Inhabit outposts.

The wellness wave

Prevailing trends are also central to the work of Pure Wellness, a company which has designed more than 3,000 anti-allergy ‘Pure Rooms’ for Marriott and Hyatt in the US. “Wellness-minded travellers, who make lifestyle choices based on improved health, represent a growing market segment,” asserts Haley Payne, the company’s Chief Wellness Experience Officer.

The same logic informs Shanghai’s Cordis Hongqiao, a hotel operated by the Langham Hospitality Group. “When Langham first created the Cordis brand, wellbeing was the priority,” reveals Managing Director Emil Leong, “and a conscious decision was made to implement relevant hardware.”

Wellness-minded travellers, who make lifestyle choices based on improved health, represent a growing market segment,

With Shanghai’s levels of deadly PM2.5 particulates exceeding World Health Organization guidelines by nearly four times in 2017, according to Greenpeace, and likely to be even worse now, the hotel ensures that all its air passes through two layers of filtration. All 396 rooms have pollution monitors showing PM2.5 levels, and the internal air is claimed to usually be ten times better than that outside.

Unsurprisingly, this technology has gone down well. “The monitors are especially welcomed by guests on days when there are obvious differences between the indoor and outdoor PM2.5 index,” confirms Leong.

Purer, and more profitable?

Other measures are equally location-oriented: the InterContinental San Francisco trialled air purifiers in 30 rooms partly in reaction to smoke caused by Californian wildfires, while the Taj Palace in New Delhi has also recently installed Electronic Air Cleaners (EACs) – which use a charge to remove impurities such as pollen, mould spores or bacteria – with geography in mind.

A global index by the University of Chicago currently shows that New Delhi residents are, on average, losing 10.2 years of their lives because of current air-pollution levels. Though the Taj Palace enjoys proximity to a forest and its air-purifying trees, it still recognises the need for air-quality management in such toxic surrounds.

The EACs have, in turn, led to PR gains as, making the most of its technology, the hotel displays its air-quality index live in the lobby. “The response has been tremendous,” says general manager Nayan Seth. “Not only has it strengthened guests’ trusts in our services, but it has also resulted in increased revenue.”

Indeed, with air quality so bad at present, those hotels able to boast cleaner air should see more demand (and acclaim) come their way. So while filtration systems represent an expense, they seem likely to ultimately yield profit, as well as fulfil ecological responsibility, for those hoteliers incorporating them.


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    Hero image: credit to Alex Machado, Unsplash
    • Studies estimate that 90% of people are inhaling pollutants, and that cleaner air leads to improved sleep quality.
    • Air filters adept at targeting specific local pollutants can be a part of a wider, socially-conscious sustainability ethos.
    • This directly allies to the expectations and demands of the growing wellness travel segment
    • Pollution monitors and air quality indexes on show to guests inside air-purifying hotels can also provide PR wins and be traced to revenue gains