BEIJING: China's tourism regulator has launched an investigation into poor hygiene at a slew of five-star hotels, including global chains such as the Ritz Carlton and Shangri-La, after an undercover expose went viral and prompted a public outcry.
The undercover video report, posted by an Internet celebrity named Huazong on Wednesday (Nov 16), showed cleaning staff at various luxury hotels using a single cloth to clean toilets as well as water cups and basins.
The video, which was posted on Twitter-like Weibo, was apparently shot by hidden cameras set up in hotel bathrooms. Titled The Secret of the Cups, the video has racked up more than 30 million views.
China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism said in a statement it was concerned by the reports and had asked authorities in five provinces to investigate the issue, which has already prompted a flurry of apologies from big-name hotel chains.
The roughly 12-minute-long video features international chains such as Hilton Worldwide Holdings-owned Conrad Beijing and Waldorf Astoria, as well as Marriott International's Sheraton and Le Royal Meridien.
Huazong, who has 322,000 followers on Weibo, claims he has stayed at 147 five-star and boutique hotels over the past six years. He said he was disheartened to realise it was common for staff to use dirty towels to clean cups.
His revelations drew wide attention and caused a nation-wide public outcry. Hotels including the Park Hyatt in Beijing, the Shangri-La in Fuzhou, and the Four Seasons in Shanghai issued apologies and vowed to improve service quality.
Other hotels highlighted in the expose included The Peninsula in Beijing, the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai, and the Sheraton Nanchang Hotel.
The Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai said it carried out an investigation after the video exposed one of its cleaners, who had been found using the same towel to clean the shower glass, floor, counter and cups.
The cleaner had received training on proper room cleaning, the hotel said.
"But the actual practises on that day did not follow the cleaning standards for room cleaning, we are deeply sorry for this," the hotel apologised in a statement on its Weibo account, adding that staff would be retrained.
A cleaning woman at the Four Seasons in Shanghai was shown using the same sponge to clean the shower, counter and cups.
"We sincerely apologise for what has occurred and we are currently investigating this matter with the highest diligence," said hotel spokeswoman Chloe Qian.
The Mandarin Oriental hotel in the commercial hub of Shanghai vowed "it would not tolerate the inappropriate cleaning behavior in guest rooms shown in the video".
The Shangri-La said it was taking steps to ensure hygiene standards. The Four Seasons in Shanghai said it would improve internal training.
The expose also led to heated discussion online as some argued the cleaning staff were not getting paid much for working in some of the most expensive hotels in the world.
"Luckily I cannot afford to stay in any of these hotels," one commenter said in an online post responding to the video.