AH, the toilet—a sanctuary, a safe space, and apparently something that can be a competitive advantage for the tourism industry.
According to research done by My Travel Research co-founders Carolyn Childs and Bronwyn White, restroom quality makes a huge difference in how tourists perceive destinations. While clean and well-maintained toilets make for a positive tourist experience, accessible, thoughtfully designed —and even quirky and entertaining toilets—encourage tourists to part with their hard-earned cash and even go for repeat visits.
Childs and White went on to found the International Toilet Tourism Awards in 2017, which recognized toilets in six categories: Best Tourism Economic Contributor, Best Location, Best Design, Quirkiest Toilet Experience, Best Accessible Toilet, and Strategic Commitment to Toilet Tourism. In a website post promoting the 2021 edition of the awards program, Childs highlighted three points showing the positive impact of clean toilets on tourism:
- Toilets are a key brand asset for tourism.
- Great toilets have huge PR value for destinations or tourism businesses.
- Toilets convert interest into tourists—and dollars.
Seal of good toilet-keeping
THIS was precisely why it made perfect sense for my team in Maynilad to partner with the Department of Tourism in recognizing tourism-related establishments with outstanding toilets, through the inaugural award of the Seal of Good Toilet-Keeping. An offshoot of the Golden Kubeta Awards, which Maynilad started in 2016, this program is aligned with the DOT’s thrust of promoting sustainable tourism.
“For tourism, public toilets are crucial. These should not be only clean but also safe and comfortable for tourists to use. Simple as it may seem, but toilets could make or break a tourist’s travel experience,” Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said during the virtual signing of the memorandum of understanding between Maynilad and the DOT in September.
In celebration of World Toilet Day last Friday, 14 DOT-nominated establishments became the first-ever awardees of the Seal of Good Toilet-Keeping, including nine hotels, three restaurants, an events venue, and a gas station:
- Azumi Boutique Hotel
- Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant
- Casa Buenas
- Conrad Manila
- Diamond Hotel Philippines
- Kingsford Hotel
- Mama Lou’s Kitchen
- Marriott Hotel Manila
- Palacio de Memoria
- Sheraton Manila Hotel
- SLT Gasmart Corp. (Shell service station)
- Sofitel Philippine Plaza
- Solaire Resort and Casino
- The Mella Hotel
These 14 establishments had to pass stringent physical and document audits that evaluated not only the cleanliness, completeness, accessibility, safety, and overall look of their toilets, but also their compliance with relevant government laws and regulations on wastewater management. The Seal may be renewed yearly, subject to another round of physical and document audits by Maynilad’s Wastewater Management team.
Standards for public toilets
THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) actually has standards that public toilets in the region, whether or not they are located in tourist destinations, should strive to adhere to.
“A basic yet vital component in the tourism industry that can make or break the tourist experience is when the tourist has to use the toilet. These toilets need to be clean, hygienic, complete with various amenities and facilities, located conveniently, well maintained and using proper waste management systems. There are various types of toilets within the Asean region with different norms and designs. This standard looks at common criterias (sic) that should be practiced at all public toilets in the Asean region,” the Asean Public Toilet Standard (APTS) states.
The APTS is divided into four main areas: design and environmental management system, amenities and facilities, cleanliness, and safety.
The design and environmental management system criterion covers proper wastewater management, pleasant landscape and design, cleanliness, appropriate signages, and accessibility for persons with disability and the elderly.
The amenities and facilities category includes available cubicle space—enough for adults to move; provision of tissue, toilet paper or hand dryer, trash bin, soap or hand wash, and water; and inclusion of coat hangers and ledges in cubicles.
The cleanliness criterion covers proper air circulation and ventilation; absence of bad odor, dirty areas, and wet spots on the floor; presence of trained cleaning and maintenance personnel; placement of a customer suggestion box; and regular cleaning and maintenance of toilet facilities.
The safety component includes adequate lighting, safe location, absence of slippery spots on the floor, structurally sound construction, and the use of environment-friendly cleaning agents.
Most of these criteria also appear in the audit checklist of the Golden Kubeta Awards and the Seal of Good Toilet-Keeping.
A greater advocacy
THE Seal of Good Toilet-Keeping is just the latest addition to Maynilad’s Kubeta PH program, an advocacy that aims to spread awareness of proper wastewater management in the country. Through its various initiatives, the program seeks to unite stakeholders in a movement to protect the environment by taking an active role in our shared responsibility of ensuring the proper treatment of wastewater.
The choice of the word kubeta as the campaign handle is in line with the thrust to bring the topic of wastewater management to mainstream conversation. Through partnerships, such as the one with the DOT, the Kubeta PH program envisions a country that cares about hygiene from the inside—through proper wastewater management—and out.
A belated happy World Toilet Day to all.
PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier organization for PR professionals around the world. Abigail L. Ho-Torres is AVP and head of Advocacy and Marketing of Maynilad Water Services Inc. She spent more than a decade as a business journalist before making the leap to the corporate world.
We are devoting a special column each month to answer our readers’ questions about public relations. Please send your questions or comments to [email protected]