Three five-star hotels in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, were punished on Wednesday after authorities found poor hygiene conditions in their guest rooms.
The city's health and family planning commission has not disclosed what penalties were given to the properties, which are operated by Kempinski, Shangri-La and Sheraton.
It comes after undercover video footage emerged online on Tuesday that showed cleaners at the hotels using the same brushes to wipe the toilets, bathtubs, sinks and other surfaces, sparking public concern over cleanliness.
Footage recorded at the Kempinski and Shangri-La properties even showed workers using the same brush to wipe drinking water cups and then drying them with used bath towels.Toilet brush used to clean cups
All three luxury hotels were accused of failing to change bath towels, bed sheets and pillow cases for new guests, despite charging from about 800 yuan to 2,800 yuan (S$163 to S$572) for a room per night.The same brush is used for both the basin and toilet bowl.
Shortly after the video began to spread online, inspectors from the health commission, tourism office, market supervision department, food and drug administration, and legislative affairs office descended on the properties to collect samples for testing, according to the city government.
The results of these tests confirmed that the hotels had hygiene problems.Bath towels used to clean cups. Bath towels rinsed in the toilet bowl before being used to wipe the floor.
"We feel sorry to learn about the substandard conditions found at our hotel," the Kempinski Harbin said in a post on Sina Weibo on Tuesday. "We have been working on providing our guests a friendly and safe environment with strict policies. We will co-operate with the investigation and strengthen measures to avoid similar problems."A red towel used to wipe cups is used to clean the dustbins. The cleaner washes the cloth in the toilet.
However, the case has again affected people's faith in the quality of five-star accommodation in China. Undercover footage exposed similar hygiene issues at five high-end hotels in Beijing in September.
"I have clients in different cities, so I frequently travel for business," said Sun Chang, 36, the manager of an advertising agency in Beijing. "I've heard such things happen in some midrange hotels, so I usually choose well-known five-star hotels during my trips. I didn't imagine the problems are just as serious there.
"I'm considering taking my own sheets, sleeping bags, kettles and bathrobes on my next trip."
Harbin has now launched a citywide inspection of all hotels.
"It is really difficult to monitor cleaners in the hotel rooms without cameras being installed," Wu Ben, an associate professor of hotel management at Shanghai's Fudan University, told Caixin magazine on Tuesday.
"Without the proper detection equipment, one is unlikely to notice dirty bedding and poorly cleaned toilet seats."