Industry Update
Opinion Article12 October 2021

The hotel stay of the past has checked out

By Richard Turen, Senior Contributing Editor at TravelWeekly and Travel Advisor at Churchill & Turen, Ltd

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Just when you think you've heard it all, there is another wrinkle -- or in this case, a great many potential wrinkles. Crisp new bedding may be a thing of the past, a memory associated with pre-pandemic times when housekeepers, often in crisp, white uniforms, would actually enter our hotel room twice a day.

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There was a thorough cleaning in the morning and then a turn-down service with some additional cleaning in the early evening while we were out. There were elaborate systems in place to notify maids when we wished to have our room attended to, and there was always staff to fulfill these requests. In the evening there was chocolate on the pillow. Often there was a note from the maid with a signature.

But now that is changing.

We had amenities splattered about the bathroom in the halcyon days before our pandemic. I remember a stay at Burj Al Arab in Dubai when one of the amenities was a large – make that very large – bottle of Hermes perfume for men. My wife had a similar size bottle. This was not a gift; it was a standard amenity with a street value of $340.

All hotels offered minibottles of shampoo and conditioner. Hotels expected guests to take home these small amenity gifts.

But that is changing, too, along with so much in the hotel sector, as cuts are being made in almost every aspect of operations to try to make up for the past 18 months of empty rooms and on-site restaurants along with impactful staff shortages.

Now, Disney and Marriott along with InterContinental are replacing miniatures with "no waste, no theft" built-in bulk dispensers of toiletries. You know, just like the ones they have at the YMCA.

The manner in which shampoo will be dispensed going forward is the tip of the hotel change iceberg.

The biggest change is the lack of automatic room cleaning. Marriott announced that it will no longer provide daily housekeeping at its premium brands like Sheraton and Aloft. Hilton announced that all but its top luxury brands will no longer provide daily housekeeping.

In fact, the majority of midrange and budget properties in the U.S. are operating on a new set of assumptions as regards Covid cleanliness. In its published "Stay Safe" manifesto, the American Hotel & Lodging Association advises members that "housekeeping should not enter a guestroom during a stay unless specifically approved or requested by the guest."

The assumption here is that our clients do not ever want anyone entering their room for any reason, including the delivery of food.

Will we ever return to TNT (Travel Normal Times)? If the hotel sector is any example, the answer is no. There are a great many changes afoot. Here are just a few:

  • Guests will need to ask for towels and room cleaning.
  • Robots will deliver room service.
  • Hotels will feature room service takeout, with guests carrying their food back to their rooms.
  • Bathtubs will be disappearing; they are hard to clean properly.
  • Lobby areas will feature retail rather than "conversation" space. Conversation with strangers without barriers is no longer a feature.
  • Guest services will be ordered via an app that each guest has downloaded.

Then there is one other change: Rates will, given the pent-up demand, be rising across all sectors of the hospitality landscape.

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