In July, Hilton Hotels announced that in the United States, daily cleaning is performed only upon request. But Hilton housekeepers clean rooms “automatically” on the fifth day of a stay.
Hilton luxury brands are exempt from this edict; Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and LXR will continue to offer daily cleaning. And Hilton’s international properties are apparently unaffected.
Why do people go to hotels? They want a clean, comfortable place to stay. And when they go out during the day, they like to return to a clean room with a vacuum cleaner blanket and a freshly made bed. Rentals like Airbnb and VRBO generally do not promise such a thing.
But in the face of a slow comeback from COVID-19 and a ‘shortage’ of hospitality workers, the hotel limits what was once standard cleaning service like cleaning every room every day. In addition to cleaning, other potential cuts are room service, including breakfast, in-room amenities such as coffee packs and fresh towels (unless you ask and wait for them) and fewer people waiting for customers.
I experienced this when I stayed at the Sideways Inn in Santa Ynez, CA wine country in June. The hotel was an excellent value at only $ 99 plus tax, and close to local vineyards and tastings. But the shadow of COVID-19 remained. Our breakfast was served cold (yogurt, a banana, a croissant) in a white bag that was left outside our room. The lack of room cleaning service was also annoying as the bed remained unprocessed (unless we did) and the rubbish was not picked up. Instead, I wandered around the property looking for a trash can to throw our pizza boxes out.
Hotels do not defend cleaning by claiming that many guests do not want housekeepers in their ‘sealed rooms’ due to fears of COVID-19 infection. Ray Bennett, chief executive of Marriott, told CNBC that “more and more of [Marriott’s] guests have actually requested it [housekeeping doesn’t] came into their room … ”
Fear of crowds in hotels as well as ‘how many people stayed in my room’ also play a role. Katherine Doggrell, author of Checking out, about the hotel industry’s slow response to Airbnb told me, “If you’re more paranoid, go to an Airbnb where there are not 400 people in the lobby.”
Still, a report from the American Hotel & Lodging Association says guests said improved cleaning and hygiene practices were the second most important factor in their choice of hotels. (By price, of course.)
Consumers who want a lower price, more control and are willing to clean their own place, book tours online, but reportedly “not a hotel”. In the meantime, business travel, a key hotel market, remains lethal, and international tourism to the United States remains limited. American families go on vacation to small towns and national parks, hit rural destinations and book alternative accommodation.
With all this, are hotels throwing away an important customer expectation – cleanliness – to save money? At a recent meeting of Meeting Planners International, Michael Massari, sales director of Caesars Entertainment, told the audience that “one change that is likely to become permanent in hotels is that daily cleaning disappears unless guests specifically request it.”
While overflowing ashtrays can be a thing of the past unless you ask for it, housekeepers will not show up to throw away your empty liquor bottles, pizza boxes, pick up your dirty towels or clean your dirty toilet. No need to put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on one’s door; no one comes to clean the room.
As the view from the wing put it, “Hilton thinks Americans are sloppy, don’t you expect clean rooms during your stay?” The author added: “I am also not sure how a hotel that does not provide daily cleaning no longer counts as full service. It seems to be limited service and more in the bucket of a product that competes with home delivery sites like Airbnb. ”
“Our guests have told us that they have different levels of comfort with a person entering their rooms once they have checked in,” Hilton said in the statement. “We encourage our guests to call the front desk to request cleaning of the room and our team members are on hand to help with extra towels or amenities. “
One could argue that hotels were already trying to end the daily cleaning before the pandemic, even offering guests perks or offers to drop the service. But it is ironic that large hotel chains would try to avoid daily cleaning after promoting everything they did to limit the spread of COVID. Marriott discussed how it used electrostatic sprayers to disinfect and disinfect rooms, lobbies, gyms and other public areas, and tested UV lighting technology to disinfect items such as room keys.
Reporter Rob Carey of Meeting News says that the hotel industry in the US has fallen by 2.2 million jobs since 2019, according to the US Department of Labor, so “some hotel companies are making changes to reduce the number of employees they need in the future. ”
As Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said in a recent investor call: “The work we are doing right now in each of our brands is about turning them into companies with higher margins and creating more workforce efficiency, especially in the household, food and drink … When we come out of the crisis, these companies will have a higher margin and require less labor than they did before COVID. ”
It is not only guests who will be affected. Despite corporate promises to promote ‘equity’, the cuts threaten job security for households. The Union Unite Here says that 73% of American householders in the United States are Spanish or Latino, black, Asian American or Native American, and that 40% of hotel household jobs, nearly 200,000 workers, are at risk of being permanently eliminated.
In addition to the loss of jobs, cuts in cleaning services will inevitably affect tips for those left behind. Although the end of the daily cleaning is not their fault, it is difficult to justify tipping without service.
“The union will fight back,” a spokesman for the hotel association Marketwatch said. But he added that customers should do their part to get what they expect from the hotel industry. “They should insist that they want their room cleaned, have room service and want to feel safe.”
Customers will have to decide if they get what they pay for from a hotel or if they pay more in the future and get less. If customers continue to see home-sharing services as maintaining a price / value advantage over hotels, cuts such as the end of daily cleaning can speed up emigration.