COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the hospitality industry to its core and brought on a lot of new trends to the hotel market with flexible rates, last minute bookings, guest rooms being sold as office spaces and new wave of contactless services introduced in hotels across the world.
A new trend on the horizon
The newest trend however seems to be more and more hotels opting for flexible housekeeping service. Hilton recently announced it is moving to an opt-in model for daily housekeeping at its non-luxury U.S. properties. On July 8, a Hilton spokesperson said, “Our guests have told us that they have varying levels of comfort with someone entering their rooms after they have checked in.” Other brands with similar policies include Marriott International, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Extended Stay America. Sheenal Patel, CEO of Arbor Lodging Management, expects all brands will move to an opt-in housekeeping model.
The reasons behind the shift seem to be the same or at least similar across different hotels:
- Less contacts = higher sense of security
The COVID-pandemic has called for significantly reduced contacts and that principle applies also for limiting any unnecessary contacts between the hotel personnel and the guests. An increasing number of guests will want a totally no-touch onsite experience and the hotels will have to respond to that need.
- Reduced costs
About a decade ago hotels started massively asking guests to hang towels if they did not want them to be cleaned. AH&LA estimates that the towel move reduced a hotel’s laundry and utility expenses by 17%.
Fast-forward to the pandemic. Now guests are paranoid about catching COVID from surfaces. The hotel industry responds by eliminating daily housekeeping. And as the pandemic starts to recede, many major hotel chains decide they want to keep it that way. We are probably talking about millions, or even billions of euros of savings each year from that move.
- Labor shortage
Hotels have other motives to keep daily housekeeping out of the picture. There’s a severe labor shortage.
“Even with wages going to $16 per hour plus paid benefits, we are struggling to find labor,” says hotel consultant Robert Rauch. “The truth is, many workers are still sitting on the sidelines.” That means at some hotels with labor shortages, you’re likely to have your room cleaned by a manager or front desk associate — if it’s cleaned at all.
- Smaller carbon footprint
It is no secret that skipping the daily room cleaning will save water, cleaning agents, room amenities, laundry costs and time. Now multiply that with the amount 365 days and millions of hotel rooms across the world- there is no doubt, Mother Earth will be happy for the change.
It appears that the hotels have quite strong and understandable reasons for going forward with the new policy. However, what about the guests?
The proper incentive
As an important caveat, luxury and resort end of the spectrum, daily housekeeping often acts as a hallmark of the brand, with opting out not even open for discussion. Whether out of the desire for immaculately clean spaces, nostalgia for 2019 or only for a glimmer of interaction with another human soul, many guests may actually yearn for the opportunity to have proper housekeeping service.
So how to incentivise these guests to give up the expected service? The guest incentive for opting out can be loyalty points, spa or restaurant vouchers and that also means increasing brand advocacy and return visits plus often a greater total spend than the voucher amount.
Cleanliness has, of course, always been a critical pillar of great hospitality, but in the post-pandemic world, it will reign supreme. Travelers will, once again, resume their normal behaviour, but not without a heightened degree of caution. The cleanliness rating has always been a key driver for the customers choosing a hotel, however the recent studies clearly show that it has grown even more important and is often the number 1 priority for the travellers. So even if your hotel decides to offer a flexible housekeeping service, be sure that it will not compromise your cleanliness levels and guest safety and comfort.
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