Providing guests with credits to opt-out of housekeeping might be taking away from the core idea of hospitality.
There’s an interesting service concept that has been gaining some steam recently, but there could be lurking blowback with potentially disastrous consequences if it’s adopted by all hotels and segments around the world.
The idea here is that many travelers nowadays do not want or need cleaning services for the time they are staying at a hotel, so properties are now offering guests a credit for opting out of housekeeping that can be applied to other operations like food and beverage, gift-shop spending, loyalty points or other resort amenities.
The benefits are also there for property owners, as such programs could translate into higher profit margins. Forgoing the daily room attendant process is good for the environment because less sheets or towels to wash means saving energy. Many hotels already have a card system in place where guests can place notices around the room to advise housekeepers to leave linens in place or for towels in the bathroom, so a full opt-out is a natural extension of this. Additionally, such programs ensure that no housekeepers are overworked as they will have fewer rooms overall to clean, while ultimately fewer rooms means reduced shift and staffing requirements.
This à la carte service model is a noble effort, and indeed it offers a worthy incentive for both managers and customers that’s quite in line with the mood of the times. But, such service models may have long-term repercussions in that a housekeeping opt-out—no matter the compensatory lure—removes one of the core sales propositions of a hotel guestroom.
To understand the subtleties of the situation, take a moment to step back and think broadly about what the core of hospitality truly is. Is it merely heads in beds? Is it attentive and prompt service with a smile? Or is it a diligent care for each and every guest to ensure that they are better off when they leave than when they arrived?
I’d argue that the innermost nadir of the core of hospitality is a feeling—an emotional state of mind that we give to our guests. We want them to leave happy, refreshed, nourished and a myriad of other positive modifiers. Importantly, to render these emotional states, hoteliers utilize specific services, each designed to make our customers feel a certain way.
Friendly clerks at the front desk put guests at ease because they know their individual requests will be diligently handled. Likewise, our numerous security protocols make visitors feel safe. And the housekeeping department—with its scrupulous standard operating procedures—imparts guests with a restorative sensation.
Aside from the base hygienic benefit for guests, having a roving army of room attendants provides several other important benefits that may go overlooked. A threadbare housekeeping department poses a severe security risk as, aside from their primary role as cleaners, these team members also act as the eyes and the ears of your property’s corridors, making sure that guests aren’t injured or distressed, watching out for suspicious characters and inspecting rooms to ensure that they are being used for their intended purposes instead of—to cite one of the more outrageous instances—being converted into temporary drug labs!
To circle back to the primary argument in favor about creating a positive emotional connection with customers, our room attendants also represent another physical touch point with guests. In today’s era of disruption where hotels are gradually losing out to alternate forms of accommodations, it is critical to maintain as many elements of guest interaction as possible so that our properties are memorable and customers stay loyal.
Ultimately, it is your decision as to whether forgoing housekeeping for onsite credits will be advantageous to your specific hotel or not. It depends on the type of property and what your guests want, but please keep my warning in mind regarding what you stand to lose if you deemphasize this fundamental hospitality service.
One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes four books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), and “The Llama is Inn” (2017). You can reach Larry at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.
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