From loyalty points to F&B freebies, hotels are saving on costs and battling the labor shortage by encouraging travelers to skip daily housekeeping services.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—To cut costs and combat a tight labor market, hotel brands are offering cost-effective perks to guests who opt out of daily housekeeping services.
Hotels are having a hard time filling positions, especially in housekeeping roles, according to Hank Fonde Jr., senior director, asset management and investment services, at CBRE Hotels Advisory in Jacksonville, Florida.
“Obviously, fewer rooms to clean means increased productivity for the housekeepers and helps to make up for the labor shortage,” he said. “The trend to eliminate daily housekeeping will continue to grow and will become the norm."
What brands, companies are doing
Best Western Hotels & Resorts has implemented a new Green Program for its members, which rewards guests who skip housekeeping services for the day with 500 Best Western Rewards points.
Dennis Banks III, GM of the 60-room Best Western Plus San Pedro Hotel & Suites in San Pedro, California, said the program reduces housekeeping operations and labor costs.
The only cost of the program to the hotel is the price value of the Best Western Rewards Points, while the savings would come from fewer hours that the housekeepers are working, he said.
“The savings would vary based on the size of the hotel; a 50-room hotel would experience smaller savings when compared to a 200-room property,” Banks said. “There would also be savings in operating costs, as there will be less water and heat being used in the washer and dryers each day with fewer linens and towels being washed.”
Marriott International has implemented programs in 20 of its 27 hotel brands, including, Marriott, JW Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Delta, W Hotels, Courtyard and Fairfield Inn & Suites, said David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors.
Marriott's “Make a Green Choice” program allows guests to receive 250 Marriott Bonvoy points in lieu of daily housekeeping services, said Robert Rauch, chairman and CEO of RAR Hospitality. RAR’s Marriott properties have collateral in the rooms promoting this offering, or guests can opt in via the Bonvoy app.
“If we save 15 to 20 minutes per occupied room cleaned, it can represent a significant savings,” Rauch said. “Things we must all watch for is a room attendant makes the bed, but does not change the linens thinking the guest is going to stay; an inspector checks the room and says it is ready. Now we rent a room that looks clean and fresh but is not; we would not want that to happen.”
Marriott also announced an addition to the program rolling out later this year, which gives guests the option to have a tree planted on their behalf via the Arbor Day Foundation instead of the points, Rauch said.
Sangree said these programs would help a hotel’s operations and bottom line “in a market where turnover is high and there is a labor shortage.”
In general, guests at a variety of hotel brands are mostly incentivized to forgo daily housekeeping through the offering of rewards points or lower room rates, Sangree said. This incentive can be particularly popular and effective with business travelers, who are brand loyal and might enjoy receiving reward points they can use in a future trip with their family. Some properties have offered cash off a stay or a voucher for an on-site F&B outlet.
This trend should expand as hotels receive feedback on these programs and guests become more comfortable with the offering and receiving of rewards, Sangree said.
Caroline Dyal, VP of operations at Davidson Hotels & Resorts’ Pivot Hotels & Resorts, said her company offers “loyalty points, food or beverage vouchers, minibar vouchers, and reduced price parking opportunities.”
She added that “guests seem to enjoy this, especially if there’s an option provided for a longer stay and they can schedule service as needed.”
As a best practice, providing pre-arrival notification of service incentive offerings and alerting guests of these opportunities at check-in work well, Dyal said.
Make housekeeping incentives part of brand culture
Gail Bower, revenue strategist and president of Philadelphia-based Bower & Co. Consulting, said the practice of allowing guests to opt out of daily housekeeping is done most effectively when it becomes a part of a brand’s culture.
Hotel companies also should communicate their mission to engage the customer and help them feel good about their decision in this area. In addition, she said hotels should train the housekeeping staff so that the practice actually becomes “operationalized” and standardized.
“Make sure you have fun with the messaging,” she said. “Make it about the customer and not all about saving dollars on the bottom line.”
Bower predicted this trend will expand because of the ongoing labor shortage, as well as the fact that customers are increasingly concerned about climate change issues and water shortage.
“Also, culturally we are much more casual,” Bower said. “Guests understand the pragmatism involved here in these programs.”