Do you truly need all of your hotel linens changed every day? At my house, we don’t change them every day, or even every other day. So why can’t we re-use our towels and leave the linens just a bit longer at hotels? Many travelers and hotels are asking this very same question.
It is good for the Earth, it’s good for labor costs, and it’s good on many other levels. It’s a win-win (nearly) all the way around.
The Beginning of a Cultural Change
For some reason, hotels began changing linens and towels every day as a regular part of guest service. This was likely influenced by the industry standards put in place by the famous hotelier, Ellsworth Statler in the early 1900s. The industry followed and this quickly became the norm. Then the idea of the Green Option began to help guests think otherwise. More recently, reward programs have further encouraged environmentally friendly practices so we might be at the beginning of a cultural shift away from expecting housekeeping as a daily practice in hotels.
Granted, not every hotel changes all of the linens daily, particularly those with green initiatives that are not luxury brands. However, there is a trend toward the reduction of housekeeping services as a whole. Here’s why:
1. It’s environmentally conscious.
Let’s start with the easy one: reducing our carbon footprint. We all know the drill. Foregoing housekeeping services saves on water, electricity, wastewater treatment, cleaning supplies, etc. These are important resources and are all things that hotels try to reduce, both because of costs and the environment. The average hotel guest uses 100-200 gallons of water per day. Hotels need to reduce energy costs if they want to meet the criteria for the various green certifications.
As a side point, greening isn’t just becoming a popular trend at hotels. It is now a factor at most events and in other aspects of the hospitality industry. Did you know that the average person at an event creates four pounds of waste per day? Even fast food has begun to succumb to pressure. Burgers and burritos also need to be responsible! Beef drains the resources of the surrounding areas to produce feed and uses vast amounts of water associated with raising and processing. Add to that the misuse of chemicals and inefficient transportation and you are adding to the carbon footprint without realizing it. An investor’s advocacy group called Farm Animals Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) has begun to put pressure on the major fast-food players to reduce the carbon footprint in their supply chains and is gaining awareness and support.
2. It can cut costs.
Let’s face it: Reducing housekeeping services makes financial sense. Labor can be one of the highest costs in hotels, often monopolizing at least 30 to 40% of the budget. When trimming housekeeping hours, hoteliers are probably saving temporary worker hours and overtime, both of which can be 50 to 100% higher than the typical hourly wage.
Linens can cost around 20 cents per pound if laundered in-house, plus the cost of the equipment, labor, and chemicals. If a hotel plans to outsource, these costs can double. Adding these costs together, the cleaning of a high-end luxury room is probably around $20-$25 per day, or more. If that can be reduced, more money can go towards the bottom line. So, awarding a few dollars’ worth of reward points or a $5.00 coupon for a coffee (or more) makes the incentive for travelers to go green a bit more enticing.
3. It’s an element of guest service that is hard to control.
Something that might not initially come to mind is guest service. People forget that housekeeping is a major part of the guest expectation and experience. Guest service is measured according to expectations. If housekeeping doesn’t meet or exceed expectations, it is considered a poor experience. Housekeeping is a difficult variable to control. It is a hard job, and you have to get it perfect for it to go merely ‘unnoticed’. If opting out of fresh linens is offered, the guest experience variable that is dependent on (stayover) housekeeping doesn’t suffer, because the customer chose a reduced level of service.
4. It promotes rewards enrollment.
Offering points for reducing or forgoing housekeeping encourages guests to join and participate in the rewards program. The more data they have on a guest, the more valuable the system and its ability to make them a return customer.
5. It allows for more personal space.
Deep down, everyone knows that it is a hotel room shared by unimaginable numbers of others, but we often pretend otherwise. During our stay, it transforms into a personal entity. It provides a false sense of possession or even sanctity when we occupy it. We want it to be secure and tidy and often wish to disregard the fact that someone else was there. Foregoing housekeeping means that we can continue this thought pattern.
What’s the Downside of Opting out of Housekeeping?
While we don’t always want to talk about this, it is actually a good thing to have someone from the hotel in the room from time to time. Housekeeping can spruce up the room and can keep things from getting out of hand. Rooms are not as dirty once they check out, making the turnover cleaning a bit easier on the staff.
Housekeeping can also clean up spills or catch maintenance and security issues sooner.
Additionally, many hotels are unionized in major cities—meaning unions will have to negotiate a change in the workload.
Oh, and it’s also a slippery slope that might mean the beginning of charging for regular housekeeping services. Don’t think so? Do you recall not too long ago when airlines did not charge for many of the extras? Today, it’s a different story.
We’ll have to see how all of this evolves…
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