For hotel guests, the little things that have gone missing can feel like a big deal
by Ramsey Qubein
Will our favorite hotel amenities disappear?
COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives in major ways. In travel, there are plenty of minor adjustments, too. At the beginning of the pandemic, people accepted hotel service cutbacks to minimize touchpoints and interactions. As we learn more about how to interact with others safely, many hoteliers cling to those original (cost-saving) ideas as they fight to remain viable businesses. Others are getting creative about how they maintain safe, but high, standards to impress cautious travelers in 2021. A balanced approach somewhere in between may help to keep future travelers (and hotel accountants) happy.
Free Breakfast Many hotels offered complimentary breakfast as part of their brand standard, which people may factor into the value proposition of where to stay. In many economy and midscale hotels, COVID-19 has led to a reduced offering, often a grab-and-go bag with uninspired packaged items. Other hotels nixed it altogether without lowering the rate. Still, breakfast buffets shouldn’t be ruled out. K Bar S Lodge, an Ascend Hotel Collection property near Mount Rushmore, shifted to a served buffet with staff preparing plates from behind a Plexiglas barrier. Its rotating menu of hot items was a balanced return to normalcy that has been well-received by guests. In Charleston, SC, HarbourView Inn guests can still use a door hanger to place their complimentary, hot breakfast order for swift morning delivery.
Pads, Pens, and Toiletries Gone are bedside pads and pens (a favorite take-home of some travelers) as well as other marketing materials that often cluttered up desks. Hotels were already moving away from single-use toiletry items in favor of eco-friendly, communal bottles. But there’s a new bathroom amenity these days. Choice Hotels & Resorts properties is one of many brands now providing takeaway hand sanitizer bottles on the vanity.
Omni Hotels & Resorts is sealing pads and pens in a plastic pouch along with sanitizing wipes and complimentary mask. Ritz-Carlton has not cut back on in-room supplies either. The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes continues to put pads, pens, shoe horns and polish, and other amenities in guest rooms. These are in tandem with a long roster of impressive cleaning protocols that, like most other hotel brands, sanitize touch points in the room including these favored extras. At a certain price point, travelers expect the big (and the small) stuff.
Airport Shuttles Hotels that tout free airport transportation often earn business specifically for that service. During much of 2020, many hotels discontinued it without much notice to travelers citing personal safety. This has led to disappointment especially when other hotels have found ways to limit capacity while still offering it. Marriott’s new “What to Expect” website tool lets guests review what amenities are still offered before reserving a room.
Elite Benefits This has been an easy snip as hotels shuttered club lounges, restaurants, and in-room services. Evening turndown is another cutback as hotels look to limit housekeeping, but many travelers say they would prefer the option to choose. Many hard-earned loyalty program benefits have been reduced. While the extension of elite status for another year makes up for it, it’s yet to be seen when or if these perks will return in full.
As travel slowly reboots, guests may be willing to forego some amenities in favor of others. Hotels should consider innovative solutions that don’t strip down the experience if they want to maintain their rates. Time will tell what makes the cut.