I noticed during my last getaway that traveling has become even more inconvenient and I plan to do it less frequently until the hospitality industry changes its ways.
For example, basic bathroom items such as hand lotion, shampoo and mouth wash are disappearing from the rooms at many nationwide hotel chains; guests wanting these items have to request them at the front desk. Same goes for an assumed necessity, towels; fewer of them are in rooms, and you may not automatically get a fresh one the next morning if you’re staying over night.
We assume the sheets are changed but no guarantees. You’ll notice there aren’t extra pillows in the closet. The robe that used to hang in the closet is available in the gift shop for around $100, with the hotel logo stitched on as a remembrance of the bargain you got on it.
Want a cup of coffee or tea, a light evening snack or a before-bedtime massage? OK, but the time frame has diminished because open hours at cafes, restaurants and spas have been shortened. Catering to the guest is marketing hype; the role has reversed, as guests flex to tightly structured hotel rules. It appears they want our money but aren’t willing to give us much in return for it, and this includes travelers with loads of “loyalty points.” Much like the airlines, hotels have raised their point thresholds for perk giveaways.
The recession has forced people to cut back sharply on vacations; business travelers have also scaled back their annual trips as well. Time that was spent traveling is now accomplished via teleconferencing from a business office. Accordingly, hotels have covertly decreased amenities and services to shore up their bottom lines. Personnel layoffs beginning at the front desk mean longer check-in lines and tightened latitude regarding upgrades. There are fewer freebies like morning newspapers outside room doors, no mints on the pillows, afternoon cookies, and fruit bowls in the room or coffee in the lobbies at any time. Free breakfasts and “manager hosted social hours” are all but gone. Breakfast buffets for any price are disappearing and being replaced by ala carte menu offerings because hoteliers complain that guests “load up” on the first meal of the day and often skip lunch entirely. Snacking on an energy bar, bagel or light salad is far more affordable, according to most travelers. When considering these reductions, the advertised overnight rate bargains lose much of their luster.
Frequent travelers report that even the smallest cuts increase on-the-road stress and inconvenience. While considered individually, none of them amount to much, but the total package of cutbacks is causing business and vacationers alike to say, “This is no longer fun, staying home and watching the Travel Channel is a better deal.”
Hotel industry officials are betting that these reductions will be considered as slight inconveniences for their guests. That’s quite a gamble, but one they say must be made in order to remain viable. Hoteliers cite reduced nightly rates as the primary motivator for attracting customers. Smith Travel Research, a lodging-industry research firm, reported that the average daily room rate in the U.S. fell 2.5 percent last year at mid-range hotels, but luxury lodging noticed a sharper reduction falling 6.6 percent. The nationwide average for hotel occupancy rates dropped 10.6 percent over the past year.
Identifying creative, acceptable ways to reduce operating costs is challenging for luxury properties catering to guests who are paying from $500 to $700 a night for a room, labeled a suite at most of these establishments.
Although hotel lobbies will likely continue to offer appealing appearances, you may miss the aroma of fresh cut flowers; those are being replaced by potted plants and silk arrangements requiring minimal maintenance and lasting for years. Again, hoteliers are assuming that guests won’t notice, and even if they do they won’t care.
Unfortunately, traveling is becoming more of a necessity than a relaxing break from the mundane, and the recession makes our homes look better every day. I can put on the robe I’ve owned for 10 years, prop my head up on multiple pillows laying at the head of my comfortable bed, and sip a cup of tea while watching a Travel Channel special about the destination I just saved a bundle on for opting out of the trip.