Hotels blaming closed pools on national chlorine shortage; What you can do if your hotel pool is shut

Aug 15, 2021

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After largely keeping swimming pools and hot tubs closed last year because of pandemic cleanliness concerns, it seems some hotels are finding a new excuse to close pools –  a chlorine shortage.

The Westin Desert Willow Villas in Palm Desert, California is telling guests some of their pools are closed due to the shortage. Indeed, when we called to confirm the story the hotel told TPG that, “we had to close two of our pools due the national shortage of chlorine.” Still three of their pools remain open so it’s not the end of the world.

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As reported by The New York Times, chlorine tablets have been in short supply since a fire at a chemical plant in Louisiana in August 2020. The growing number of people scooping up backyard pools during the pandemic as they spend more time at home has exacerbated the issue and pumped up prices of chlorine nationwide. Indeed, prices have roughly doubled for chlorine.

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TPG called around to several hotels, and didn’t find many using a lack of chlorine as an excuse for closed pools, but there are definitely some anecdotal reports out there.

Pools and beach at the Hyatt Regency Maui (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

As TPG senior editor Andrea Rotondo noted, this is not a new shortage. Hotels could have mitigated it by adding salt generators to their systems, though some hotels may not want to spend the money.

While occupancy rates are up this summer, many hotels are still digging themselves out of the financial hole 2020 landed them in. Shelling out big bucks for scarce chlorine (or retrofitting their facilities with chlorine alternatives) doesn’t help their cause.

Given that, and the rise of delta variant cases, we wouldn’t be surprised if some hotels, particularly lower-tier or less busy outlets, opted to keep pools closed for the time being.

Even if you weren’t planning to don a swimsuit during your next trip, it’s worth knowing if the pool in your hotel will be open, if for no other reason than a closed pool could help you justify those pesky resort fees. Here’s what you need to know:

Know before you book

Fantasia pool at Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
Fantasia pool at Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

If having access to a pool is non-negotiable, particularly now in the height of summer, it’s worth phoning hotels before booking to see if their pool will be open to avoid disappointment. Very few hotels note pool closures or reduced capacity on their websites. (It’s useful to know that the shortage should not affect saltwater pools, as those typically use an electric filtration system to generate chlorine. Granted, those pools may be closed for pandemic related reasons.) If it is closed and that is disheartening, try somewhere else.

Related: How the pandemic has altered hotel amenities

While you’re on the line, ask if there’s a resort or destination fee and what exactly it covers. Alternatively, you can check on the hotel’s website (though some hotels don’t disclose that information until the final booking page or don’t break down what the fee is meant to cover) or resortfeechecker.com. That fee generally covers whatever the hotel decides it wants it to cover, but often it includes access to things like the gym, daily newspapers, wireless internet, in-room coffee makers, and, importantly here, the pool. If the pool isn’t open, you now have leverage to get that resort fee taken off your bill.

Related: How to avoid resort fees

What to ask for and how

Hilton Waikoloa Village pool March 2021. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

Two different TPG staffers (as well as the writer of this post) have seen their resort fees waived in recent years when the pool was closed during their stay, so it’s definitely not an unheard of ask. However, how you ask will likely play a part in getting to “yes.”

Related: Some of the world’s most beautiful hotel pools

Hotels are particularly short-staffed right now and what employees they have are now being tasked with a litany of additional job duties, ranging from constantly sanitizing high touch areas to enforcing social distancing guidelines with agitated guests. Now more than ever, being kind and respectful is going to go a long way. Politely letting the staff know that the pool being closed is discouraging and considering the hotel fee includes use of it, you would greatly appreciate it if the fee could be waived might be all that it takes. However, no matter how sweetly you ask, you should be prepared to be told “no.” Pandemic belt-tightening might mean that a given hotel is less willing to forgo that extra income and getting those fees to disappear is completely at their discretion. If you haven’t already booked, you can always try your luck elsewhere.

Related: What to ask for when things go wrong at hotels

If you’ve already booked your stay with points, you may not have been charged a resort fee. Hilton, Hyatt, and Wyndham are known for regularly waiving the resort fee on award stays, though Marriott generally doesn’t. Even if you weren’t charged a resort fee, it doesn’t mean you are out of luck in receiving added value. You might try asking for a complimentary upgrade to a more desirable room, to make up for the pool being closed. Again, being respectful is key.

And, if your wish is granted, be sure to thank them for their understanding and help.

Related: It never hurts to ask; Nick Ewen writes about what happened when his hotel pool was closed

Bottom line

Pools and beach at the Hyatt Regency Maui (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

If the pandemic has taught us anything it’s that we’re all going to need to be flexible with plans concerning travel. If not being able to lounge in a pool is a dealbreaker for you, make sure your choice of lodging can accommodate. If use of the pool was built into the resort fee and you’d like the charge to be waived, be courteous when making that request. Patience goes a long way, especially in uncertain and challenging times.

Related: 9 beautiful hotel pools in the U.S.

Additional reporting by Clint Henderson.

Featured image of the Park Hyatt New York courtesy of the hotel.

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