Hotels aren’t our homes — and that’s exactly why they shouldn’t end daily housekeeping

Nov 19, 2021

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If you’ve stayed at a hotel during the pandemic, you’ve probably noticed that things are, to put it lightly, different.

While there have been a number of changes directly related to the pandemic, and staffing and supply shortages have been causing service issues around the world, changes to daily housekeeping services really have people in a frenzy.

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Right now — and maybe forever — hotels have altered how they approach housekeeping, with many only offering services every other day (even at pricey Disney World Resort hotels) and “light” housekeeping, like removing trash, in between.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta noted the new state of reality last week at a hospitality conference.

“When you’re at home, do you change your sheets every day? Do you wash your towels every day? … No.”

Well no, of course, we don’t. But most of us don’t live in hotels.

For many people, staying in a hotel is a luxury; a chance to escape our ordinary lives at home and the responsibilities that come with it, such as washing our dirty towels, figuring out how to keep a fitted sheet on the bed and how to pluff up pillows exactly like they do at the five-star properties we splurge on.

Where it gets confusing is understanding why hotels are shifting away from the housekeeping services we were used to before the pandemic. Obviously, issues with labor are playing a significant role, but the everyday traveler doesn’t control how much a housekeeper gets paid.

The other key player is sustainability, and hotel brands around the world are keen on visibly promoting sustainability efforts, which for many seem to include reduced housekeeping services — but at what cost to the guest experience?

Isn’t it, after all, the responsibility of hotel brands to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint while delivering consistent service?

And shaming people into refusing housekeeping services or taking away the services altogether certainly won’t solve every problem — or save the world.

Sure, you might not change your sheets or towels every day at home, but you’re also not paying a nighty fee for access to your room or bathroom. Above all, the expectation that guests should think about how they use linens at home seems just like asking diners to help do the dishes after ordering a meal at a restaurant.

Here at TPG, we all have our own thoughts on the current state of hotel housekeeping. Some travelers are totally fine just having their trash taken, while others say that housekeeping perks, like turndown service, are one of the best parts of the hotel experience.

(Igor Vershinsky / Getty Images)

As one TPG staffer put it, “A home is so different from a hotel,” and daily housekeeping service should be available if the guest chooses to request it.

Another questioned how much the pandemic actually factored into these changes, saying, “It is kind of ironic that, in a time when cleanliness is more important than ever, housekeeping is [available] less and less.”

It’s true that even before the pandemic many people ignored those little cards and signs promoting sustainability by asking guests to hang their towels for reuse, or to place the card to reuse the sheets. But most of us agree we’d rather have our beds made up with sheets we’d already slept on than not have the bed made at all.

It’s worth noting, too, that some major hotel brands have actually tried compensating guests for skipping housekeeping, proving our point that housekeeping does have a tangible, monetary value.

Back in 2019, TPG reported that Hyatt was offering just 250 World of Hyatt points per night to guests who were willing to skip housekeeping. Marriott’s discontinued “Make a Green Choice” program offered 500 Bonvoy points to guests.

But were those points values worth it? No.

And, as another TPG editor put it, will the lack of these amenities push people away from hotels? “Leaving your hotel room for the day and returning later to clean sheets and fresh towels is why I sometimes opt for hotels over Airbnb.”

Bottom line

We understand that, as we’ve heard over and over again, we’re living through an unprecedented time. Pretty much everything we know has changed one way or another since the pandemic — especially for travel.

But at what point does it stop? Hotel brands say customers need to change their expectations, but hotels aren’t changing their prices.

Yes, we all need to do our part to make travel more sustainable — but is totally overhauling housekeeping the best way to do that? If hotels could meet travelers in the middle, say by making beds every day, hanging up a dirty towel left on the floor and simply giving them the experience they don’t get at home, it might put a little magic back in the experience.

Or, have the hotel brands made their metaphorical beds when it comes to housekeeping and are ready to lie in them?

Additional reporting by Melanie Lieberman.

Featured photo by DragonImages/Getty Images

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