Promoting sustainability, properties are offering food and beverage credits and other perks for guests who forgo housekeeping services.
The organic garden at the Bardessono in Yountville, Calif., where herbs will be planted for guests who opt out of housekeeping. Source: nytimes.com
The question came at check-in: Did I want to forgo housekeeping for the two days I was staying at the Flamingo in Las Vegas in exchange for a $10 a day food and beverage credit?
The clerk repeated himself. Some guests, he explained, didn’t want to be bothered during their stay — hangovers and all that. So last summer the Flamingo, along with nearly all of its sister properties in Vegas (it is owned and operated by Caesars Entertainment), decided to give people the chance to decline having their rooms cleaned in exchange for a voucher.
I’m familiar with the card in the room suggesting guests reuse their towels and sheets to help the environment, but I’d never heard of hotels eliminating housekeeping altogether. But more and more are doing just that, and extending rebates, hotel points and other perks for those who take them up on their offer.
It’s a smart business move, industry experts say. “A lot of hotels were becoming more aware of what consumers like,” said Adam Weissenberg, the global leader of travel and hospitality for Deloitte, in Parsippany, N.J. “They received criticism from younger travelers. ‘This is ridiculous that they’re changing my towels and sheets every day. I don’t need that, it does harm the environment.’”
According to MMGY Global’s Portrait of American Travelers, 2017-2018, 13 percent of United States travelers say that they have selected a travel service provider specifically for environmental considerations, up from 11 percent in 2014. Thirty-eight percent said they would be willing to pay more for a travel service provider who demonstrates environmental responsibility, a 13 percent increase from 2014.
“What we’ve seen fairly steadily over the course of five plus years among travelers is that there’s a general sense and appreciation for anything related to sustainability and environmental issues,” said Craig Compagnone, senior vice president of business strategy at MMGY.
The thinking is that eradicating housekeeping is better for the environment, and for the hotels’ bottom line. After all, if you’re not washing towels and bedding, you’re saving water — and money. You’re also not sending as many chemicals into the sewer system. “So that’s better from a water perspective,” said Jeanne Marie Varney, who teaches courses on sustainability at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “You get the benefit of not using cleaning chemicals in the rest of the room. Not running vacuum cleaners saves energy.”
Starwood launched its initiative at the Sheraton Seattle in 2008. Guests who declined housekeeping service for up to three consecutive days received a choice of either 500 Starpoints (in its Starwood Preferred Guests program) or a $5 food and beverage gift card.
While leisure guests occasionally opted in, frequent business travelers “ate it up,” said James Gancos, the chief executive and founder of the Guestbook,a loyalty program for independent boutique hotels, and the former hotel manager at the Sheraton Seattle. “They told us, ‘I love being green, I love the extra points, I didn’t want people in my room anyway.”
That program became Make a Green Choice and Starwood rolled it out to all of its brands except the St. Regis after Marriott International acquired Starwood in 2016, the company implemented similar programs in about 20 of its 30 brands in North America, including Marriott, JW Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Delta, Renaissance, W, Courtyard, and Fairfield Inn & Suites.
Under the Your Choice and Luxury of Choice programs at full-service hotels, guests are eligible for 500 Marriott Rewards points per day. Delta’s GreenSTAY offers guests the option to receive 250 Marriott Rewards points or have a tree planted.
Some smaller hotels have also started doing it. Miramonte Indian Wells Resort and Spa, in Indian Wells, Calif., offers a $5 food and beverage credit, and Suncadia Resort, in Cle Elum, Wash., offers guests a $5 resort credit per day that can be used at its coffee shop, spa or fitness center. The hotel Bardessono, in Yountville, Calif., will plant one herb a day per guest in an on-site organic garden. This month, the Ridgeline Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., is launching a free drink incentive for each night guests stay and decline housekeeping.
While it’s unclear how many people take advantage of these sorts of programs, Delta recently celebrated its 100,000th tree being planted since the program’s inception. Marriott says it has lowered its energy use by 13.2 percent, its water use by 7.7 percent and its greenhouse gas emissions by 15.8 percent between 2007 and 2016.
Other hotels say they simply don’t want to bother guests on vacation.
The Moorings Village in Islamorada, Fla., which has 19 private villas, discontinued housekeeping on its property altogether. The property will only clean when a guest requests it.
Why? The general manager Debbie Pribly put it this way: “Our hotel team noticed that guests didn’t want their relaxation to be interrupted and don’t want to feel like they’re on a routine while vacationing, so we offer housekeeping by request only,” she said. “This allows us to adhere to the guest’s schedule, offering a cleaning only when it’s convenient for them rather than convenient for the hotel.”