Housekeeping

Is daily hotel cleaning a relic of the past?

Hotels struggled to stay on their feet in 2020: just breaking even was considered a monumental feat. To achieve this, many hotels have been forced to the unenviable – albeit necessary – task of cutting services where they can. One of the most notable was and continues to be the suspension of daily housekeeping at many hotels. The service, once taken for granted by customers, has become deliverable on demand and is typically only offered several days after check-in.

Hotels struggled to stay on their feet in 2020: just breaking even was considered a monumental feat. To achieve this, many hotels have been forced to the unenviable – albeit necessary – task of cutting services where they can.

One of the most notable was and continues to be the suspension of daily housekeeping at many hotels. The service, once taken for granted by customers, has become deliverable on demand and is typically only offered several days after check-in.

Hilton was one of the first to take a formal stance on housekeeping, but most brands have followed suit, either by declaring it in the public domain or by informing customers when they register. The measure was apparently a strategy to limit guests and staff from exposure to COVID – 19, but it, too, was seen as a money saver, limiting housekeeping hours.

Some say the shift to on-demand housekeeping is part of what could be a cascade of unbundling services and amenities, akin to the way airlines operate, where there is a cost associated with various things. which were previously complementary.

Does the change have a real impact on the bottom line – saving money and increasing profits? Will this continue as the occupancy rate increases? What do the guests think?

Like most aspects of the hospitality industry, the issue is more complex than you might first think.

Beyond the numbers

“There has certainly been a benefit” in reducing stays – over cleanings, “said Michael Doyle, managing director and executive vice president of asset manager CHMWarnick. “When we look at housekeeping hours and think of it as a measure of productivity, the overall savings are 14%. However, while there is a short-term benefit in productivity, the long-term impact is not there, because we had to increase wages to attract staff for housekeeping and others. functions. These higher wages will offset the savings.

“The industry analyzes we have seen indicate that maintenance changes could lead to savings of 100 to 200 basis points that would impact hotel performance. However, the labor shortage and additional training that housekeepers need now after not cleaning the rooms all this time prevents the productivity rate from being higher.

There is also the issue of the tolerance of the guests as guests other than those of the leisure sector return, as business travelers, noted Doyle. “Although many vacationers are astute, they have a different level of tolerance than business travelers, who want everything to come back to where it was before the pandemic.”

Jordan Bell, vice president of hotel operations and management consulting at consulting firm hotelAVE, also sees an improvement in productivity due to the change, but said other factors could be at play.

According to Bell, a sample of seven properties achieved a 10.1% productivity improvement across all rooms in the rooms division in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the first quarter of 2019.

However, he noted, “We are hearing about significant cross-use due to labor shortages over the past year, where salaried managers and employees from other areas of the business hotel have started cleaning rooms on peak days. This has the effect of artificially increasing the productivity of theaters while the declared management workforce remains relatively stable and productivity in other areas is potentially affected.

The data

Housekeeping work per available room remains on the decline around the world, but is showing signs of resurgence as demand, in small quantities, recedes.

As the data shows, the workforce drift is real. And while many hotels are phasing out daily cleanings, some brands, like Omni Hotels & Resorts, still offer full cleanings on request. Omni, like most other hotels, also offers the option of partial cleanings, which involves a towel refresh and trash removal.

In 2020, Omni began urging customers to forgo cleaning services altogether, a spokesperson said. “Last year Omni launched ‘Opt Out to Help Out’, a program that gives customers the opportunity to give back to their local community. In exchange for the removal of housekeeping services, Omni donates a meal to Feeding America. “

Consistency

Whether the end of the stay – on cleanings stays put or not, brands need to stay consistent in what they do, Bell said.

“From a brand perspective, there has to be consistency, and while some markets may support housekeeping on demand only, or not at all, other markets will not. There has been a gradual evolution from a nightly linen change to green programs with occasional changes, and honestly I wonder if the service will stay on that path?

“It will probably take a brand to take the plunge, and then others will figure out how to get around this problem. It is not clear whether this is a decision to keep or to cut; there are a number of permutations regarding scope, frequency, additional charges, etc. that could take shape and give each brand some space to execute the best solution for their clients.

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