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Slowdown In Hotel Guests Could Mean Fewer Amenities

Many of the in-room services luxury travelers take for granted, like in-room minibars and turndowns, may not come back as a result of the industry-wide downturn caused by the novel Coronavirus outbreak. In a town hall webinar by Bisnow, Pebblebrook Hotel chief executive John Bortz warned that hotels could be slow to offer more than just basic accommodations.

Food, beverage and luxury services first to go

During the town hall meeting, Bortz projected the first day hotels could resume operations nationwide as around July 1, 2020. However, the recovery process would be slow: With more business meetings happening online and groups cancelling, the first guests may be leisure travelers and small weddings.

When those hotels do re-open, it may be without restaurants or minibars. Although Pebblebrook alone has 12 hotels with in-house restaurants, Bortz expects not all of them will survive the shutdown. In addition, classic services attached to luxury hotels – like turn-down service and minibars – may also end.

A combination of Coronavirus, the “gig economy” and unionization efforts can be credited for bringing down the in-house restaurant trend. With more hotel employees choosing to organize under a collective bargaining agreement, costs to maintain hotel restaurants are quickly rising. In addition, more restaurants offering delivery through services like Doordash and Uber Eats, less guests are choosing to eat in and are more comfortable ordering out for their in-room dining options.

“I think food and beverage is going to go away in a lot of hotels,” Bortz said, as quoted by Bisnow. “People have gotten comfortable ordering delivery or curbside service or carryout. As restaurants adapt their business models, I would expect that model to remain in restaurants.”

Complicating things is the staffing issue. At Pebblebrook alone, Bortz claims the company furloughed over 7,500 workers and close 46 hotels. While employees stay home and collect unemployment insurance improved by the CARES Act, open hotels find themselves with the smallest workforce possible. As a result, hotel offerings may be reduced to bare minimum services.

Hotel alternatives may benefit most from recovery

As the economy comes back to life, additional program changes may ultimately come to an end due to COVID-19. In an editorial on HospitalityNet written by Margaret Mastrogiacomo of NextGuest, hotels should prepare to keep flexible cancellation policies, while encouraging travelers to book direct, instead of through loyalty portals.

But above all, guests should be prepared for leaner operations at hotels. With costs as the main concern, hotels are preparing to run with reduced expenses.

“There are going to be things that are going to cost more, but there are other things we have to do less expensively and more efficiently,” Bortz told the Bisnow webinar. “Because this recovery is going to take a significant period of time.”

cbsione1 May 6, 2020

Unfortunately, I do not see any long term good to come of this. Remember when we used to have our sheets and towels changed every day, but because of concern fo the environment sheets, every three days, towels every couple of days. I saw no lowering of fees due to this. I have yet to see any airline or limo service lover or take away the fuel surcharge fee when fuel prices were lowered...I would bet that we aren't going to see that charge disappear with record low fuel prices. On and on it goes.

radonc1 May 6, 2020

Minibars go because of Covid requirements for cleaning and disinfection. Trying to decontaminate a minibar full of bottles and snacks would be a nightmare for the staff if it has to be done each time a new client checks into the room, unless the bar is sealed and undisturbed by the prior guest. Too much preventative work for too little monetary gain. Easier just to dump it.

sunguy May 6, 2020

Oh - come on - these poor folks at the front end of things in the travel sector - why would they not unionize? They are some of the lowest paid workers anywhere - a number of hotels subcontract things like cleaning, so, the cleaners are lucky to get minimum wage - let alone a living wage! Add to this the ridiculous amount of work they have to do - and often to "exacting standards" in less time than you can comfortably clean a room properly.....as for F&B staff, again, even less money with them being paid with tips too... In other words - this has ZERO to do with paying people a decent wage for decent work - and being unionised to do so - its not the unions fault that they try to nickel and dime staff......it has EVERYTHING to do with greed..... show me an owner of any one of these hotels/businesses that doesn't have a decent income....

strickerj May 5, 2020

Curious as to how everything seems to be an excuse to cut amenities and service. In times like this, "we have to cut costs to stay in business". During good times, "we have to cut costs to compete on price". I guess I should be used to it by now. I find it hard to believe in-room minibars are going anywhere though since those are low maintenance and hugely profitable.

KRSW April 30, 2020

I'll blame the unions for this. I've worked union jobs in the past and try to avoid them as much as possible. At the union jobs, I'm pigeon-holed into a specific job role. If I'm idle, I'm not allowed to help with other worker's jobs or help out in other departments. They expected me to just sit there and wait for something to do. Taking the union mentality to hotels, this would mean that only restaurant employees can handle restaurant functions. So if a guest leaves a room service tray outside their door, a housekeeper walking by is not allowed to pick it up. @BadgerProf: No one is forcing these people to work for these hotels. If they don't like the job, they're welcome to leave. If they want, they can even form their own restaurants, or even hotels, and run them however they wish.