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The long slow decline of the American mid-range hotel chain

The long slow decline of the American mid-range hotel chain

Old Jan 18, 17, 12:52 am
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The long slow decline of the American mid-range hotel chain

I am referring here to those hotels which are below traditional full-service, but above economy or long term stay. The two chains I am most familiar with are Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn.

I'm sure there are others -- Holiday Inn, possibly Four Points by Sheraton, and maybe Best Western Plus.

These hotels have frequently been solid choices for me when there is no nearby upscale or luxury hotel.

The problem is that these chains have chosen over time to lower service levels rather than adjust rates to match inflation. They often justify this by leaving cards in the room saying they are doing this to save the environment but apparently the only way to save the environment is by reducing their costs.

Examples of this type changes (not complete):

-- No restaurant of any sort but sometimes a mini-cnvenience store next to the front desk.

-- Increasing the number of rooms an individual housekeeper must service in a shift to the extent that they stop doing things like regular vacuuming.

-- Hiding the reduced housekeeping by choosing carpets and furniture that are designed to hide dirt (which is nonetheless still there).

-- Making it difficult (or even impossible) for those who want it to get daily linen and/or towel changes.

-- Changing all light bulbs to CFLs (even with the existence of more efficient types of lights that happen to be more expensive).

-- Putting motion sensors on HVAC and light switches.

I understand there are those who will disagree. If you are happy with these changes or believe you should lower your demands to help save the world, I am OK with that. But I hope this thread can be a discussion of service degradations rather than political or environmental views, which should be reserved for the Omni forums. Thanks!
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Old Jan 18, 17, 8:38 am
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I actually think what the US hospitality industry does best is mid-range (2.5 to 3*) chain concepts and properties. Full-boat Marriotts and Hiltons and Hyatts are more erratic, and disappoint me far more often, than HGIs, Courtyards, HI, HI Express, and Four Points. Even newish 2* concepts like Microtel, which I stumbled onto for the first time last year, deliver excellent value and amenity levels.

If you tour Europe and book yourself blind into a 2*-3* property you are playing roulette when it comes to cleanliness, amenities, food, service / courtesy, and value for money. The value prop and service promise is far more consistent and satisfactory in the US.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 8:56 am
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Would soap/shampoo/conditioner coming from wall-mounted units, as opposed to individual bottles, be an example as well?
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:06 am
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I'm with BearX220 on this. Have stayed at hundreds of HGIs and never seen one without a restaurant. Not as certain, but I don't recall a CY without one either. Having only a mini-convenience store doesn't happen until you get down to the Hampton Inn / Fairfield type places. I also haven't noted any difficulty in getting daily service, though I'm usually happy to leave the Do Not Disturb sign out for a couple days.

While I abhor sameness in my dining, the opposite is true for my lodging. The consistent quality of these mid range chains beats the gamble on a full service Marriott/ Hilton. I know what the layout of my HGI room will be, what toiletries are there, etc, etc before I even check in.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:20 am
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Whilst I would always rather stay in a non-chain hotel, there are many destinations in the USA where that is not a sensible option. Given that, I find the cheaper properties to be perfectly adequate and I haven't noticed the lack of cleaning (and now I dare not look...). I also don't mind the sheets not being changed but I abhor the wall-mounted toiletries which are becoming commonplace.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:33 am
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
I actually think what the US hospitality industry does best is mid-range (2.5 to 3*) chain concepts and properties. Full-boat Marriotts and Hiltons and Hyatts are more erratic, and disappoint me far more often, than HGIs, Courtyards, HI, HI Express, and Four Points. Even newish 2* concepts like Microtel, which I stumbled onto for the first time last year, deliver excellent value and amenity levels.

If you tour Europe and book yourself blind into a 2*-3* property you are playing roulette when it comes to cleanliness, amenities, food, service / courtesy, and value for money. The value prop and service promise is far more consistent and satisfactory in the US.
I completely agree with all of the above as well, particulary the bolded part.

With Hampton, HIE, Courtyard, etc... I always get exactly what I expect: a clean, modern room at a reasonable price in a decent neighborhood. I've never been let down, even when blindly booking a room at the last minute.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 9:33 am
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I don't have a problem with the mid range chains. I just want one hotel chain come out with a "Help us control costs, please consider reusing towels" campaign vs. the environmental angle they try playing (that consists of roughly 0.4% of why they want you to reuse towels).
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Old Jan 18, 17, 10:22 am
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Those midrange chains are right in my wheelhouse. Nice beds, desks to work on (thanks for bringing them back, Marriott!), good toiletries. The only things that the regular Marriott/Hilton/etc. have on them is that they have bars. Now, a lot of the Courtyards and HGIs are getting bars.

I'm not sure why a card in the bathroom with hotel propaganda about saving water is a problem. Reuse the towels, don't reuse them (I usually don't) but I can't get too jacked up about an information card.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 10:37 am
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Originally Posted by mdkowals View Post
I don't have a problem with the mid range chains. I just want one hotel chain come out with a "Help us control costs, please consider reusing towels" campaign vs. the environmental angle they try playing (that consists of roughly 0.4% of why they want you to reuse towels).
Both things can be true. Reducing institutional laundering can be both economically sensible for the property and environmentally sensible as well. I'm not sure I really get the objection to such a mildly put, non-verbal request.
(Also, consider if hotels were run like airlines. Lower floors must pay for clean towels, mid floors get one towel free, club level unlimited towels (until the hotel creates yet one more status level and "enhances" club level to a limit of two towels, since "our customers have mentioned they really only need two.")
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Old Jan 18, 17, 10:39 am
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
I actually think what the US hospitality industry does best is mid-range (2.5 to 3*) chain concepts and properties. Full-boat Marriotts and Hiltons and Hyatts are more erratic, and disappoint me far more often, than HGIs, Courtyards, HI, HI Express, and Four Points. Even newish 2* concepts like Microtel, which I stumbled onto for the first time last year, deliver excellent value and amenity levels.

If you tour Europe and book yourself blind into a 2*-3* property you are playing roulette when it comes to cleanliness, amenities, food, service / courtesy, and value for money. The value prop and service promise is far more consistent and satisfactory in the US.
Agree that the full-up Hilton, etc. most often fall short of my expectations and are much more inconsistent, even across rooms in the same property.

I can't say I've noticed any significant, systemic degradations in the mid-range chains recently (though I'm usually at Marriott, Hilton, SPG, or IHG mid-range brands so can't comment on others), whether in hard or soft product.

There are some things that have changed in recent years with most of the industry like the "going green - reuse your towels" bit for one example.

Maybe I'm in the minority but I actually prefer the large dispenser of shampoo, soap, conditioner in the shower over the individual bottles (assuming it's a decent enough product - though I'm not real picky). With the individual ones, I hate fumbling with the tiny lids while showering...or forgetting to bring the bottles into the shower the first time...and they seem like a waste much of the time.

I actually had an unplanned stay at a Microtel a couple of years ago and was also pleasantly surprised at how nice it was for the price.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 10:43 am
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Originally Posted by rickg523 View Post
Reducing institutional laundering can be both economically sensible for the property and environmentally sensible as well. I'm not sure I really get the objection to such a mildly put, non-verbal request.
I also struggle to understand how upset people get: "well, OK, yes, it helps the environment, but the company also gets some benefit so it's evil".

I also have never seen a restaurant in any of these chains, so I don't see a "decline" - they are what they are. Some brands have been re-positioned as chains bring in more and more brands - but those brands have changed because they no longer are what they used to be.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 10:52 am
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I agree that there's been a definite decline in the service and comfort level of these chains - some of them don't bother me (no restaurant or coffee shop) and some annoy me a lot (low lighting of poor quality). I also hate the multi-use dispensers of soap, shampoo, and conditioner, and I never use them. I guess they're good with that, and I just carry my own shampoo and soap. (I actually always travel with soap because I rather use a full-size bar.) I might now have to start carrying my own LED bulb too.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 11:27 am
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I don't see the reuse-your-towels card as a downgrade in service, as long as customers have an option to ignore it. Some people don't mind reusing things, so why shouldn't the hotel save some costs (and possibly help the environment at the same time). I always throw the used towels on the floor and get clean ones, but I don't insist that they change the sheets everyday. As others have mentioned, I'm generally happy with the mid-range chains (especially newly built Hampton Inn, HGI & Best Western Plus) because of the consistency in what you get.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 12:15 pm
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What shocks me is how expensive these lesser tier hotels have become. I book my husband's travel. He travels almost exclusively to small town America, often in the middle section of California. Holiday Inn Express and comparable are often the best hotels in town. I'm routinely seeing prices from $150 upwards of $200. That feels like a lot of money for what it is.
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Old Jan 18, 17, 12:20 pm
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Originally Posted by rickg523 View Post
Both things can be true. Reducing institutional laundering can be both economically sensible for the property and environmentally sensible as well. I'm not sure I really get the objection to such a mildly put, non-verbal request.
My objection isn't a harsh one, its just more in my nature to want to reward brutal honesty in the face of good public relations. In the back of my mind the inner cynic in me can't help but think that the board room conversations leading to the "Save the environment" towel requests went something like this:

"Bob, have you found out a way to reduce our labor costs?"

"Sure have, Bill, turns out we have 3 housekeepers whose sole job is to wash towels and linens - we can cut that down to 1 housekeeper and lay off 2 people if we can get our guests to stop throwing towels on floor"

"How do we do that, Bill?, we can't just tell our guests what to do?"

"It's called greenwashing Bob, if there's a hair of truth in it, we can convince the guests of anything. In this case, we'll remind them it will save water and energy if we don't have to wash their towels every day"

"But Bill, won't they catch on when our hotel rooms all have high-flow toilets and our sprinklers out front are on for 30 minutes every day, even when it's raining?"

"Naah, people wont notice"
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