David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Housekeeping And Other Services
“Remember to leave a daily tip for the housekeeper” I would tell my kids as they became old enough to stay in hotel rooms by themselves. I wanted them to appreciate the hard and unglamorous work being done on their behalf. The old-school method of leaving a tip only after one checked-out no longer made sense as different housekeepers may have been taking care of your room on different days.
Unfortunately, my admonition to my kids clearly wasn’t enough to turn the tide toward treating hotel service employees better. The generally terrible pay, working conditions and the pandemic have all combined to create a crisis in the hospitality industry, threatening a post-pandemic recovery for the space.
Recent articles have highlighted the problem:
“More than half of U.S. hospitality workers wouldn’t go back to their old jobs and over a third aren’t even considering reentering the industry, according to a survey that underscores hiring challenges for restaurants, bars and hotels. No pay increase or incentive would make these workers return to their previous workplace, according to a poll of about 13,000 job seekers during the second quarter from Joblist, an employment-search engine. These former hospitality employees cited wanting higher pay, a less physically demanding workplace and better benefits, the survey finds.”
This isn’t new. Bean-counters at many companies in many industries have been lowering the costs for services for years – which often meant outsourcing the work to third-party firms that do not pay company equivalent benefits to their employees. What is new is the crunch that has been caused by the pandemic and its sunsetting. It has been a life-pause for people across all sectors and roles, and hospitality service employees are no different. Many employees are reevaluating basic life questions. ‘Is this where I want to live?’ ‘Is this what I really want to do with my life?’ ‘Is working for low pay and little benefits worth it when I have to pay out of my pocket for child-care?’ Etc.
Hospitality firms have had to make a number of changes to adjust to the current employment crisis. The pandemic gave them cover to experiment with changes and find out what the public’s reaction would be.
· One obvious change that I discussed in a prior blog is that many hotels are no longer automatically performing daily room cleaning. Management at many hotel chains have explained that free room cleaning will continue be available – but only upon-request. Interestingly, a good number of frequent travelers actually prefer this model for a few reasons. Not having to ‘tidy-up’ your room so that a stranger can come in and clean is actually a relief to some, and others simply prefer knowing no stranger (and his or her germs) have been in their room. Some properties had already been offering perks like bonus points or daily dining credits to opt-out of daily cleaning services even before the pandemic – with others stressing the positive environmental impact. Expect to see more room cleaning services as optional in the future.
· Another change – possibly not as obvious – is hotel food services. Relatively new companies are popping up that that let hotels outsource their kitchen and room-services. As a hotel guest you might be calling the in-house room-service number, but in reality be connected to an outsourced firm in the neighborhood which then takes your order and delivers your food to your room (as well as to rooms in a number of other hotels in the area.) My understanding is that some of these firms are experiencing explosive growth. Here again, it takes the onus off of the property to staff service jobs.
· And then the most obvious change is of course simply the elimination of services and options. We’re seeing this across the board at many properties. For one example, many low-end chains that always offered a hot breakfast and pivoted to “grab and go” bags during the pandemic have not moved back to the old model – at least not yet. For another example, we can look to the Las Vegas market to see what has happened to the All You Can Eat buffet. Often set-up as a pull-in and/or loss-leader, all of them closed for health reasons during the pandemic. Some tried to switch to a waiter service model from a self-service model, but that didn’t last long. Now, as Vegas reopens, not all of the AYCE options have reopened…or are planning to. Some of this may be due to the high demand for post-pandemic Vegas travel (why have a loss-leader if one is not needed.) However, I’m sure the lack of available, interested low-wage employees is having an effect there as well.
One has to acknowledge that this is a very fluid situation. The COVID-19 variants (and the COVidiots who aren’t getting vaccinated) may still have a significant impact on how rapidly business travel gets back to normal. In addition, the push and pull of ‘how cheaply you can make the pizza’ has always taken place in travel related industries. Hospitality firms may find that they take away one too many benefits for travelers to tolerate. The advice for today however is to remember everything is different now than it was pre-pandemic. Assume nothing, call the properties where you’re planning to stay to ask specifically what has changed, and make informed decisions about your travel plans.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
All image and links provided above as reference under prevailing fair use statutes.
As always, feel free to write and comment, question or disagree. Hearing from the traveling community is always a highlight for me. Thanks!