Hilton’s CEO Says Don’t Expect A Return To Regular Housekeeping Or Fully Staffed Food & Beverage

Earlier this month I wrote that hotels need to restore their pre-pandemic service or they’ll never recover. The hotels that do offer guests more will come back faster.

If I can’t get towels in my room at a beach resort, I’m not going. Researching hotels now means learning up front if they’re actually offering housekeeping; whether they answer the phone for requests; what amenities are actually available on property; the extent to which promised cleaning happens, rules like distancing and masking are enforced; and how elite benefits are being honored, if at all.

Hotels cut costs drastically and reduced their breakeven occupancy levels last year.

  • 30% for full service hotels, down from 47% in 2019

  • 36% for limited-service hotels, down from 43% in 2019

Limited-service properties had less to cut. Most of what’s been cut across the board is labor, with properties no longer maintaining as much staff for housekeeping, restaurants, bars and other amenities.

While late Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson correctly worried that all of these cuts would make recovery more difficult, Hilton’s CEO is hoping to make as many of them permanent as possible.

The work we’re doing right now in every one of our brands is about making them higher-margin businesses and creating more labor efficiencies, particularly in the areas of housekeeping, food and beverage, and other areas. When we get out of the crisis, those businesses will be higher margin and require less labor than they did pre-Covid.

In this context higher margin means lower costs, achieved through having fewer employees on staff at hotels – specifically less housekeeping and food and beverage workers.

At limited service properties, especially Hilton’s limited-service brands, don’t expect daily housekeeping to return.

Meanwhile, food and beverage has been a lucrative area for hotels that they’ve been driving guests towards. They want smaller rooms and more common spaces for guests to congregate. That era seems so far in the rearview mirror. Hotels want the revenue without the cost, but the cost delivers quality product in a timely manner.

Here they’re just driving guests to outside venues and delivery services, while diminishing the difference between what a hotel has to offer and what you can get from Airbnb.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Last week I had 5 people on-site w/a client for the whole week & the hotel I chose for us to stay in was chosen BECAUSE breakfast didn’t involve a brown paper bag. The hotel had real room service w/real china & silverware for both breakfast & dinner. Because the hotel decided to maintain those standards, it got our business, even though there was a full service Marriott, Omni, & various Hilton brands w/in a 2-3 block radius. I called each of them & none of them was providing any F&B that I felt was worth my client’s money-the ES admitted they were getting breakfast from some place 3 blocks away. We will be going back to this same client multiple times in the coming months-at this point, I don’t see any reason to look @ the other ‘name’ properties in the area.

  2. It’s also very much a labor speedup, i.e. getting more work from underpaid housekeepers. Housekeepers have to work much harder to clean a room for turnover if it hasn’t been cleaned regularly. So they have to do more work to turn over a room and their pay for turning that room over will remain the same. This is how the poor get poorer in our shareholder driven corporate economy. Not just or good for society to increase inequality, not to mention inhumane.

  3. Traveling full time. Don’t miss the housekeeping.

    Been wondering, why does someone need to come and clean my room for me, every single day, just because I’m in a hotel.

    I’m an adult, I can do it myself.
    Happy to have this cut.

  4. I’m quite happy with cutting daily housekeeping – however there needs to be an incentive for me else I feel ripped off on multi-night stays (hotels don’t offer a discount for a 3 night stay compared to 3x 1 night stays). Not much chance of this since Marriott cut their Green Choice program at the start of the pandemic and it doesn’t look like it’s coming back.

  5. I agree w @George. Why do you need (or even expect) daily housekeeping? Gary are you that big of a mess that you aren’t good for a few days?

    I specifically declined housekeeping when traveling alone well before COVID. Most hotels give you around 3 towels and you can easily get additional ones if you want. Frankly I don’t want people I don’t know in my room! Also I’m just fine not having the bed made every night.

    IMHO this is a good thing to come out of COVID. Less wasteful and lower labor cost for hotels. Of course you have some prima donnas like Gary that have to be waited on constantly but, for most of us, no daily housekeeping is just fine!

  6. ::shrug:: Never saw the need for daily housekeeping at most properties and I often opted out of it. If I am not staying in a 5 star hotel I don’t need someone in my room daily. I don’t mind the turndown service at a high end property, but for anywhere else I’m content to having house keeping come just when I specifically need them and that is most certainly not every day.

  7. “Marriott’s late CEO Arne Sorenson worried all the cuts would make recovery harder. Hilton’s CEO says hold my beer.”

    Good to know that Hilton Hotels has resumed serving beer. When staying at a Hilton property, I am always delighted when abandoned rubbish from local homeless people and panhandlers is cleaned up before my arrival.

  8. F&B – Give me great wifi and you can keep the food/beverage and lounge access.
    Housekeeping – I am not a slob so I don’t need or want them in my room. I can swap my towels out as needed and drop my trash in a receptacle on my way out each day.

  9. I have found the solution. I now book one night at the time and make as many reservations as nights needed.

    Hotels want to save on housekeeping but I ant to charge you full rate.

    I do want my room cleaned every day. If you don’t, pay less and stay at an Airbnb.

  10. If the hotels were to reduce rates or have special rates that excluded house keeping then I’d be fine. But if I am paying for full service hotel at market rates I do expect full service. I like coming back to a clean room and fresh towels after a long day of work.

  11. Very happy with no housekeeping. Prefer my privacy and will request items when needed.

  12. I’m with Gary on the housekeeping. I also don’t *need* daily housekeeping but my near universal experience over the past 9 months is just that hotel rooms (including at formerly “full service” properties) are just dirtier than they used to be- from mildly so to just filthy. Clearly with the cost cutting, housekeeping staff isn’t being given enough time to properly clean rooms when they’re being turned, which are of course much dirtier to begin with since they’re not being serviced on a daily basis anymore.

  13. I don’t want or need people entering my room during a stay. I make the bed daily and hang the towels. I never bring food into my room, so the daily trash is minimal and doesn’t smell. I stay in many of the same properties regularly and often request the same room. It’s in my best interest to keep the room in great shape, because its very likely I will be staying there again soon. I do expect that the common areas are well maintained by the housekeeping staff and expect them to thoroughly clean the elevators, lobby and hallways. Other then Globalist breakfast, I don’t have any interest in food or beverage in any hotel. I strongly prefer highly rated independently owned local restaurants for my meals. Frequent travelers tend to have minimal needs.

  14. Wrong answer. I’m a Diamond member and will shop other brands if the services are going to be permently reduced. I spend over 200 nights a year in hotels and paying hundreds of dollars just for a bed is not a good business model for future success.

  15. Agree w/@DWT-the lack of daily housekeeping is more about the hotel’s overall condition than just my specific room. Yes, ‘we’ can all make our own beds & put out trash, but I’m more concerned about those people who DON’T put out the trash & just let all their leftover takeout accumulate which, in turn, attracts bugs. And bugs know no boundaries. If a hotel wants to convince me about how clean it is, the last thing they should get rid of is daily housekeeping.

  16. Like others, I do not miss daily housekeeping, most of my stays are 1-3 nights max anyway. What I DO miss is F&B. Arriving in a smallish town after a long day traveling I really do not want to drive somewhere for a meal and wine. Id much rather have a meal with wine at the hotel. I hate the grab and go bags, and hope hot meals come back soon. It is something I call ahead now to verify.

  17. If hotels don’t do more to differentiate themselves from Airbnb’s, they will have trouble returning to prior levels. I’ve stayed in probably half a dozen Airbnb’s in the last year, and no hotels.

  18. Bottom line, I don’t travel to a resort as I do to so many in my home state of Florida to make my own bed each morning or clean the toilet each day!

  19. Ive spent well over 2,000 nights in hotels. Last thing I want is daily housekeeping, along with room service.

    Give me a descent fitness center.

  20. Wow…I am so thankful my days of business travel have come to an end. As a female who traveled weekly throughout the country, after a long day at a client site, the last thing I would want to do is hunt for dinner in an unfamiliar city. I was dependent on hotel restaurants and room service. Eating in my room allowed me to complete my client follow up activities rather than wasting time looking for and eating in a restaurant. As a former Hilton Diamond, they need to step it up!

  21. When I first read up about the Nordic Choice hotel Comfort XPress in central Stockholm, I was thinking it sounded horrible. There, if you want housekeeping or fresh towels, they charge extra for it except following every 4th day of the customer’s stay there. If Hilton hotels go that way, I don’t see why a well-placed and well-researched AirBNB wouldn’t be superior to putting up with a hotel attitude of “customers are a nuisance unless we can nickle and dime them for things that used to be included without a surcharge”.

    What’s next? Pay per flush of the toilet? Pay by the minute showers?

    Hotel food service tends to be a costly and not lucrative activity for many hotels, so I can see why they would be quick to ditch it. But customers at hotels may want a place to eat that doesn’t have their hotel room smelling like food. Directing those customers to UberEats or the like just won’t cut it for that kind of traveler. Dining halls with “bring your own food” for hotel guests? Maybe, but I think some hotels will want to convert the restaurant+related food service space into a bunch more hotel rooms. 😮

  22. Indeed, F&B and the fitness center are important, but if the properties are reducing or eliminating services, that should be reflected in the rates.

  23. All of the people commenting that they don’t need daily housekeeping and can make due with the towels provided are clearly traveling solo.

    Good luck foregoing daily housekeeping when you’re traveling as a family.

  24. “I’m an adult, I can do it myself.
    Happy to have this cut.”

    Are you happy to have this cut knowing you won’t be paying less for less service? Think about it. These cuts won’t result in lower prices but higher margins.

  25. I value both the daily housekeeping (on family trips, and it should be an individual option…default to no if needed but allow us to say yes) and all of us HATE the brown bag breakfast crap. We will day trip as much as possible until they return to reasonable service standards.

  26. If you are traveling alone, not having daily housekeeping is one thing, when traveling with a family of 5, for a week straight…at least every other day is essential.
    I stay in hotels weekly and I’m done with the brown bag specials and feeling like I’m an inconvenience when I ask for just one more coffee in my room.

  27. Resort hotels need to be upfront about the services they’re able to provide to justify daily resort fees. You might be able to get away from limited housekeeping but limited poolside/ beach service defeats the purpose of a family vacation.

  28. Have stayed at several hotels recently. Stayed at a Fairfield Inn in Utah. 2 lamps in the Room were missing bulbs. The person on duty for the night could not find any. There was a used q-tip on the floor in the bathroom. At breakfast I was told, “breakfast closes in 10 minutes; I am not making any more food.” There was no coffee at breakfast, both decaf and regular were empty. I am interested in lounges that are open when I stay at a hotel that has one. I am interested in a staff that can get the job done. Will look elsewhere if Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott choose to abandon service.

  29. When Hilton Hotels reduced or eliminated their housekeeping services, who is responsible for wiping off the germy COVID contaminated touchpoints throughout a Hilton property?

  30. This is a very biased article, as someone who is working a hotel front desk everyday we are CONSTANTLY hiring people, but people now don’t want to work and provide services to our guests.

  31. When traveling solo I could forgo housekeeping for a day or two but not when traveling with another person.

  32. I generally travel alone and don’t require daily housekeeping, but there are people who will be out of work. I don’t want to pay a high price for just the privilege of walking through the door and sleeping in the bed, if I’m not going to get the amenities then the cost should be lowered, I want F&B a real coffee cup and don’t want the choice to eat out or not, this is ridiculous, if I wanted to go camping I wouldn’t have booked a room at a hotel

  33. I’m a housekeeper on a hotel. All holton care is about making and saving money. Because all of this changed guesses leaves the rooms really really bad, it take us three times as much to clean up a single room, but the hotel don’t give us that time to do it. We have to work as fast as we can all day, we work really long hours and with one single break. We’re going to crazy times now I know we should be doing our jobs better on cleaning the room, but they don’t give us the time to do it.

  34. It appears Hilton is trying to follow the airline industry model and even more specifically the AA model. Continuous reduction in service with no comparable reduction in price. I have been a frequent traveler for business and pleasure for 30 years and I can give a step by step history of how the airlines and especially AA have reduced first this service or perk and then another while at the same time reducing comfort by jamming more seats into the same size plane. The airlines have been able to get away with it since there is very little actual competition. Thru industry consolidation, monopolizing hubs, and other means plus the big three carriers are only eager to follow each other down in service there has been little risk in reducing service. That is why we need to allow foreign carriers into the U.S. domestic market but that is another story.
    Hotels on the other hand have more competition and risk creating more. There is foreign competition in the U.S. market as well as more independent hotels. I have been Hilton Diamond every year since 2004 and have always been happy overall. But if Hilton become the hotel version of the bottom dwelling AA I will start booking more/all stays elsewhere.
    The people who are responding to this thread who give hotels a pass by saying they do not care if they have daily housekeeping, lounges, or food/beverage service are simply enablers of the corporations who want to reduce service and simultaneously raise prices. It has been that same attitude that has enabled the airlines for 30 years to get worse and worse. I see on blogs and discussion boards all the time saying they do not care if they get a meal or beverage or other service on an airline. Well the airlines take that complacency to heart but they certainly do not pass any benefit on to the consumer. Hotels that adopt this policy will be the same.

  35. This would have been expected even before the COVID. I can understand that part. But I just want to say that all these changes and new methodology would’ve not happened if their was ni Covid and pandemic. I know that the Westerners don’t say nor blame much toward where it all started from, but as a Easterners viewpoints, this should solely blamed to where it all started from, China. They created this pandemic and they refused to take hold of it. I know that especially most of US people don’t want to mention about China because of their former president, but this could’ve been handled if China were to be more transparent. It will definitely be hard and needs more attention in the future in regards to the labor forces within the hotel industry.

  36. Well if some amenities are being taken away, room prices should be lowered to reflect that. There are other chains other than Hilton. I am a Honors members and enjoy dining in the hotel restaurant, getting room service, etc. I never have housekeeping on a daily basis so I can live without that. But other things that go away that I enjoy when choosing Hilton, if other chains have what I enjoy, I will switch.

  37. I’m not sure the lack of daily housekeeping concerns me but the reduction in breakfasts and general F&B will. The stuff I’ve gotten for breakfast in the paper bags is terrible…poor quality, terrible taste, simply gross. I’ll go somewhere else given the choice if this is what a hotel is offering. Consumers will vote with their feet and the Hilton CEO will learn quickly that he’s in the wrong…especially as things continue to normalize.

  38. Hotels HAVE lowered rates tremendously throughout the COVID 19 Pandemic.
    That is why your amenities are unavailable/limited.
    Travel, especially corporate travel is non existent and hotels are still struggling to stay afloat.
    Hotels cannot keep hourly employees on staff (due to COVID 19 & government stimulus programs set in place that are keeping these service employees afloat).
    The guests that we are seeing treat the staff TERRIBLY.
    With thousands of hoteliers (service managers) still out of work, the industry is trying to figure out what guest experience will look like in the coming years.

    The industry as a whole needs work.
    Respect us and the process.

  39. The comments from those who are willing to pay the same rate for less service underscores how the “Covid psychology” has been ingrained into society by both various government agencies and their corporate partners. The psychological conditioning has made those folks dumber.
    It’s laughable to hear them say “I don’t want people I don’t know in my room when I’m not there.” Guess what, the hotel has the master key to all the rooms and you will never know who has actually been in there while you’re at work.
    If you’re willing to pay the same pre-Covid room rate for less service then you’re either a Millennial or simply stupid. (that’s redundant)
    I was a Hilton Diamond for over 10+ consecutive years. Last week I shredded my Amex Hilton card and sent the remains to the Hilton CEO.
    If I get less then Hilton gets less.

  40. Fascinating to see the comments here so my response is how does Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta travel? Does he make his own bed and clean his bathroom everyday? Like many on this site I travel 200-250 days a year. As a result I am a Diamond Lifetime member for whatever that is worth now. It seems as though Hiltons want to become overpriced Days Inns. If so why would I stay there. I appreciate all those on here who would do their own cleaning. Great! So why can’t you opt in for a better rate. That would be an incentive. What you have now is simple greed. Right now I am seriously looking at staying other than a Hilton. Never thought I’d say that. Their staff and services had always been superb. Their hot breakfast benefit was a key for me. I don’t two hard boiled eggs, a stale bagel and sugary yogurt in a box. The least you can give me is cold cuts, cheese a fruit cocktail, plain yogurt and a fresh bun or croissant.

    So here are some proposals – franchise out dining and bars. You will make money and offer services the public wants. Maybe add in to that a breakfast voucher at a nearby restaurant or meal for regular travelers in these restaurants. Some Hiltons were already doing this in the New York area pre-pandemic. It’s a really good idea. It gives your customers services they want, it adds to your profile and brand identity. The Hilton Parsippany has a Ruth’s Chris so even though the Hotel bar is now closed I can go there. This is a draw and hotels can make money by sub-letting.

    As for housekeeping if you want to make your bed etc. you should get a benefit. I get where families are coming from. Multi-day stays are crazy for them if they aren’t getting housekeeping and I agree with those who say multi-day housekeeping just overtaxes the staff. I guess Hilton like many hotels and restaurants are suffering right now from a lack of cheap immigrant labor.

    The point here is this – you can solve your bottom line problems in a more creative fashion that gives your customers services they want (which increase room reservations) while lowering your costs and maybe creating new profit centers. What I see here from hotel executives is poor creative thinking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *