Holiday Inn Cuts Down On Pillows, They Say To Protect You From Coronavirus (It Isn’t Really)

A reader staying at the Holiday Inn Marquette, Michigan relayed that his room had just two pillows on the bed instead of the usual four. He spoke to the property’s guest relations manager who explained that this is part of “eliminating surfaces for people to touch and viruses to spread.” And that as a result, Holiday Inn parent IHG told all properties “that the new standard is two pillows per bed.”

I reached out to IHG to see what was going on, and a spokesperson told me,

As part of our guidance to hotels during the response to COVID-19, we have recommended that hotels across our brands take variety of steps in-room to help protect the safety and wellbeing of guests. This may include reducing the number of pillows and blankets initially and providing additional items only on guest request.

Credit: Holiday Inn Marquette

However the reader was told he could not have additional pillows because of instructions from corporate. Regardless, reducing pillows may be a good way to save on housekeeping and laundry cost, but it’s not a very good way to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

If four pillows are unsafe, then two are just as unsafe. Hotels change the pillow cases between guests (not always), but pillows get reused. You may be sleeping on the same pillow someone slept on the night before.

It seems far better to disinfect the pillows if they aren’t going to ensure they’re swapped out and not reused immediately than to reduce the number of pillows. Doesn’t reducing the number of pillows just increase the statistical likelihood you’re sleeping on the same one as the person before you? A better approach then would be to give you 6 or 8 pillows! Then you’ve got a lower likelihood of reusing the same one.

And while hotels are supposed to be paying special attention to ‘high touch surfaces’ like television remotes and alarm clocks, you’re frequently still using the same toilet paper roll as the guest before you.

Just as airlines cut amenities to reduce cost and blamed coronavirus hotels are, of course, doing that too.

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, 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 »

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  1. I just love the garbage these travel companies come up with. For example, every one of them will take your money in a second. When it’s time for a refund . . . it suddenly takes 12 weeks to process. And don’t get me started on retail companies that aren’t accepting returns.

  2. @Gary – I love the idea of 6-8 pillows to reduce the odds of using the same as the previous guest. But, the only logic IHG is using is how to reduce costs.

  3. “A better approach then would be to give you 6 or 8 pillows! Then you’ve got a lower likelihood of reusing the same one.”

    Worthy of Dave Barry.

  4. I can verify this is indeed true. I recently stayed at a Holiday Inn in Bishop and there in fact only two pillows per bed. Staff confirmed this was part of their covid strategy.

    There was also no hand soap on the counters. Instead you had to walk into the bathroom and use some body wash or shampoo from the fixed bulk dispenser on the wall in the shower (which appeared to be tamperproof).

  5. I’ve got the solution: make all hotel rooms single use only. Dispose of the entire room after the guest checks out. That will make it certain you can’t catch COVID from the person that was there the night before you.

    Come on. This is getting ridiculous. No body is catching COVID because the toilet paper roll is not changed between guests.

  6. Really funny post. Thanks for the laughs. It’s always great to see some humorous poking at disingenuous tactics.

  7. Give me a couple of solid pillows and I’m fine. Instead hotels have a ton of pillows that provide zero support and are horrible.

  8. What’s funny is none of the hotels with dispensers have taken the dispensers out even though the CDC says they are dangerous and spread diseases. Guess the CDC only matters when they advocate woke mask-wearing.

  9. I heard wall-mounted shampoo dispensers are a breeding ground for covid

  10. I’ve stayed at two HIX properties in Illinois this week and both had four pillows on the king beds. I guess they either haven’t gotten the memo yet or couldn’t figure out where they would store hundreds of extra pillows they would have to remove from rooms 🙂

    Each property seems to have come up with unique Covid prevention measures. One hotel will have no breakfast but will have coffee. Another has coffee but no breakfast or no breakfast or coffee. My favorite so far was at a Fairfield Inn last week when at check-in the front desk person went through the canned speech about how “due to covid” they do not have free breakfast in the morning but do have coffee available but if I wanted breakfast I could “get breakfast at the Cracker Barrel next door” which is open. I asked her if that was because if I ate breakfast at the hotel I’d get Covid19 but if I go to Cracker Barrel I would be safe? We both laughed at the absurdity of it all. This beat the hotel in Arizona I stayed at a few months ago that had opened the pool but was limited the hours to 10am to 5pm to prevent spread of Covid19, like I would be unsafe at 6pm.

  11. The sad part is that 4 pillows may not come back. Once a company gets used to the savings, it’s hard for them to let it go. Similar thing happened with fuel surcharges when gas was $4. Gas is dirt cheap now but everyone still adds a fuel surcharge which is pure profit flowing directly to the bottom line.

  12. I’m guessing there are guests who like multiple pillows? How many people sleep with multiple pillows. I’ve never understood why there was ever more than 1 per guest sleeping space. Throw an extra pillow in the closet for those who want one. It always seemed like an enormous waste of cleaning and housekeeping to me. At the same time, I’ve always wondered why hotels, even luxury hotels, are often stingy with towels. Put a couple extra in the room. I assume if they go unused, housekeeping can tell and they don’t launder them.

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