Hotel Owners Want To Stop “Amenity Creep” And Eliminate Club Lounges

Hotel owners are grateful for one thing about the pandemic and that’s an opportunity for a ‘reset’ on something they call “amenity creep.” You might call it basic services like housekeeping, or the club lounges you’ve been promised access to in exchange for your loyalty and business with a brand.

“Amenity creep” was a real problem for the hotel industry pre-pandemic, but the past two years have given hoteliers the opportunity to reset their operating model and make some cuts, according to industry executives.

Speaking at the “Boardroom Outlook: Leadership — Understanding the ‘Hot Potato’ Issues” panel at the 2022 Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Ashford Hospitality Trust President and CEO Rob Hays said things like executive lounges must be scaled back to combat labor shortages and increasing costs.

“That’s something brands were pushing hard from the loyalty side, and I think this has given us the ability to kind of rethink some of those amenity creep issues,” he said.

The balance of power has shifted from chains to owners, he’s saying, and owners no longer have to spend money on guests. If a chain is willing to rent out its brand, that now seems to come without the old ‘brand standards’ laying out what hotels had to deliver to guests.

As one brand leader, the COO of Extended Stay American, put it “We have to ask ourselves not just ‘What do the guests actually need?’ but equally ‘What are they willing to pay for?'”

Here’s the hotels that Ashford Hospitality Trust owns if you want a list of properties to avoid. They’re a mix of Marriott and Hilton, mostly, with a couple of Hyatts and an IHG thrown in for good measure.

Since hotels are working hard to give up the services and amenities that set them apart from homesharing alternatives, giving up their competitive advantages, they’re increasingly vulnerable. And unlike the pandemic, this time the wound will be entirely self-inflicted.

If Airbnb offered more transparent pricing (where total price wasn’t 50% more than advertised rate) and reasonable cancellation policies they would clean hotels’ clocks. Airbnb has scale and brand, but that’s really not a moat and there’s a clear opportunity to re-disrupt lodging with something that actually delivers a better customer experience (and layers on a loyalty program) while the CEO of Airbnb is distracted with crypto payments as number one priority.

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 »

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  1. Sounds like the hotels are doing what the airlines have for years. Cut amenities and join in a race to the bottom, giving the customers as little as possible. What was once standard is now “premium service”, with costs attached.

  2. @ Gary — These hotel owners are morons. Many people come to their hotels (especially leisure travelers, who seem to be the primary customer these days) solely to use things like club lounges.

  3. Drop the Exec Lounge and you’ll lose this loyal traveller. I’d rather play the field than be loyal to one brand that doesn’t offer meaningful perks. Most Hiltons treat their Diamond peeps like royalty, but not all. I had to laugh reading the list of hotels managed by Ashford. The Santa Cruz/Scotts Valley Hilton was the oddest experience I’ve ever had … something was just ‘off’. Now I understand why.

  4. I’m not sure I understand the angst with hotels cutting out changing sheets and towels, cleaning the bathroom etc every day. At home, do you not sleep in the same sheets for many days? Use the same towel for several days or more? I also doubt many are cleaning their toilets every day either.

  5. LOL Americans showing nakedly yet again why China will become the global superpower very soon.

    Pre-pandemic, American hotels of the exact same brand trailed their Chinese counterparts by immeasurable margins. Literally immeasurable. Sure, you could count the number of different food options at breakfast and notice that a Holiday Inn Express in China had 50 varieties of rice porridge whereas the Holiday Inn Express in Albany, NY served rubber eggs and a stale biscuit. But you could not count the ways the Holiday Inn Express in China had staff that knew what hospitality meant, even though they were not trained at the Savoy. At the Holiday Inn Express in Albany, NY you are forced to deal with the ugly hostess’ RBF and complaining about it gets you branded a sexist because women have the right to RBF even when dealing with a paying customer. Did I mention the Albany, NY hotel rates are much higher than they are in China?

    Bottom line is that China has standards while Americans are wasting away trying to outperform each other in incivility dressed up as far-left woke rights.

    Go ahead and cut all your amenities, American hotels. You will soon go out of business.

  6. When you purchase ketchup one week at $1 for a 15 oz bottle and the next week at $1 for a 14oz bottle you shrug and put it in the cart. It probably tastes the same as last week anyway. When you check in to a branded hotel for $250 this week and get daily room housekeeping and lounge access and next week for $300 and get neither you start to look elsewhere, especially when the staff is rude. But what really gripes me are these “Hospitality” CEO’s who expect us to pay more, get less, and be treated poorly, then gripe that their customers are spoiled. Aren’t they in the hospitality business? I spend about 100 nights per year in these hotels and I’m tired of the inconsistent property maintenance and training within the same category. I wish that Marriott had never bought Sheraton – I don’t need 33 crappy “brand opportunities” just one (or a few for price point options) consistent good ones!

  7. Customers should respond by not staying with these properties and programs that cut benefits. Don’t get bonvoyed.

  8. Of course someone from Ashford spoke. Those guys are total crooks- they’re the ones that applied for the paycheck protection program intended for small businesses.

  9. To me the funniest part is what exactly is the amenity creep at Extended Stay America?

    …checked their site and they no longer have an actual program – they just offer random discounts. No idea what the program used to be – and it can’t have been much, but they have clearly “solved” their “problem.”

    These guys are nuts.

    I also have to think this damages the credit card programs the farther it goes. Not sure the big chains can afford that.

  10. Hotels think they can act like airlines, which is a terrible perspective. I’m not going to take Amtrak or drive instead of fly to LA, but I sure as heck will get an Airbnb in LA instead of a cost-cutting Marriott.

  11. I’d argue that if there has been an amenity creep it’s been a reduction of benefits rather than an increase. Remember all the way back to last December when Hilton was offering elites free breakfast? Remember when housekeeping was a basic service, expected daily? The list goes on and on but without these amenities and benefits, why not just stay at an independent hotel through Hotels.com?

  12. These are the same hotels playing games to get local authorities to restrict short-term rentals so as to hobble the likes of AirBnb.

  13. “I’m not sure I understand the angst with hotels cutting out changing sheets and towels, cleaning the bathroom etc every day. At home, do you not sleep in the same sheets for many days? Use the same towel for several days or more? I also doubt many are cleaning their toilets every day either.”

    I’m not at home. I expect more in a hotel.

  14. I’ve been beating the drum about hotel loyalty programs as a whole. Yes, some properties are fair dealers. But, as a whole, they aren’t and the game isn’t fair. Some have criticize me for beating the drum. But, what does anyone say when owners are yet again trying to eliminate an entire benefit?

  15. And it’s misery after the fact! Stayed at a repeat airport Sheraton. Club reopened, but with just eggs and fruit/cereal 4 breakfast. I asked staff “wherez bacon”, with there being an empty serving tray where bacon use to be pre-pandemic. She replied, “It’s for oatmeal and where out”.
    I got ‘shamed’ seriously by the manger for asking for an upgrade when they were still booking “Larger Rooms” online.
    Poor Mr. Marriott.. ha. I suggest the book “Spirit to Serve”
    That along with being charged for wifi w/platinum; charged for parking a car I didn’t have; no heat cause, ‘the heat valve was turned off’. … and an 11×4 bathroom…. conspiracy or bad management?
    It didn’t use to be like this!… did it?
    Printers in the business center didn’t work. Coffee machine didn’t work.. no wifi in the lobby somebody stop me.

  16. This is an America-only story; you don’t see this in Europe and certainly not in Asia.

    Probably reflective of the growing inequality and hollowing out the American middle class: while the Hilton goes downstream, hyper luxe hotels keep opening (e.g. Aman and Six Senses adding to NYC’s already bulging $1,000+/night offerings).

  17. >>>I’m not sure I understand the angst with hotels cutting out changing sheets and towels, cleaning the bathroom etc every day. At home, do you not sleep in the same sheets for many days? Use the same towel for several days or more? I also doubt many are cleaning their toilets every day either.<<<

    At home we do not use the same towel for several days – every day fresh towels. We also clean our bathrooms, including toilets, daily. We only change the bedsheets weekly, though.

    It was fine when we were early in the pandemic with no vaccine to adjust lodging brand standards to protect public health. We should all be well past that nadir in the developed world. Every lodging should be executing at full strength now unless they are unwilling to pay competitive wages. I expect a hotel to be better than a hostel, although I like hostels too. Otherwise, lodging providers will lose my business and that of others that notice the deteriorating standards.

  18. The power actually lies with the customer – if he or she chooses to wield the power. However , many seem to want to play the loyalty lottery . Pick a hotel based on price and amenities offered rather than blind loyalty . Too often folks choose hotel x and accept what the hotel management offers. Look around , email, call and find out what you can expect for your money . Don’t pick hotel x at the same price as hotel y when hotel y gives you more bang for your buck . If you simply choose based on loyalty and nothing else than you change the balance of power in favor of the hotel owner and repeated behavior will undoubtedly result in a downward amenity creep.

  19. Wow, a lot to unpack here and many of you are making some excellent points.

    My two cents (Hilton Diamond since 2018): the number one reason I stay in the Hilton portfolio is simple. I want options from Hampton up to and including Waldorf. The Hampton better have that free not-so-great breakfast and it better be clean. The Waldorf better be over-the-top and have an Executive Lounge. In between? That Embassy Suites better have that Evening Reception.

    You start siphoning off things…watch how fast I siphon off my business. Make no mistake…business travel will come back. When it does, Hilton. Marriott, etc. you better be ready with MORE not LESS!!!

    As ‘Jim’ on here said…you’re not an airline. Way more options once I get to town!

  20. When these hotels were built the “plaza club” or “towers” levels had a staffed concierge, added amenities and were supposed to command a major rate premium. I’m sure they upgraded corporate guests back then, but with the advent of elite status from credit cards there are so many more people to upgrade, and no money to be made upselling.

    I still think this is the wrong play though for our day and age. Why would you stay at a full-service hotel when every mid scale property has roughly equivalent room quality plus free breakfast?

    My guess is that unless they change their attitude a lot of these 1980s business hotels are going to end up converted to apartments.

  21. Hotel owners are penny wise, pound foolish. Nobody is going to pay premium rates (or care about your branding) unless there are perks.

    I’m betting it is less expensive to staff a lounge than to hire more cooks and servers to provide the breakfast benefit in your house

  22. Never thought I’d agree with a China bot but the one above actually has it right. A bunch of (primarily) Americans complaining about loss of amenities that were generally subpar by global standard previously is truly comical. Brands do still mean something in China and, in general, service levels reflect the brand standards. True but to lesser extent in much of Asia. I disagree with Gary I nearly everything and he is wrong here too. Only read this story because it was read it here or TPG2 and this seemed like the less bad option. Airbnb and hotels are interchangable for a tiny portion of my travel. Never going to spend time wading through dozens or hundreds of airbnb listing for work travel. The narrative that most travel spend is leisure may have been true a year ago but is not true now, at least in locations where I tend to spend time.

  23. No daily housekeeping is an improvement in my book. Nobody interrupting me when I’m working. No one re-arranging the furniture I’d moved away from the end of the bed. No-one plugging the stupid searchlight bright alarm clock back in. Etc.

  24. When traveling for business, and choosing among different but roughly comparable large chain hotels downtown or at the airport, I would frequently pick based on the quality of the lounge. Of course, I have traveled little for work in the last two years, so maybe these owners have figured out they can get away with it in the pandemic because these are not business travelers.

  25. They are doing this because people such as your poster “confused” make lots of excuses to support the behavior. “Confused” no I do not change the sheets towels and other linen in my home everyday. I am also not paying upwards of $200 per night to stay there. I expect basic services and pay extra for upgrades and lounge access. To the idiotic owners and managers who want to cut services while maintaining pricing. I will always be able to find quality hotels who continue to offer the services and amenities I expect and I will have no problem paying for those services. The rest of you can go out of business.

  26. I am a Marriott Gold and and Hilton Diamond, and have been traveling a lot both domestically and internationally over the past 12 months. Hilton overseas treats me like royalty. Domestically, it is not so good, especially with a $10-$15 coupon replaces the breakfast. It’s depressing to see how low the domestic hoteliers have sunk, and impressive to see the Asian and European Hiltons maintaining service and standards. For Marriott it’s bad both in the US and overseas. I’m giving more and more of my business to Hilton and less and less to Marriott. In one Marriott overseas, it was half full with lots of higher category rooms above what I booked (I confirmed this on the app), and when I asked for an upgrade, they put me in the exact same category room, but one floor higher. They said that was my upgrade. They refused to consider a higher category room. Again the hotel was 50% full. They didn’t care what the Marriott Bonvoy guide said, their manager said same room type, one floor higher was an upgrade.

  27. Marriott Ambassador have until early March to gift Plat Elite status to a family member. The 50 night gift is now via email.

  28. If Marriott fails to offers breakfast or 750 points (guest choice) when the lounge is closed, the guests is owed $100 compensation. The hotel has to be notified before checkout.

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