Hotels Are Making Stays Less Attractive. Why Would Guests Return?

Five months ago hotels hit an all-time low with four out of five rooms empty. Has it really been five months? As bad as things have been for the hotel industry overall it was profitable in July and into August, though things may take another turn for the worse because we’ve just passed the traditional seasonal peak.

On the basis of desperation, while hotel chains have promoted new cleanliness standards that individual properties have – or have not – followed, they’ve also allowed properties to cut back on basics for customers. Here’s a hint: Holiday Inn cutting back on pillows isn’t really to protect you from coronavirus. Marriott ironically even put off when hotels would have to offer keyless room entry to save money, even while promoting how their use of the technology promotes social distancing.

Meanwhile Marriott lets hotels get away with not honoring elite benefits during the pandemic, hotels charge resort fees for closed amenities, and properties don’t service rooms during your stay to save on housekeeping.

Hyatt is a promotion for working or doing school remotely from their resorts with discounts and extra amenities on long stays. The description is striking to me, “the Work from Hyatt package covers the essentials, including workspace options, housekeeping, free high-speed Wi-Fi internet access and discounted or complimentary laundry, and is highlighted by hotel-specific ‘perks'” They are highlighting that this promotion comes with housekeeping.

That’s great as far as it goes – and it’s important as a differentiator right now – but it underscores just how sad many hotel stays have become, and how in the rush to conserve cash on the backs of guests compromises key ways hotels distinguish themselves fromh Airbnb. Why be excited about most hotel stays nowadays? The industry is pushing itself far away from Hyatt Regency’s claim that it’s good not to be home. Making the hotel stay value proposition less attractive doesn’t bode well for bringing guests back.

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. […] Anyone with 15 nights to offer within the next 90 days is worth something to a hotel chain right now. Of course many people that would consider switching don’t have the certainty in their travel plans to know. So it’ll be interesting to see how this works out for Marriott, though there’s relatively little cost to doing it – especially while hotels are doing less and less to honor benefits. […]


  1. @ Gary — COVID-19 is now the universal excuse for poor service and higher prices. Welcome to the world of massive post-COVID inflation.

  2. After a cavalcade of Marriott letdowns over the last few years (Thank you, sir, can we BONVOY you again!), 2020 has been the year of AirBnB for me. For stays longer than 2 nights, this is my new goto and I haven’t looked back. The 2,000 Lifetime nights with Marriott haven’t produced very few benefits that I actually use.

    70 nights in AirBnB so far this year and another 30 planned. I know many others who are doing same, simply because it’s less exposure to others. Will be interesting to see it all shake out.

  3. Gary, take a step back out of the echo chamber and think for a second. Contrary to what FT and travel blogs would have one think, most people don’t travel to stay locked in a hotel counting their elite benefits. They travel to be at a destination. And, at the end of the day, regardless of the amenities they’re offering, the hotels are at the destinations.

    As FF78 exemplifies, there will be a nontrivial portion of the traveling public that will go the AirBnb route, but AirBnB also doesn’t necessarily have the scale, location, and ease of access of standard hotels, and quality can vary. Also, a lot of the good places have been booked solid because everyone is thinking the same thing. The hotels are there, the capacity is there, and in many places they’re pulling pricing levers quite strongly.

    So the simple answer is that guests are going to return when they want to travel to a given destination and need a simple, predictable place to stay.

  4. @CW. I agree completely, and to Gary’s theme….the hotel value proposition (price/value ratio) has diminished to the point where I now book other than Marriott. The positive aspect of BONVOY was that I used to blindly book on, but now look across a number of options. AA did the same thing. Be safe out there.

  5. I feel the same way. We go to nice hotels for the experience we get from them. The perks like free breakfast for being Hilton gold even gets me to spend more to stay at that hotel vs one where I dont get breakfast.

    Now that lots of amenities and services are not offered I feel why pay more to stay at a better hotel when you get the same service at a cheaper price. For me now the room is just for sleeping so as long as its clean I might as well save some money.

    I really hope the enjoyable travel experience comes back soon but I don’t feel it will.

  6. Marriott is by far the worst of the brands in disclosing reductions in services and amenities. It’s fraudulent to advertise things that aren’t provided. Five months later, how hard is it to update property websites to reflect the current status? And why should I stay at a 5-star property if I have to be my own housekeeper? I might as well stay at a Towneplace Suites or Residence Inn, let alone Airbnb.

  7. FNT Delta Diamond says: “It’s fraudulent to advertise things that aren’t provided. Five months later, how hard is it to update property websites to reflect the current status?”

    That is so true. These days I just assume the pool and the restaurant are closed down and there’s no breakfast but Marriott hotel websites still feature photos of all of the above.

    Here’s a few random descriptions of NY hotels from the Marriott website search engine right now:

    “Family-friendly hotel with complimentary Wi-Fi, free breakfast and premier location in Midtown.”

    “NYC hotel with rooftop lounge, iconic city views, original artwork, and onsite local restaurant.”

    “An affordable hotel near The Shed in Midtown West with complimentary breakfast.”

    “Business-friendly hotel with modern rooms, free breakfast and a fitness center by Penn Station”

    And it’s actually worse than that because just in case you think that it’s too hard for them to update their website, you’ll see that they have been very good at updating it with added features:

    “Sparkling Clean Rooms + Purified AtmosAir in Trendy Chelsea neighborhood. ”

    “Sparkling Clean Rooms + Purified AtmosAir in Trendy East Village neighborhood. Self-Parking Promo!”

    “Sparkling clean rooms in safe space in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Parking Promo through August!”

  8. This reminds me why I stopped going to Vegas. Back in 2008 (or whenever the market collapsed, both stocks and real estate) when the economy was in bad shape I was fortunate with a stable job, income, home, etc. So I went to Vegas, which was hurting. Instead of being thankful to have a paying customer everyone had their hand out (more than normal).

    Cabs wanted to screw you in long rides. Everyone wanted more tips, no one seemed thankful to have a paying customer. Hey, it isn’t my fault you are hurting and I don’t have the money to fixed it for everyone, treat customers right if you want to keep them. Some of us have a long memory and will avoid certain companies and brands.

    Since that trip I’ve only passed through Vegas one time on a road trip.

    Hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc. Sorry it is tough out there but you have to figure out ways to adapt or close, asking for extra tips, handouts, etc. isn’t a long term solution. Maybe you should have set aside a rainy day fund since in life things go bad and you need to be prepared for it. I don’t go out buying expensive cars, jewelry because I know things could take a sudden turn for the worse (unexpected job loss, sudden health issue, etc.) and want to have money for those times.

    I have sympathy for those out of work and think things like health care should be universal and don’t mind paying my share but when you mismanage things (this goes for companies and people), hey maybe it is your fault. My neighbors that make less than I do but have the expensive cars and have to support kids, well, if you lose your job maybe you should have prepared for the long run than the short term pleasure.

    I will give generous tips but I’m not buying gift cards for places that are unlikely to ever reopen or donate to stuff that is self inflicted.

  9. My hotel stays this summer (all in central Europe) have been normal, with more or less regular service except some minor adjustments due to low occupancy (e.g. no express laundry, only the regular service; only cold items on breakfast buffet, while hot ones were made to order; etc.), so I’m sticking to hotels for the time being but I imagine I would be very frustrated if I had an experience described in the article.

    Housekeeping is the absolute bare minimum I expect from a hotel. If hotels think they can go to providing “room-only”, without any service at all, then I might as well switch to Airbnb.

  10. Well stated Gary. And like others have said above, if we’re not getting any perks, no reason to go up-market from a Motel 6 or Best Western then.

  11. You don’t even touch the other covid excuses for lack of service sich as little to no breakfast options, pools closed, fitness rooms closed or limited hours (you only get covid after 5pm in the pool). Personally I would understand some of the cuts to save money but much of it seems so trival in cost. Like offering less pillows.

  12. Spot on Gene COVID is the new excuse for reduced service. I was recently offered 30 % off a stay at a local resort. Would have been a good deal until I found out they had closed the pool, sauna, hot tub, spa and had reduced housekeeping and f & b services. I decided against staying there and went to another property that had kept everything open. I will not patronize a business that is doing this unless I am getting more than 50% off.

  13. CW says” most people don’t travel to stay locked in a hotel counting their elite benefits. They travel to be at a destination. And, at the end of the day, regardless of the amenities they’re offering, the hotels are at the destinations.“ sounds like CW is the CEO for motel 6. I and a lot of other people I know do expect a certain level of service and amenities from the properties we stay in. We sometimes spend weeks at a time at these properties. If I wanted no amenities no housekeeping etc I could stay at an extended stay not at a full service Marriott. Please stop making excuses for these properties. I work hard for my money and am tired of getting ripped off

  14. Well, if the only purpose is to be at the destination, then what justifies paying extra 100€ for a full service hotel? One can make a point that service doesn’t matter, but then they need to be cheap.

  15. I refuse to stay at any hotel that adds on “Resort Fees”. This especially infuriates me with the Silver Legacy group in Reno, Nevada. They advertise room rates at $38.00 plus resort fees of $32.00!
    They should either advertise the room at $70.00, or charge seperatly for the “resort amenities”.

  16. After booking a hotel with a great restaurant was told the gourmet meals will not be—COvid !!! They cannot use the fancy kitchen because of regs!!!

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