Hotels Need To Restore Service, Or They’ll Never Recover

Most travel now is leisure travel, since so many businesses are working remotely and few are requiring employees to take trips (and for many, there are no clients to visit since client offices aren’t operating at full capacity either).

That also means that travel is optional. If the travel experience isn’t good, why go through the hassle especially considering limitations on activities that may be in place at your destination or testing that’s required? And if hotels aren’t going to offer service, how do they differentiate themselves from Airbnb?

I find that researching trips now is different than it used to be. I can’t just rely on hotels that I know by reputation, or by brand. I need to read recent guest reviews to see,

  • 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
  • how elite benefits are being honored, if at all

Some hotel websites have this information but I’ve found it isn’t always accurate – in fact, a hotel may tell their chain one thing and do another.

One of the first stays I cancelled last year at the start of the pandemic was at Hyatt’s Confidante Miami Beach. So I had a look at recent guest reviews, thinking about making a trip. How do these sound to you for a beach getaway?

they have cut back on service to the rooms to every three days. even after requesting daily service, it did not happen. We were unable to get anyone at the front desk to address the issue by telephone, and a texted request was finally answered on the morning we were checking out. Throughout our stay we had to go floor to floor looking for cleaning personnel in order to obtain clean towels and soap after we ran out. Trips to the front desk were necessary to obtain cups, water bottles, coffee for the in room coffee maker. In general, the little amenities for which one stays at a hotel rather than an airbnb were lacking. Our tv remote was nonfunctional. There was a bandaid from a prior guest stuck to the bathroom floor at check in.

The toilet was not clean upon check-in to my room. The lights were flickering. Phone handset not working. Safe was not working.

When we checked into our room (ocean front with a lounge deck) the room had been cleaned (bed was made, fresh towels, etc) but when we went to the deck, there was dog poop on the carpet by the slider so we sidestepped the mess and found more poop on the deck. …When we called the front desk they said they would be right up – but after an hour we left to get out of the room and asked the front desk if there was another room but they were full.

If I’m going to go to a hotel on the beach – and this property was highly regarded – I expect to be able to get towels pretty easily – whether at the pool, for the beach, or my shower. I expect that calls are answered and requests followed up on. And I certainly expect a room to be clean.

Hotels have cut back, often under the guise of Covid-19, but it’s time to start investing in service, not to mention maintenance. Or else what’s the point?

I warned hotels last summer that making stays less attractive would mean fewer guests return. Guest expectations for hotels have changed but they need to deliver on full service or else they’re just a commodity (room to sleep) and an optional one right now at that.

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. Yeah, I have actually had good luck on complaining to the point where I have gotten full refunds for several day stays, multiple times over the past year. I am relentless though… but you’re exactly right if they are going to continue playing the cooties excuse game, it will cost them from the customer perspective over airbnb. The thing is, im no sure they care when they get the bailouts that they’ve been getting.

  2. Covid isn’t the only thing killing hotels. AirBNB consistently delivers an above grade product, better selection, and much better pricing than hotel chains.

    Hotels have been losing this battle for years.

  3. Absolutely agree-I am in the process of booking a 10 day work trip for myself & 3 colleagues; am calling each hotel to ask about services, especially F&B as well as coffee in the room for one of my colleagues who can’t exist without it. While I know many restaurants are doing delivery, it still isn’t the same as sitting down to a hot breakfast/dinner with real plates & silverware. And if the hotels truly care about cleanliness, the LAST thing they should cut back on is housekeeping-I’ve stayed in a few where the elevator lobbies & hotel corridors are piled with take out bags; makes me wonder what’s in the rooms of people who don’t put those bags out (ugh). Piles of trash everywhere is NOT a sign of clean (or whatever buzzy saying the hotel’s marketing people have come up with). If I’m paying $200+/night, then there better be services available-this isn’t a charitable contribution on my part. The people the hotels are pandering to with all these cut backs aren’t going to come no matter how much bleach the hotel is doused in, so get back to taking care of the customers who are coming.

  4. I figured the $39.90 resort fee for that property would cover any problems you might have.

  5. I’ve been saying this for a year. These companies….just like the airline are just trying to see how long you’ll actually put up with it. All for “safety” right!!! Wear 5 masks.

  6. I agree that this is becoming problematic, especially with breakfast, and even moreso in remote locations.

    @ Chris – it’s not for YOUR safety, it’s for the employee’s safety. And thankfully, the customer doesn’t really get to weigh in on that.

  7. I wouldn’t even call that “service”. That is basic needs and expectations. Service is breakfast made to order. No service which would be maybe pastries and coffee but most likely just nothing at all. Daily cleaning might be a service but not having a clean room when you check in isn’t a service.

    I’m really not sure what will happen. I was never big into hotels because I didn’t utilize their services and they were typically expensive. Though I’ve noticed over the years AirBnB has gotten more pricey and worse (though it really is dependent on the area). Not really sure what will happen to either.

    I’m also not sure how long the WFH stuff will last. I suspect we might get a big jump compared to prior year but I still feel like a majority of work will have a portion in office.

  8. I’ve traveled a bit during the past year with an upcoming trip next week. Chose to pay for Four Seasons instead of redeem IHG (even as a platinum). I’d rather pay and get a full service experience (including room service and open restaurants) than redeem and be told to use Uber Eats (as told to me by the concierge at the IC Times Square). The whole point of leisure travel is to enjoy the full experience. How can that happen when there’s not full service? I’m not sure I’m going to collect travel points anymore for hotels—what’s the point when nothing they deliver is worth the effort to get there?

  9. @John,
    Then the employees can choose to not work there if they feel the risk is too high. Some people choose not to join the military of become a firefighter because if the risks associated. If you think its ever going back, you’re delusional. I know hotel owners that would shut off hot water to the building for “safety” if they thought they could get away with it. How much are you willing to accept?

  10. @John,
    Then the employees can choose to not work there if they feel the risk is too high. Some people choose not to join the military or become a firefighter because of the risks associated. If you think its ever going back, you’re delusional. I know hotel owners that would shut off hot water to the building for “safety” if they thought they could get away with it. How much are you willing to accept?

  11. @ Chris – I think the same could be said in reverse: if the customer does not wish to play by the hotel’s rules, then they can choose not to stay there.

    I’m not defending cuts to service that make the whole value proposition questionable – but I just think that safety and risk to staff shouldn’t be assessed by me or you. That relationship is out of our purview.

  12. Could not agree more. Currently planning a Hawaii trip and “What are the COVID cutbacks?” is the top of my checklist.

    The worst thing is how many resort have left the full resort fee but tick off nearly every single thing purportedly funded by that resort fee as unavailable due to COVID. Well, that’s fine, but waive the associated fee, then…

  13. Booking the same hotel for 50% less money and expecting it to deliver the same service is absolutely crazy.

    Service will come back when prices recover, and they will recover when the public health issue in the US is finally fixed. For example, hotels in Singapore’s Sentosa islands deliver 100% of the service they did before, but prices are higher than usual as people are taking staycations and paying whatever. I hear similar stories from Australia’s Gold Coast.

  14. Agree! We are booking all Airbnb’s on our next trip because there is no benefit to staying in a hotel right now. There are so many issues but really, I don’t want an apple and granola bar for breakfast.

  15. Interesting about the Confidante – reports on FT (who I would put a lot more faith in than TA) have been pretty positive

  16. Great article. We 100% agree.

    We have spent the last 80+ nights in Florida hotels. Standards have ranged from soup to nuts. First, if you want to ‘escape’ the worst of the mask mandates avoid SouthEast Florida. In the west cost of FL, Central and Northern Atlantic Coast of FL and Panhandle you will find business mask mandates and a few municipal mask mandates but generally the maskers and non-maskers co-exist well.

    As far as hotel chains, Hilton is the ONLY brand I believe is making an effort to maintain standards. At the Hiltons we have stayed at (Gulf Coast areas) all have offered daily housekeeping, full hot breakfast (though it may be served by an attendant) and the Homewood Suites continued to offer evening receptions (again served by an attendant). NONE of the other brands have offered regular service.

    We previously had no status with HIlton. We have status matched to Hilton Diamond and cancelled several weeks of Marriott stays (even though we are Titanium) to reward Hilton for the obvious effort they are making in service. Additionally, as we plan future travel we are choosing Hilton where we used to choose Marriott.

  17. This post is somewhat tone-deaf. I too have experienced hotels / resorts with reduced amenities due and have been disappointed with hearing excuses about poor service due to covid. However, you have to realize that most of these hotels are on life support. They have had to deal with months of shut downs, and a year of greatly reduced occupancy. I highly doubt most of the owners were financially prepared to deal with not having revenue for so long. Just because some of these hotels appear to be occupied as of late (i.e. Hyatt Confidante) doesn’t mean that has been the case all year round.

    In many places, hotel bars and restaurants are still not allowed to operate, coupled with the added cost of mandatory “enhanced safety and cleaning” makes for an even tougher environment.

    Not to mention that hiring and retaining employees to work in the hospitality industry during a pandemic is extremely difficult, especially when Uncle Sam has been giving out an extra $300 – $600 in unemployment benefits per pay period. If I had the choice to go back to my job at the Hilton and clean rooms for $10.75 an hour, or collect an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits for as long as I could, I know what I would choose…

  18. The hard part of airport hotels food service as restaurants were closed,no room service but nly a small take-out area.. also no gym available.

  19. @Adam that goes both ways. It’s not the patrons job to subsidize the hotel during this time especially when most prob applied for govt loans.

    I get the sense you are against the gov unemployment increase so
    Stick to your capitalist conservative guns. If the hotels can’t survive well, survival of the fittest right?

    The problem I have isn’t a reduction in service per se, it’s that they charge the same, provide 1/8 of the service they used to provide, and cannot find any information as to what those services are they even provide. If I am staying at Hilton,Marriott or Hyatt it should be transparent and consistent so long as within state laws. It’s the inconsistently and apathetic attitude which leaves many frustrated.

    Like anything we have choices. And like most items in life this has provided a reset in the travel industry to the point of them having “oh shit” moments. This is actually good for consumers as it forced scum companies (UA/AA) to reconsider their recent “policy changes for our benefit”.

  20. @Shawn, you nailed it. Hotels are charging the same price, yet giving reduced value. One hotel says “no housekeeping” another says “no poolside service” another has no restaurants open, yet is in a remote area. But there aren’t discounts for this. There aren’t clear warnings such as “you will be paying full price, but you will not be getting the service and amenities expected at this hotel”.

    It’s interesting – went to Mexico over New Year’s, and they were 100% open at the hotel. All restaurants, kids’ clubs, pools, bars, etc. etc. They asked people to wear masks inside, and enforced that in the restaurants. We decided to stay away from some of the inside facilities as a precaution, but that was our choice. We knew we were paying for it, so why shouldn’t it be our choice vs the hotel’s choice, since we’re paying full price?

  21. Have stayed at quite a few hotels since the first of the year. All are using Covid to remove services that have nothing to do with it. For instance, stayed at a Springhill Suites near the theme parks a couple of weeks ago. Room wasn’t clean and had to complain to get it cleaned. Next morning I went down for whatever they had for breakfast and was told due to Covid they aren’t even giving a packaged item or granola bar, or yogurt. Really? In Florida where there are almost no regulations? Come on!

    Same almost everywhere I go for business. Not able to use most exercise rooms because of Covid. What it really means is they are unwilling to clean the machines, not that there are rules against using their workout room.

    Marriott has always done a good job of policing their properties. Since Covid began it is the wild west and they don’t care what their properties do. Sad!

  22. One big issue with housekeeping is that it is difficult to get enough staff required to clean rooms because many are afraid to work due to Covid, and they get more money from unemployment. Also, the limitations you receive are due to protecting the employees as well as the guests.

  23. I have continued to travel extensively for personal reasons during the last year, but my business travel has ceased for now. We were in FL mid-March last year when all of this started, we chose to stay of course. Since, we had a trip to the OR coast and a separate three week trip planned to WA’s Olympic National Park and Mt. Rainer, Lake Chelan and other destinations. We made the choice to go since our opportunity to travel as planned likely wouldn’t occur again with our adult kids…so we went….and had a great time. I have noticed the sometimes irrational service reductions such as on first class on AA nonstop CLT/SEA we were served a cheese plate, normally a hot meal is served. There is nothing preventing the airline flight attendant from unwrapping some trays and also sticking them in the microwave, after all she handed us the cheese plate, she could have handed us our meal. Clearly, the pandemic is being used as an excuse to offer less service in this case.

    While on our three week trip, our experience varied but National Parks couldn’t staff restaurants because they use college students and house them so they chose not to open for service. Mysteriously, they did serve take out food and had people to take orders and once you received your food you could carry it to eat inside, on the deck or in your room. So we asked and the reality was they had to lower staff levels since the normally crowded dorm style living wouldn’t be so crowded….I got that, although I’d think most of those teens and 20 somethings would not have minded camping in separate tents but hey then they’d get together after work …of course that’s what they were doing in just slightly smaller numbers anyway. Sadly, all they might have done is cost some people their jobs for the summer.

    At other places we went, like a great lakeside family owned hotel in Chelan WA, things were mostly normal! Restaurant was going, take out, beach open, pools….I wondered how can they do it but not others….no outbreaks no nothing.

    I asked a manager at a Hilton why no restaurant, he claimed not enough business, so they shut down, but for a long time they were shut down by government orders so perhaps that was a factor. I can understand somewhat since these in house restaurants might not get as much non business traveler traffic so maybe they are right.

    One thing for sure is I know there was a difference between places that were trying hard to provide a pleasant experience and those who seemed to be trying harder to prove to certain complaining customers that their sole role was to remind guests that there is a pandemic and so we must all suffer in some way, and my gosh the teacher like mask enforcers they are critical to making a customer’s experience the best it can be.

    In the end, we travel for pleasure to just that ….pleasure. Nobody forces anyone to travel for leisure. The goal of a hotel should be to delight their customers…not weigh them down with onerous rules, mysteriously cut back service or weird dots on the floor. The sooner these hotels realize that their competition is providing that kind of service and customers like it, perhaps they will be jolted from their complacency. What I noticed at at Chelan was an effort to make the holiday as pleasant as possible…something the hospitality industry better remember is the core expectation of their clientele.

  24. When it comes to hotels during this virus disaster, it’s astonishing to me that people can’t connect the lack of travellers to the lack of revenue which results in huge staff cuts. Of course there’s no maid service, of course there’s nobody to bring you some fresh towels … imagine the horror of having to walk out looking for a maid cart all by yourself. There is no engineer to come up to look at your a/c, nobody is checking to see if all your light bulbs are working. Hotel restaurants aren’t open because there aren’t any customers. If the restaurant is not offering food, there will be no hotel room service. If you receive any of the usual services these days, you should count yourself lucky. One of the reasons the isolation rules need to be OVER is so that people will start travelling again and the essential hospitality workers can come back to work. Does anyone ever consider that these are the people with the fewest resources? If they can’t work, they can’t feed their kids. The bureaucrats and politicians have been receiving their usual compensation, so what do they care about all these hospitality people?

  25. Judy Huey-you are absolutely correct in that the hospitality industry, & its workers, have been hit very hard. However, it’s very hard to feel bad for the hotels & the corporations that own them because some of these companies were making billions pre-CV19. And have rec’d money since from PPP/PPP II. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that these same very well funded corporations have chosen to use this ongoing public health crisis as an excuse to cut back on services. My staff & I stayed @ a DT on October for 10 days, one we have stayed @ previously multiple times. I am Diamond w/Hilton & receive complimentary breakfast for 2, which I have also rec’d at this very hotel multiple times in the past. In October I was informed that ‘due to CV19’ I would only receive the Hilton grab & go bag, EVEN THOUGH the restaurant was open & serving it’s regular breakfast menu. If I wanted a real breakfast it would cost me the price on the menu. CV19 had NOTHING to do with this-this was simply a money grab on the part of the hotel. THAT is what I, & many who have commented on this thread, have an issue with.

  26. Don’t count on bnb either. A recent ski trip house was simply missing every thing, or so it seemed like it . It was a disaster we had to clean and grab stuff probably won’t do that again. Had a similar problem at home beach last year would be in the want to go back to renting from reputable companies that I can call if I have an issue.

  27. I stayed at The Confidante in November. I had no issues with the service. It was as good or better than the previous times I have stayed there.

  28. More important things to worry about. It is suggested that we still hold off on travel. by CDC. When it is normal again service will be normal again.

  29. Let’s blame in part the labor force saturated with inflated unemployment benefits. Many of the lower level workers that were laid off early in the pandemic now have no incentive to return to work.

  30. I totally agree with this article.
    My Wife and i did a Staycation at The Gaylord Texan in Dallas. No restaurants were open, only the bar, and when we were at the pool, we asked if we could order some lunch, was directed to an App and told we would have to pay a delivery charge.
    We checked out the next day and I asked to speak to the manager, was told he was too busy to talk to me. I am a Lifetime Titanium Elite, and he was too busy to talk to me. I still couldn’t figure out how he was busy as nothing in the hotel was open.
    They never put any of this info on their webpage, as to this authors point, what was the point of going, we could have just stayed at home and ordered Door Dash.
    As you can probably guess, I’m still not over it 🙂

  31. I make it a point in each hotel review I leave:
    -Ditch the mask requirement make them optional.
    -Stop skimping on room service/housekeeping.
    -Open your lobby bar and restaurant.
    -Was cleanliness not a priority before cuckvid?

    Pushback and call the hotel out on their BS.

  32. Gary’s point is very well taken and, as always, the traveler is the one getting screwed in the name of “safety”. And it doesn’t stop at hotels. I’ve been to Las Vegas twice in the past three months and rented a car a McCarren. The first time in January it took me 3 hours!!! to get my car at Avis (and I am Preferred). The second time it was 90 minutes. I stopped payment for both cars and complained numerous times to Avis. Their response? “COVID has made it difficult to provide our normally high level of customer service”. Really. The pandemic is a year old and you still can’t figure it out? That is a serious management issue. Needless to say, I have stopped using Avis. Being safe is critical but hotels and car rental firms are using it to cut costs at our expense – and still make us pay resort fees, peak rates. etc. Inexcusable..

  33. I find the most difficult part of business travel now is getting a real breakfast. Dinner is not a problem any more except maybe the most onerous states or counties. Lunch is arranged at the site I am visiting. Many hotels don’t even have the fix it yourself, tended or untended. It leaves you with bad choices – fast food – often stale or must eat in car or risking timing at the diner. Many diners are down on staff so if it is busy, you risk double the normal time – difficult for planning when you have to start at a specific time.
    Hotels – please bring back breakfast – it is the most important meal of the day.

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