What Hilton Is Letting Hotels Get Away With During The Pandemic

With the greatest drop in travel demand in history, hotels in many parts of the world have struggled mightily – although in the U.S. and some other regions business has been coming back – especially in popular leisure destinations that have been largely open during the pandemic like Florida and Cancun.

Hotel chains have relaxed the rules that their properties have to follow, limiting how much each has to spend on forward-looking investments and during each guest stay. Hilton recently updated its brand standard waivers, including outlining when some services have to return, and View From The Wing reviewed an internal summary of the changes – some of which are temporary and others permanent.

Hotels can remain closed through December 31, 2021 without jeopardizing their Hilton agreements. Homewood Suites properties can suspend the Lewis the Duck reading program. Canopy properties don’t have to provide welcome gifts again until July 1. But CleanStay brand standards have no end date – they remain in place worldwide.

Hilton properties in Asia are already providing daily housekeeping again, as of March 15, but they only have to Lysol rooms in between guests. And they’ve suspended their Brand Conferences through the end of 2021, which is a tad ironic as they pitch the return of meetings and events business.

In the Room

Hotels can remove pens and note pads from rooms, but must have them available for guests on request. If they remove the Services Directory and menu, it has to be available digitally.

Hilton, DoubleTree, and Canopy properties that normally offer bathrobes and slippers can make those items on-request through June 30, 2021. Hotels in the Americas that offer shower caps can make those upon request. Embassy Suites in the Americas can use paper cups instead of glassware in rooms until that time. Canopy hotels can permanently reduce in-room laundry bags from 2 to 1.

All brands globally have had their mattress replacement cycle suspended. Any mattress due for replacement in 2020 or 2021 can be used through end of 2022.

At luxury and lifestyle brands in the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa, and at limited-serice properties in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, hotels can reduce the number of pillows they supply in rooms from 4 to 2. Although while this is generally permitted through June 30, limited-service properties in Asia have to restore pillows by June 1 unless granted a further extension.

Hilton and DoubleTree properties in the Americas can substitute 1.25 ounce bath soap with 1 ounce face soap. Meanwhile Hilton and DoubleTree properties in Asia Pacific that were placing larger-sized amenities in executive and suite rooms are allowed to substitute standard-sized until the end of June. In the Americas where shower gel was provided at these brands in premium rooms, those may be limited to on-request.

Full service hotels globally can limit rooms to two bath towels, and suspend offering face cloths in Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa. Luxury properties can suspend turn down service.

Hotels with TVs due to be refreshed in 2020, or that don’t meet size requirements, can put that off through end of 2021. Full service hotels in the Americas don’t have to update their pillows and pillow cases to new products until the start of 2023.

Property Amenities

Through June 30, pools and fitness centers don’t have to be open, but if they’re open they must follow CleanStay protocols. Hotels that were supposed to refresh their fitness centers in 2020 have been able to put that off until the end of 2021.

Same day dry cleaning service doesn’t have to be offered. Tru hotels have suspended provision of magazines, and board and card games that aren’t easily cleaned are to have been stored.

While business centers may not be functioning, hotels do have to offer guests with a printing option. This does not have an end date, so we may not see the return of business centers at many properties.

Food & Beverage

All Suites properties may continue serving ‘Simplified Breakfast in a Box’ through June 30, 2021. Full service properties can continue to keep food and beverage outlets and club lounges closed through June 30, 2021.Homewood Suites grocery service ramains paused through June 30.

Hotels offering food and beverage have the requirement to seasonally refresh their menus paused through June 30. Canopy hotels no longer have a coffee station as a brand standard.

Also through mid-year Embassy Suites properties can limit evening receptions to 90 minutes, offering two packaged snacks and one red and white wine, one light beer, and one regular beer. Well drinks should also be available. However, suspension of Homewood Suites evening socials is recommended. Hilton Garden Inns can suspend the breakfast greeter.

Sustainability standards for egg and pork sourcing at Waldorf, Conrad, Canopy, Hilton and DoubleTree properties have been suspended.

Most of the complaints I’ve gotten from readers about hotels not honoring elite breakfast have come about Marriott properties. For instance,

  • I called out the Marriott Key West for offering breakfast for sale in their restaurant while refusing to provide a breakfast benefit to elite members. They initially invoked pandemic regulations in response but they’re in Florida. I’m told that the hotel now offers oatmeal to elites as breakfast.

  • Meanwhile the W Los Angeles – West Beverly Hills says breakfast is available in their restaurant for elite members – who pay just like everyone else.

Not only do Hilton properties still have to offer elite breakfast (although they are permitted to offer a spending credit instead), DoubleTree properties even have to offer cookies at check-in – though they ‘re not supposed to hand offer the cookies without asking first, and there are food handling guidelines to follow.

Second Half Of 2021 Will Hopefully Improve

Many of Hilton’s brand standards have been suspended through June 30. That even includes the fee hotels are charged when guests complain, which has been reduced by 60% through that time. The penalty, then, for not delivering a quality stay is lower even when a customer is upset.

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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Comments

  1. Surprised to hear that Hilton properties are supposed to be offering elite breakfast because I’ve definitely been to some where the restaurant is closed and nothing alternative was offered.

  2. “Full service hotels globally can limit rooms to two bath towels”

    I really hope the brand standard is one per guest. If I had 3-4 people in a Hilton room with 2 queens, I’d be pretty pissed if the hotel told me only 2 towels were issued.

  3. “All brands globally have had their mattress replacement cycle suspended. Any mattress due for replacement in 2020 or 2021 can be used through end of 2022.”

    So, enhanced cleaning protocols are supposedly still required but dirty, old mattresses with God only knows what stains can stay in the rooms even though some viruses and bacteria can spread through surfaces, such as a mattress. While it makes no sense, I’m sure it makes a lot of cents.

  4. My biggest complaint about hotels in general (not just Hilton) is that they really struggle to keep their website / app / literature up to date with what services and amenities are actually available and which have been suspended.

    I have lost count of times where I have booked a hotel based on – for example – a hotel shuttle or restaurant being available (albeit limited hours) and I turn up to find that the promised services aren’t operating.

    I have turned up at hotels where the front doors are locked “due to COVID” with guests supposed to figure out for themselves that the entrance is via a building site at the rear, or where the one hot breakfast item on the “COVID Menu” isn’t available, or where the bar is open for grab and go but it’s shut 24/7. I have stayed in hotels where I have been upgraded to a suite, but there isn’t even a paper cup in the room while others continue to provide glassware. It’s a hot mess of inconsistency – even across same brand properties!

    We’re a year plus into this pandemic and hotels – like other businesses – have had more than enough time to get their act together and at least ensure that the services provided match what is advertised. I shouldn’t have to phone a hotel in advance to confirm that was is advertised as being on offer is actually what’s being offered.

    That said, there have been some standout performers. The Embassy Suites in Sacramento and the Hilton Garden Inn Sacramento Airport Natomas both deserve praise for going above and beyond. Both had hot chef-cooked breakfasts and dinner available (to go, but way better than a lot of other properties) plus bar service etc.

  5. Must of these measures are cost saving and have nothing to do with Covid 19. The KEy West Marriott breakfast scam is a perfect example.

  6. Long-term stay at a Double Tree, no cookies, no restaurant, and they turn the water off during working hours every day — going on four weeks now. “Officially” it’s due to an unexpected water leak, although a staff person let out they’re replacing an old boiler.

    On the other hand, the price is insanely low, so I’m not really complaining. But I hope things return to normal soon…

  7. Gary – you seem to be very judgmental and overstate things that really aren’t important which, for some reason, matter to you greatly.

    Frankly this seems very reasonable and shows sound business judgement. I like the fact they are clearly communicating standards and expectations.

    Also the title is clearly clickbait.

    You were petty at times before COVID but it has brought out the worst in you. Half your posts are either looking for a soapbox to climb up on or something that National Enquirer would be embarrassed to publish.

    Very sad how far you have fallen

  8. What is the life cycle for a mattress at major hotels?

    Right now I think you are better off avoiding higher end hotels since many of the premium services are gone.

    I guess it depends on where you are looking but I don’t necessarily see bargain hotel rates.

  9. I stayed at a Hilton in San Antonio for work in the fall, and that hotel had no cutbacks. As a diamond member I got hot, free breakfast in the restaurant every morning (no limited menu). The gym was open with capacity restrictions and so was the hotel bar. The bar had a limited menu, but it still had a decent number of options. I noticed that the hotel was serving as a base for FEMA and military members attending training, so maybe that’s why everything was open there as opposed to other locations. In any case, I was pleasantly surprised. As others have said, the listed cutbacks all these hotel chains are allowing have nothing to do with covid, and everything to do with cost.

  10. Gary, what is the regular non-covid fee that the hilton family of hotels are charged when guests complain & how is it normally implemented? I would like to know more specifics about this.

  11. I think Hilton is doing the worst of all with cutting services. Have stayed recently at an Embassy suites and a Doubletree. The Embassy Suites has some things available but was severely limited. They at least had three hot items for breakfast which is more than most hotels do these days. Stayed at the Doubletree downtown Orlando. Diamond breakfast was a bagel, bottle of water, and a banana. Diamond. Breakfast. The hotel was full so it’s not like they haven’t bounced back. This is profit recovery.

    I have called around and have found that Holiday Inns seem to be the most regular of all where nearly every one I have spoken to have all services in place. They are actually standing out at this point in a really good way. Good for them.

    I get that they had months of massive losses, but at some point services really do need to come back as staying at a nice Hilton with the same services as a Super8 for 1/4 the price will start to come into play.

  12. The inconsistency is what’s maddening. Did a trip up Hwy 1 from Palm Springs to Portland then south on I-5. Used IHG and Marriott. One HIX had a friendly breakfast server who was warming the Jimmy Dean sandwiches in the convection oven along with cinnamon rolls/oatmeal/etc etc. Actually the sandwiches were delicious. Next night up the road, limp thawed Jimmy Dean sandwiches which you could warm in the in-room microwave…no thanx. Residence Inn Sacramento Fairground (35-ish year old property!) had a delightful served breakfast buffet which was served in to-go boxes (and differed both days). AC Portland–showed you a list of things which you could have if you wanted at checkin with zero context–do I need to ask for coffee and coffee maker (guess I do) when it’s listed in the same way as additional towels, additional pillows, sewing kit and tooth brush. Maddening! Best experience was that HIX in Eureka (excellent stay in every way) and that RI in Sacramento.

  13. Gary: for USA 48 states which chain among Hilton, Marriott and IHG has done the best overall at providing elite on property benefits and upholding brand standards subject to actual local regulations, not those made up by the hotel?

  14. It’s been interesting to see how worked up people have gotten about brand standards, F&B, etc. at hotels during the COVID era. Personally I’ve found it about the best time to be at hotels that I can recall. Dirt cheap rates, empty parking lots, lobbies, and elevators, no DYKWIAs stamping their feet. Employees who are grateful to be on the clock and happy to see guests. And everyone cutting each other a little bit of slack because we know it’s a weird time.

    I’ve happily traded housekeeping and all-you-can-eat cheese cubes in the EL for rates that are 50% lower than usual and dead-quiet properties.

  15. The mandated elite breakfast offerings at full-service Hilton properties have been pathetic in my experience. For example, a box containing a banana, yogurt, pre-packaged pastry, and orange juice.

  16. We had two rooms twice at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok. First stay was on December 31st NY eve (2020-2021) for one night and two rooms. We were upgraded, lounge access, and breakfast by the river were all provided without a hitch even though the hotel was over 90% capacity due to local-market NYE promo. Rooms faced the NYE fireworks which were a sight to see! We used night award certs from AMEX. Second stay was January 24 – February 1st, for 2 rooms. The King was upgraded to Panoramic Suite and all the Diamond benefits were provided without nickel & dime-ing! Paid for one room and used points for the second. https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalboz/albums/72157651972795984

    Further, we also booked 3 rooms at Hilton Resort Hua Hin. For our King room we were upgraded to a vast 200-SQM suite (Sukhothai Suite) with frontal seaview. The other two rooms were also upgraded to a suite and a connecting double with seaview. All benefits were extended to all 3 rooms (10 people) including elaborate breakfast buffet at the restaurant. Thai national rate for one room, paid for the second, and points for the 3rd. See photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalboz/albums/72157717978490958

    At no point in all above 3 stays did we notice any cutbacks due to Covid or otherwise! BTW, the rates (including points redemption) were at 60% off or better!

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