Hilton’s CEO wants guests to reuse their towels. He doesn’t think hotels should have to provide things better than what people have at home. He’s playing to owners, chasing fees, but diluting his brand – which will limit the ability to collect fees over time.
About 15 years ago I started having someone clean my then-apartment. They did a better job than I did, and I was always too busy with work to give it its due. Coming home to a clean apartment, first every two weeks and then eventually every week, always felt special. It was exciting and refreshing.
I make my bed every morning at home, because the bed it much more inviting and relaxing to fall into at the end of the day that way. Little touches can go a long way towards happiness where I sleep.
The website The Points Guy offered a roundup on the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference where several hotel CEOs shared comments about the industry.
Hilton’s Christopher Nassetta wants you to re-use your towels. It’s one thing not to have full daily housekeeping. It’s another not to empty trash and refresh towels.
Last year at the conference, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta posed the question: “When you’re at home, do you change your sheets every day? Do you wash your towels every day? … No.”
This year, he doubled down on the notion that if you use your towels multiple times at home, why wouldn’t you do the same at a hotel?
People stay in hotels for all sorts of reasons beyond just a place to sleep (‘everybody has to be someplace’ or, in Buckaroo Bonzai parlance, ‘no matter where you go there you are’). Vacations and staycations are about escape, and sometime indulgence.
Several years ago Hyatt ran a campaign ‘it’s good not to be home.’ The idea was that staying at a hotel is better. It’s exciting. It’s not just a roof and a bed, it’s an escape where little indulgences feel special.
And this is necessary in order to generate a revenue premium for the product. It’s why so many brands have gone all-in on things like wellness, and why big chains have launched boutique brands. People create narratives about who they are based on where they stay and the companies they do business with. Very few things are more personal than where ew sleep.
As for Nassetta,
- Yes, I do actually change out my bath towel daily at home. Why should I accept less when I stay at one of his hotels? But that misses the point.
- Hotels are selling guests more than a (dorm) room, they’re selling an experience.
- If they cut back on the experience – the feeling of being taken care of, the added services – they walk away from how they are differentiated from Airbnb. There becomes no more reason to stay at hotels over homesharing, and that’s bad for the business.
Nassetta doesn’t think he’s in the business of delivering experiences for guests. Instead he’s in the business of collecting fees from hotel owners who use the Hilton brand. And he doesn’t want to chase away owners who would pay fees to Hilton by imposing mandatory costs on them, and encouraging them to move over to Marriott.
For big hotel chains, guests aren’t the customer they’re the product – which get sold as marketing leads to hotel owners in exchange for fees.
The problem with this is what Nassetta is selling is the Hilton brand so while they may pocket more owner fees in the short run by diluting their standards, in the long run that makes the brand less valuable. And in an ‘asset light’ model where Hilton doesn’t own its hotels, all they have is a bit of experience managing inventory and their brand.