New Hilton policy makes housekeeping available on request

Ryan Pulliam, a Las Vegas resident, had a blast on his 4th of July weekend getaway, soaking up the sun on a California beach with his 4-year-old son, Reid.

But the condition of their room at the Hotel del Coronado, a Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. resort, could at times be “disappointing,” he said.

Hilton recently changed its housekeeping policy to an opt-in model, meaning that for the latter part of its stay, Pulliam would return to a room with no clean towels, a ruffled bed, and sandy floors. He had requested maid service on the second day of the trip but canceled the request later that day so his son could take a nap undisturbed.

“(It was) kind of a disappointment,” Pulliam said. “When little things like that don’t happen, it takes away that experience. It was something I had to worry about – do we have enough towels?

Hotels across the United States have moved away from automatic daily housekeeping services in recent months, due to federal COVID-19 safety guidelines and labor shortages.

Hilton’s most recent policy at its non-luxury US properties, which went into effect Monday, provides free housekeeping service on request. Customers will have the flexibility to customize the level of service they receive, said Phil Cordell, senior vice president of brand development for Hilton at USA TODAY.

“We listen to the needs of our customers locally, so we’ve made specific adjustments to these standards region by region to align with their preferences at this point in the recovery,” Cordell said via email.

What are the hotel housekeeping policies?

Housekeeping policies vary among US hotel companies. Many have updated cleaning guidelines to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which say hotels should not clean rooms occupied by the same guest over multiple days unless requested.

Here are the housekeeping policies of some of America’s biggest hotel brands:

Hilton

  • Daily housekeeping at American properties is available upon request.
  • Rooms will automatically receive a full cleaning on the fifth day of an extended stay.
  • Guests of Waldorf Astoria, Conrad and LXR properties will automatically receive daily housekeeping service.

Marriott International Inc.

  • Guests can choose their preferred housekeeping frequency during their stay.
  • Guests of luxury hotels will receive daily housekeeping service, unless otherwise specified by the guest.

Wyndham Hotels and Resorts Inc.

  • Housekeeping services in rooms are “kept to a minimum unless requested otherwise,” according to the company’s website. Spokesmen did not immediately return a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Extended stay in America

  • Housekeeping services are scheduled based on the number of nights booked, according to the company’s website. For those staying a week or less, clean towels and linens are available on request. Full housekeeping is provided weekly for guests staying eight nights or more. Spokesmen did not immediately return a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Many hotel brands outside of the five-star luxury market are turning to an opt-in model for daily housekeeping, according to Mehmet Erdem, associate professor at the University of Nevada, the hotel college in Las Vegas.

Part of this change is driven by the comfort level of customers during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of guests surveyed in August 2020 did not want daily housekeeping, according to a survey conducted by Morning Consult for the American Hotel & Lodging Association that surveyed 2,200 American adults.

“If (customers) can do something with less contact with hotel staff, they are increasingly opting for it,” Erdem said.

Hotel cleaning protocols are expected to continue to evolve throughout the pandemic. Hilton’s ‘CleanStay’ policies “will continue and evolve based on best practices and local laws,” Cordell said.

Hotel cleaning protocols are expected to continue to evolve throughout the pandemic.

The role of labor shortage in hotel housekeeping policies

Hospitality experts say the new housekeeping protocols are also driven by the labor shortage being felt in a number of service industries.

The U.S. hospitality and entertainment industry lost nearly half of its 16.9 million jobs in March and April 2020, according to Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company. Hotel companies, now facing a surge in demand for leisure travel, are rushing to fill these vacancies.

“There’s a huge shortage.… We see people saying it’s a transitional job, it’s not a career path, I’m going for something else,” Erdem said. “I think it will be very normal to (not have) daily housekeeping, but you have to register, you have to request it, or you ask for extra sheets or towels.”

Erdem doesn’t expect housekeeping jobs at U.S. hotels to return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.

Cordell of Hilton called the availability of the workforce the “biggest challenge” for the industry today. Hiring decisions are made by each hotel under the Hilton brand.

“We will continue to work with our community of owners to manage the new realities of running a hotel while responding to guest feedback and maintaining the high standards and hospitality expected of Hilton,” said Cordell.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 118,000 hospitality vacancies were listed on Indeed.com. Industry trade groups have worked to help fill these positions; On Wednesday, the AHLA launched a “Hotels are hiring” campaign in select markets: Phoenix; San Diego; Orlando Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Washington, DC – which talks about the benefits of careers in hospitality to help fill vacancies.


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