I spend a lot of time on the road and nights away from home for work and our own personal trips. More and more, I have found that hotels have failed to update their basic standards and that needs to change.
Hotel Standards Need an Update
We’ve come a long way from the days of “Color TV” and “HBO” on a marquee as the standard for a “quality” hotel. Now, hotels marketing such features are a key indication that I do not want to stay there. If the best perk a property has to offer is basic cable, I’m in the wrong place. While those standards have made way for improvements, those advancements still lag behind market demand and the future for many travelers.
Offering a “Free Hot Breakfast” is another telltale sign of a place I don’t want to stay typically. If a hotel is boasting about the free hot breakfast, in my experience, the property tends to lack other amenities. They also charge nothing because no reasonable person would pay to eat their “Hot Breakfast”.
Toiletries weren’t always the standard that they are today, but now any hotel will offer some form of soap, shampoo, and towels.
TVs in the room was not always the norm and in-room internet at least with an ethernet connection has been a relatively recent standard in the long history of hotels and inns. Internet access is the cornerstone benefit that all travelers value but has evolved slower than it should. Specifically, wifi and further, high-speed internet is the new standard or should be. In fact, it was the inspiration of this post.
Easy Standards To Hit
Before I digress into the target of internet speed and availability, let me address some easy standards for hotels to address.
- Toiletries – It’s cheaper and easier for select service hotels (Aloft, Hyatt Place, Holiday Inn Express, etc.) to reduce waste and install full-size bottles of toiletries in the shower. An entire hotel could change this nearly overnight. So do it. Premium hotels should try to differentiate from the same plastic bottle every other chain offers like Ace Hotels does.
- Check In/Check Out Times – I have been at properties that weren’t ready for me to check in up to three hours after their stated 3 PM time (and it wasn’t even a suite). Other times I have shown up at 9 AM after a long flight and been able to go straight to my room. There’s a business case for hotels to allow check-in at different times and space out housekeeping. As a guest, I prefer to have more options.
- Water Bottles in the Fridge – If the room has a fridge, put the bottles of water in there. Leave the price tag on, but put them in there to keep them chilled? (Yes, some hotels shut off their in-room refrigerators between guests but that won’t make it any warmer than placing the bottles outside the fridge as they do now.)
- Internet Speed – Any hotel can increase their internet speed, costing very little time and money on a relative basis. Whether increasing the download speeds from the ISP or replacing routers, this is long overdue and is the easiest thing to make guests happier in my opinion. Too many times this year I have found the internet to be so slow that I tether from my phone and can’t stream basic Netflix on my computer. It should never be better to use my cellular device than WiFi from high-speed internet. That’s a lack of effort. I am sure that for a time download speeds of less than 10 Mbps was satisfactory but that’s just not good enough today and certainly won’t be good enough for the demands of tomorrow either.
Evolving Standards That Must Follow
Some changes take more time and cost more money, there is an evolution that needs to take place. At one point, motels (motor hotels) were in vogue because of the ease of use. You could park your car right in front of your room, they were affordable and conducive to road trips. Now, however, outside access isn’t a perk it’s a security concern. The standards have changed. The following are some longer-term standards that should change too.
- Shower over tub – For the most part we shower when traveling. When my daughter was a baby we held her in the shower rather than put her in the tub. It’s not often as sanitary as we would like, and if a guest needs a tub they can request a room with a tub. The groping shower curtain needs to die a horrible and permanent death. Shower over tub installations in new hotels makes me think they aren’t paying attention. It would be far easier to place some families in tub rooms while making the rest of the guests happy with showers and glass doors.
- Outlets – Hotels don’t have to replace every plug with a USB outlet. In fact, I mentioned in this post that it really wasn’t a reason to book a hotel (though helpful certainly), but let’s put some outlets in smarter places. I just stayed in a property (no review) that had plenty of outlets in useless places and nothing really worthwhile. I bought a new Amazon Fire Stick to try out, but I couldn’t plug it in within four feet of the TV. As hotels evolve, they should be smarter and more conscious of the outlets because travelers today have so many power demands. Separately, hotels should stop plugging all of their own things into outlets (phone, lamp, alarm clock no one uses).
- Entertainment – Cable with HBO just isn’t enough anymore. (Side note, DirectTV is terrible and I hate not being able to watch TV during a thunderstorm, which ironically is the perfect time to watch TV). Between the eggheads at Netflix and the tech-hungry innovators at the major hotel chains, is there really no one that’s come up with a way to access a temporary Netflix account for that hotel room? Carly has mentioned before that she liked being able to log into our Netflix account when at the Hyatt Regency Coral Gables, but logging in is a pain, logging out could be bad too. Why not have a room-specific account that resets at checkout? They can customize the TV to say, “Welcome Mr. Stewart” so is this really a difficult task? Can the hotel reduce their cost by eliminating cable from some rooms in favor of Netflix and allowing guests to choose which they’d rather? I know which I would choose.
- Schedule Housekeeping – It never fails that when I have a late start and want to sleep in, the housekeepers are knocking on the door at 8 AM. Likewise, when I need to head out early and come back early without fail the room has not been serviced. Most days I just decline service to avoid the issue and call up for towels when necessary. Wouldn’t it be easier and save time and money for the hotels if I could schedule my housekeeping? From the hotel’s app why couldn’t I mark myself gone from the room for a block of time? They could service my room in a window of time that worked for both of us.
- Phones – No one travels without a phone anymore. No one really uses the hotel phone as a phone, do they? I don’t. If you’re calling room-to-room you know the other person and probably have their cell phone number too. Outside of house services (room service, management, front desk) I can’t see a reason to even bother putting them in the hotel rooms anymore. Maybe we can evolve away from this too? I can think of a thousand reasons why some guests will still need them, but I did the same thing when the floppy disk drive went away and that’s been just fine.
Competition Is High, Will Get Higher
Every day, more hotels are opened than are closed. With the market trimmed from a dozen chains to just a handful (via acquisitions and consolidation), one would think that there would be less competition rather than more. To the contrary, chains like Kimpton never had access to the global footprint of IHG when they stood alone. Likewise, IHG didn’t have the branding and premium hotels that Kimpton brought to the table for their customers. For Hilton, competing against IHG got tougher with their acquisition. Given the rest of the consolidation in the market, things have become more difficult in the past few years rather than easier, hotels need to try harder.
With Airbnb’s normalization and expansion, hotels have to find a reason for customers to choose them, rather than reasons not to. It’s worth noting that Airbnb really doesn’t have a peer… yet. There is competition, yes, but not on the scale and scope of their own offering. Windows owned 97% of the operating system market in 1992 while in 2012 they owned just 20% of screens. Airbnb owns the non-hotel accommodation market today, but we don’t know what to expect tomorrow. Whether it’s new competitors to Airbnb or innovation on their proposition, hotels only have a higher mountain to climb to remain relevant and grow their business.
Vote With Your Dollars
As consumers, we all have the power to affect change. It may not seem like it but think of the last restaurant that used to be popular in your city and just didn’t innovate. Slowly, the crowds stopped going and over time the once impossible-to-get table was being sold at auction. This happens to anything where people choose to vote with their dollars and go someplace else, Toys ‘R’ Us was another recent victim.
Consumers also need to reward those properties who innovate. It may cost a couple of extra dollars in the nightly rate, or perhaps there will be a charge for Netflix, but I welcome a better guest experience even at a higher personal cost and will put my money where my mouth is.
What hotel standards do you want to see updated? Any that need to stay just as they are? What did I miss?