The COVID-19 pandemic and the various changes it has caused in cleaning and maintenance practices, staffing, and public opinion has led hotels to reconsider their housekeeping procedures. Now, Hilton Hotels have taken a concrete step.
As hotels consider cutting staff and permanently eliminating daily guest room cleaning to help offset worker shortages, Hilton Hotels has announced that its U.S. properties will only clean guest rooms upon request until the fifth day of a stay, as reported by Travel Weekly.
The plan, which does not include Hilton luxury hotels including the Waldorf Astoria, Conrad, and LXR, will see the chain significantly cut down its housekeeping services. Those procedures will be done automatically on the fifth day of any extended stay at a U.S. hotel, but will otherwise only be performed upon guests’ request.
“Our guests have told us that they have varying levels of comfort with someone entering their rooms after they have checked in,” said Hilton in a statement. “We encourage our guests to call the front desk to request room cleaning, and our team members stand ready to assist with extra towels or amenities.”
Hilton properties in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa are already “operating housekeeping as requested,” while hotels in the Asia-Pacific region are still providing daily housekeeping, according to a Hilton spokeswoman.
Though on-demand housekeeping services have become commonplace during the pandemic, Hilton is one of the first major hospitality players to implement it as a companywide policy.
The shift away from daily housekeeping in hotels has sparked some pushback from some hospitality union groups, which have argued that less frequent room cleanings create more challenging work for housekeepers while threatening their job security. Other critics have said people who are concerned with germs are more likely to stay at an Airbnb, which traditionally doesn’t offer daily cleaning, and are questioning why people would pay the price for a full-service hotel if they’re not getting full services.
On their part, hotels are defending the reduced cleaning by claiming many guests don’t want housekeepers entering their ‘sealed room’ due to fear of COVID-19 infection. Ray Bennett, chief global officer for Marriott, told CNBC that “more and more of [Marriott’s] guests have actually asked that [housekeeping doesn’t] come in their room …”
However, according to an American Hotel & Lodging Association report, guests cited enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices as the second most important factor in their choice of hotels, after price, reports Forbes.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, America’s hospitality industry is down 2.2 million jobs since 2019, prompting some hotel companies to reduce their workforce, mainly housekeepers.
About 40 per cent of U.S. hotel-housekeeping jobs — almost 200,000 workers — are in danger of being permanently eliminated, according to the Unite Here union. This would disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, as 73 per cent of U.S. hotel housekeepers are Hispanic or Latino, Black, Asian American, or Native American. Unions have vowed to fight back and are urging hotel guests to request more frequent cleaning, for their own health and safety and for the future of the industry and its employees.