The long-awaited bounce back of the hospitality industry is here. Occupancy escalated to 60% in July 2021, fueling gains in total hotel revenue. Now in 2022, as many travelers make their plans, hotels find that guests are now understandably more preoccupied with safety measures, particularly housekeeping.
If you’re looking for a way to offer on-demand housekeeping services in a contactless environment with a limited staff, consider our digital concierge.
What You Will See Here
Housekeeping of yore
Across the hospitality industry, providing a clean and comfortable environment for guests is a priority. Housekeeping services that provided a hygienic environment for guests went a long way towards ensuring a positive hotel experience. It’s not surprising that most hotels had more staff in the housekeeping department than in any other department. However, hotels and guests have seen a slow erosion in standard housekeeping services. The demand to keep guests safe and comfortable, while remaining profitable, has impacted how hotels offer housekeeping services.
Housekeeping services are transforming the way the airlines did, moving away from many in-flight services over a decade ago.
Why housekeeping has changed
Housekeeping has always been a given in any hotel. But yet, hotels have been steadily minimizing their housekeeping services.
Let’s explore some of the reasons that have moved an industry, once known for its towel swans, to this point.
There is an increasing ecological awareness and hotels are moving away from activities that waste resources or add to global refuse, such as daily laundering, etc.
The need to go green has reduced housekeeping duties and pushed guests towards expecting less daily service. A great example is the Starwood hotel, which encouraged guests to minimize their environmental impact for hotel credit or loyalty points.
The Airbnb supply grew 100% year-on-year between 2008 and 2017, causing a 2% decrease in RevPAR across hotel segments. Airbnb’s disruption of the hotel industry made a significant change in both guest expectations and hotel operations. As more guests chose AirBnB rooms, they realized that housekeeping wasn’t part of the deal (unless paid for). As a result, travelers today, especially millennials, are becoming more accustomed to self-cleaning and limited housekeeping options.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on housekeeping
Even before the pandemic, over 78% of guests felt that cleanliness was a crucial factor in their choice of where to stay. Post Covid-19, hotel cleaning protocols have become an even bigger priority for travelers.
A report published in January 2021 by the AHLA shows guests now rank enhanced cleaning and hygiene practices as the second most important factor (behind price) in choosing their hotel.
Most hotels have now adopted the changes that were made during the pandemic as standard, like offering housecleaning only on request and adding options like mobile or contactless check-in.
Hoteliers believe guests won’t miss the old ways, and that these changes will help reduce costs.
Let’s look at some of the behavioral changes that have made an impact during the pandemic.
Guests are more aware of cleanliness
Guests turn to sites like TripAdvisor to understand the cleaning procedures before choosing a hotel. Over 93% of those surveyed say that they expect each hotel to outline its safety measures. As a result, hotels are transforming the way they manage housekeeping requirements to meet the demands of today’s leisure travelers.
Guests prefer contactless stays
Along with a new focus on hygiene, many guests also indicated varying comfort levels with someone entering their rooms after check-in. Hotels like Hilton have stated their guests prefer the flexibility of on-demand services. An AHLA survey conducted in August 2020, overwhelmingly supported this practice of on-request housekeeping, with 86% of travelers saying optional housekeeping has increased their comfort level.
Hotels that are struggling with limited staff are also seeing benefits from apps like Revinate Ivy, a digital concierge. If you’ve been struggling to support guests with a limited staff, consider taking Ivy for a spin.
Shortage of labor
The Covid-19 pandemic forced many employees to seek work outside the hospitality industry. As hotels reopen, very few have chosen to return. In addition to this labor shortage, high turnover rates in housekeeping have always been a problem area for hotels. The hospitality industry, already known for having the highest turnover rate of any industry, is at 74.9% based on numbers from October 2019. That translates to roughly three-quarters of all hotel staff with less than a year’s experience on the job. It’s no surprise that many hotels today run on skeleton teams, with managers multitasking.
Cash flow issues
2020 hit the hospitality industry hard and with minimal warning. As hotels moved away from everyday cleaning, rooms were dirtier on departure. Coupled with new hygiene protocols, including high touch-points and frequency of cleaning, meant increased time spent per room.
Hotels were devoting more time per room cleaning than anticipated, which accrued additional cost. With added cleaning products and equipment, the costs continued to rise. Unfortunately, hoteliers emerging from Covid-19 have little cash reserves, and these additional housekeeping costs added a strain.
What is new in housekeeping?
The path of the hotel industry has seen twists and turns these past two years. Occupancy rates reached zero and are still struggling to return to steady rates as guests have started “revenge travel.” Though occupancy is increasing, hotels are still not experiencing guest traffic that warrants their staff before the pandemic.
Updated practices on the use of disinfectants and surface dwell times have changed the process rooms are serviced. As a result, hotels and resorts are looking at ways to manage this operation without compromising safety or experience.
Opt-out choice for guests
Across the US, housekeeping is mainly on request. Hotels no longer provide complete room cleaning services depending on the length of stay and some hotels have begun to allow guests to opt-out of having their rooms serviced altogether.
While this will aid in reducing utility costs, guests also now prefer fewer people entering their room. To ensure guests don’t feel slighted, hotels are passing along savings in terms of discounts or loyalty points.
Guests are watching cleaning crews
Just how clean is my room? This is a question no guest wants unanswered and hotels are using this to innovate their process.
Just like the concept of an open kitchen, hotels have begun migrating their back-of-the-hotel housekeeping services into open viewing areas. Think of it as a museum of laundry. Guests can walk by while housekeeping goes about their duties, reassuring standards of cleanliness.
New schedules for room cleaning
Cleaning rooms while guests step out is no longer preferred, guests want to watch their rooms being cleaned, and hotels have responded by adjusting cleaning schedules.
By adjusting cleaning schedules, hotels can accommodate housekeepers with young children at home during the day, making evening work hours preferable. Guests may find their rooms being cleaned in the evening or when they step out for dinner, instead of the usual morning.
How hoteliers can make housekeeping profitable
HotStats reports that housekeeping labor based on per-available room continues to be down globally. But as demand grows, it’s slowly showing signs of resurgence. To manage guests with the current labor shortage, many hotels have done away with daily cleaning and or offered full cleaning only by request.
By comparing overall housekeeping hours to a productivity metric, hotels are averaging a savings of 14%. Yet, while productivity improves, the impact is limited as hotels are increasing wages to attract personnel.
Let’s look at some of the ways hoteliers are combating dealing with this issue:
Housekeepers now need extra training to manage the new cleaning norms, which prevents a higher productivity rate.
To reduce waste and bring down costs, some hotels have begun to unbundle the room rate from the housekeeping fee. Simply, guests who want daily housekeeping will soon be paying for it. This is a step in the direction of how the airlines began to do away with in-flight services.
Guests who still look for housekeeping services beyond the current standard will soon be seeing their bills increase to offset the rising costs of housekeeping.
Limited or modular housekeeping
What is limited housekeeping? Limited or modular housekeeping offers guests partial room cleaning. For example; cleaning the bathroom or changing the sheets.
By offering limited housekeeping services, hotels can reduce minutes spent per room, which works well when they are short-staffed. Additionally, for guests who want to remain contactless, this limits the number of times the cleaning staff interacts within their rooms.
Digital concierges are now being used by hotels with limited support staff to manage guests in need of housekeeping services. Guests text message their requirements to the AI-powered digital concierge, which initiates a service ticket.
For guests who just want extra towels or their bed made, this technology can help hotels save a tremendous amount of time without adding overhead costs.
Optimized cleaning patterns
Technology can help track and analyze the labor and resources needed to execute housekeeping tasks so hotels can adjust and optimize their cleaning schedules. Analytics help hotels minimize cleaning low-traffic areas and reduce minutes spent on rooms, saving both time and money, and identifying areas for improvement that will ultimately increase both staff and guest satisfaction.
Technology, in many ways, is coming to the rescue of hotels. Predictive analytics, for example, can help hotel owners forecast labor and service pop-up requests with accuracy. Predicting housekeeping schedules and forecasting demand can reduce the strain on staff and avoid delays in room readiness.
The future is changing
The New Landscape of Housekeeping and Hygiene, reports that, out of travelers who visited a hotel since April 2020, only 54% felt confident with the health and safety protocols in place. These guests are following news coverage and word-of-mouth recommendations, with 70% being satisfied that the hotel industry is effectively addressing cleanliness and hygiene needs.
All of this indicates that the traveling population is taking a closer look at housekeeping and hotel hygiene, as expected due to recent events. Hotels that are transparent and communicate their housekeeping protocols will find themselves as the preferred property by prospective guests.
By understanding these expectations, hoteliers with an eye to the future will be able to manage and endure during this tumultuous time.