When it comes to hotel amenities, the lodging industry is trying something new: It’s giving you what you want.
Hotels are downplaying signature scents and recycling programs, which I can promise you no guest ever asked for. And instead, they’re advertising things customers have been requesting.
That’s the shocking discovery Eric Stone made when he booked a room at a Holiday Inn property in Las Vegas. It promoted daily cleaning and no resort fees — two things Stone says every hotel should have, anyway.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Stone says sarcastically.
The notion that price transparency or daily room cleaning are hotel amenities worth promoting suggests how far the lodging industry has veered from what should be the norm. And it comes at a time when the government is fighting junk fees with a proposed rule that would effectively ban resort fees in the United States.
In a business with near record-high rates, guests are embracing the idea that hotels would give them what they want. (And frankly, so am I.) It’s far better than giving them what they don’t want, which is a troubling trend I identified a few weeks ago.
“Travelers have sent a clear message,” says Konrad Waliszewski, a lodging industry trendwatcher who runs a hotel reservation site. “No more accepting less for more.”
Result: More hotels are advertising the fact that they have no resort fees. Others are advertising “free” breakfast or daily housekeeping. That can make booking a hotel confusing, since travelers might wonder what hotels do — and don’t — include in the price of their room. (Don’t worry, I’ll have the correct answer in a minute.)
No resort fees? It’s the latest hotel amenity
Resort fees, as I’m sure you know, are compulsory daily surcharges added to your bill for amenities such as pool towels, use of the hotel gym and “free” internet. Often, hotels don’t reveal these charges until you’re on the last screen of your reservation, by which time you’ve already made the decision to book.
Over the last two decades, many hotels — not just resorts — have added these fees, which range from $20 a day to, in extreme cases, over $100.
But now, in an effort to distinguish themselves from the crowd, some properties are advertising that they don’t have resort fees.
I’m not kidding. Alex Beene, a community coordinator from Nashville, recently booked a hotel room in California for a convention.
“I was stunned to see many hotels advertising no resort fees,” he recalls. “That’s very attractive because some hotels in places like San Diego and Los Angeles charge up to $50 extra in fees for benefits I never really use.”
Hotels say “no resort fees” promotions have led to higher bookings. For example, Crane’s Beach House, a boutique hotel in Delray Beach, Fla., started to heavily advertise that it doesn’t have any resort fees.
“When we looked at our market here in Delray Beach, we noticed virtually every competitor charged a resort fee — not to mention other fees like parking or valet, internet, even additional towels,” says hotel spokeswoman Carli Brinkman. A lack of fees made guests sit up and pay attention, she says. And the hotel is on track to have its best year on record, thanks in part to the absence of resort fees.
Hotels are bringing back “free” breakfast, too
Another heavily advertised amenity is “free” breakfast. I’m putting “free” in quotes because it’s not really free if you’re paying for your room — it’s included in the price of your room. If it were truly free, I could walk into the hotel and enjoy breakfast without paying for it, which is not the case.
I’m currently living in Los Angeles, and near me, several hotels, including the Embassy Suites and Best Western, advertise “free breakfast.” In fact, several hotel chains — most of them budget hotels — include breakfast with their stays.
The concept of a hotel that offers its guests breakfast at no additional charge dates back hundreds of years. In fact, it may be one of the basic tenets of good hospitality. In the rest of the world, it would be unimaginable to not include a breakfast as part of your stay.
“Huge irony,” says Adrian Mooney, director of sales at Kilkea Castle, a resort and golf club in Ireland. “European hotels have been promoting free breakfast forever. We don’t draw huge attention to this as it is a given in Europe, but since the American clients do not know this, we make sure that it is noted and included. Travelers don’t want surprises at the end of the trip.”
The “free” breakfast trend is unlikely to stick. Instead, hotels may offer special packages that include breakfast to entice travelers to book. But apart from the discount chain hotels that currently offer “free” breakfast, this hospitality trend is on shaky ground.
Daily housekeeping is a standard hotel amenity
Some hotels are also touting “free” daily cleaning — there’s that word again! But like the other advertised services, this one should never be a selling point. Guests should be able to take it for granted. This issue appears to be limited to U.S. hotels, which are struggling with higher post-pandemic labor costs and are under more pressure to turn a profit.
Stone, a retired nonprofit executive from Los Gatos, Calif., says he was mildly annoyed because the Holiday Inn in Las Vegas didn’t clean his room every day. Instead, it offered a “daily refresh” of his room.
What’s a daily refresh? According to Holiday Inn parent company IHG Hotels & Resorts, it’s a “lighter-touch housekeeping service” that removes trash and replaces towels and other amenities. Other hotel chains have similar policies.
Some cities are having none of it. In Los Angeles, the city council passed the Workplace Security, Workload, Wage and Retention Measures for Hotel Workers in 2022, requiring daily housekeeping at most hotels.
This fall, Hilton also bucked the trend when it started offering automatic daily housekeeping at some of its luxury and full-service properties, including Embassy Suites.
Skipping daily housekeeping is a disgusting way for hotels to save money, and guests won’t stand for it anymore when they’re paying record-high room rates. But for now, it’s an opportunity for some clever hotels to differentiate themselves from the competition — and they are.
So where’s all this headed?
If the government succeeds in eliminating junk fees, then hotels won’t be able to advertise “no resort fees” — because they’ll be illegal. Daily housekeeping will soon become a standard in the United States again, as it already is in the rest of the civilized world. But if you want breakfast included, you’ll have to travel abroad.
The most forward-looking hotels are already focusing on offering the services guests expect and telling the truth about their prices, according to hospitality consultant Steve Turk. (Related: Please, let’s get rid of these obsolete hotel amenities!)
“This shift is in direct response to what guests want,” he says. (Here’s how to find the best hotel at the lowest rate.)
But until that happens, he says you should pay attention to the total room rate. Focus on all the amenities, especially the ones not included.
Elliott’s tips for getting the hotel amenity you want
Resort fees and every-other-day housekeeping are still a problem for hotel guests in late 2023. Here’s how to get what you want:
Bring your own breakfast
I live in hotels, and I can tell you that even the best hotel breakfasts leave a lot to be desired. Chances are, you have a favorite breakfast cereal or fruit item. My advice? Bring it with you.
Skip hotels that charge mandatory resort fees
Don’t reward a hotel with your business if it forces you to pay a surcharge on top of your room rate. Instead, book a hotel that gives you an honest, all-in rate. If you don’t have a choice, then try to negotiate the removal of the mandatory fee before you click the “book” button. Remember, resort fees are an endangered species, and hotels that charge them know their days are numbered.
Sign up for daily housekeeping
Some hotels require guests to opt in to daily housekeeping. (A receptionist will ask you about it when you check in.) Always say “yes,” even if you think you won’t need it. Hotel rooms can clutter up quickly. If someone doesn’t clean your room, let the front desk know.
About this story
We had a great discussion about hotel amenities that we should eliminate a few weeks ago. Many commenters wanted me to follow up with a story about the hotel amenities worth saving. So I did. Many thanks to Dustin Elliott for the illustration — and thank you for the great feedback! I hope hotel operators are paying attention to your feedback.