Going Green to save Green — environmental incentive for guests or a view into the future?

by Janice Hough on March 22, 2011

These days it is pretty common in hotels to see environmental messages in the room: “Please use this card to indicate you do-don’t want your bedding changed,” “Please put recycling in this trash can,” etc.

Other hotels require that the room key be placed in a slot to keep the electricity on, to guard against waste when guests aren’t even in the room. There are many other examples. Best Western, for example, asks guests to specify their choice of housekeeping: no service, replace towels/empty trash/quick vacuum, or full clean. Starwood Hotels and Resorts have another approach, basically paying guests to do without maid service. What about paying extra for maid service?

In general, the program, now available at several hundred properties in the Bahamas, U.S and Canada, gives guests $5 a night food and beverage credit, or 500 Starwood Frequent Guest Points for each night without maid service. Guests can opt in by placing a door hanger on their door by 2 a.m. (except day of departure).

At the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Villas, which has a particularly generous version of the offer, nightly rental guests (as opposed to time-share owners, who pay for daily service) have the option of forgoing a night’s service in exchange for a resort credit or free breakfast. Mind you, the Ocean Villas have kitchens and jacuzzi tubs, and are all studio or one bedroom villas, so presumably it’s more of a savings to Starwood not to clean them.

The company calls the program “Make a Green Choice”

Put that way, making a bed and picking up towels to get goodies, it’s an interesting choice. Not so interesting as to make it a slam dunk, but enough that plenty of cost-conscious guests take advantage of the offer. (Also, no way of knowing, but I would have to assume that a business traveler on limited reimbursement budget might use the program to subsidize a beer or two, for example.)

In general, the program seems like a win-win, no cost for turning it down, and a nice perk for anyone who is particularly cost or environment conscious.

My only worry — How long will it be until the option to save a little money, becomes an add-on cost to get maid service at all? Certainly the airlines have become masters at making things that travelers count on having turn into surcharges. Hard to imagine that hotels haven’t watched and learned.

What are your feelings about having pay extra for hotel perks that once were part of the room charge, like daily room cleaning and changing of towels? Is this the way of the future?

If any readers are aware of other hotel chains with similar offers, please add them in comments. And would love to hear what your opinion on this kind of deal is. How much is it worth to you to come back to a clean room with fresh towels, toiletries, and a nicely made bed?

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  • MeanMeosh

    I’m not a fan of adding a surcharge for maid service. My guess is, the hotel industry will adopt the model of resort fees, making it mandatory while not cutting the existing base rate (or better yet, by raising the resort fee by $5 a night and claiming it now includes housekeeping). Any “mandatory” fee is purely evil, and I actively boycott properties that charge resort fees where I can help it. I have no problem with offering some kind of incentive to guests to forego maid service, but personally, I think Starwood has to do better than $5 or 500 Starwood points. A $5 food and beverage credit won’t even buy you a pot of coffee and a croissant, let alone a beer, at a place like the Westin.

    I do, however, get tired of the whole idea of calling this a “green choice” or a similarly PC label. Hotels want you to reuse your towels because it saves them money. If you take the $5 to forego maid service, you’re doing it because it saves you money. Just like my company tries to guilt us into ordering vegetarian lunches with the guise of being “green”, but in reality, they’re doing it because it ends up cutting down on meals and entertainment expenses. Call a spade a spade, and just admit it’s a cost saving measure!

  • bodega

    I make my own bed each morning and wash our towels every day. When i am on vacation I expect the same, I also expect a clean room, which lately seems to be something that what I consider clean and what housekeeping considers clean are on opposite ends of the scale. It isn’t just at lower priced properties. I have had to take a wash cloth to a dirty bathroom ceiling and light switches at 4 star properties. If they decide to make all this a fee on top of staying in my room, I will be a witch at the front desk if my room isn’t perfect!

  • Michael

    It’s not about being green, but about saving a buck. Housekeeping costs can be a substantial expense, and they save much more than they give us if we skip housekeeping.

    Hilton does something similar at some properties, but the times I’ve opted for the points instead of housekeeping, I never got them.

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