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Although the pandemic has drastically affected the way many people travel, at least the airline / flying experience has been pretty consistent no matter which airline you’re on. In contrast, hotels are all over the place.

What’s It Like at Hotels During COVID?

Some hotels have completely eliminated access to things like swimming pools, fitness rooms, business centers, hotel lounges and other communal areas. Others are continuing to provide them but in a limited fashion (such as requiring a reservation to use the fitness room). And at still others, those types of services are just what they were pre-pandemic.

Breakfast and dining are another area where hotels are all over the board.

Tragically, it doesn’t seem to be consistent by brand or chain.

The thing that I find most irritating / stressing about choosing a hotel these days is not knowing what to expect. I get that times have changed, and that “some services may not be available.” I also understand that hotels can be in an awkward spot with having to try and please people across all sides of the vaccine / masking / social distancing spectrum. But I just want to know what to expect when I walk in the door. It’s gotten so bad that I find myself regularly reading recent TripAdvisor reviews of hotels so I can know what to expect. Am I getting breakfast at all? Is it a to-go bag that I take to my room? Is it a free-for-all with anyone and everyone sitting in the lobby?

I stayed at 4 hotels in and around Portland, Oregon, and Northern California a few months ago, and my experience was all over the place.

(SEE ALSO: Country Inn and Suites Portland Airport review)

(SEE ALSO: Best Western Rory and Ryan Inn Review)

Hotels Will Be Making Service Cuts

I was intrigued by a few articles I read recently.

The One Mile at a Time article was especially interesting, in that he shares several statistics from Hilton hotels about how their margins have increased and their break-even occupancy rates have decreased during 2020. Specifically:

  • Full-service hotels have reduced their financial breakeven point from 47% occupancy in 2019 to 30% occupancy in 2020
  • Limited service hotels have lowered their financial breakeven point from 43% occupancy in 2019 to 36% occupancy in 2020

What that means is that these hotels now need a much lower occupancy rate to break even. That makes sense because things like housekeeping, breakfast and other services have been paused or curtailed during the pandemic. The real question is whether these services will return post-COVID, and to what degree. Hilton’s CEO seems to indicate that they will not, at least not in all cases — saying:

“The work we’re doing right now in every one of our brands is about making them higher-margin businesses and creating more labor efficiencies, particularly in the areas of housekeeping, food and beverage, and other areas. When we get out of the crisis, those businesses will be higher margin and require less labor than they did pre-Covid.”

That’s “CEO-speak” for “we’re getting rid of housekeepers and other service workers and just pocketing all the money”. 🙂

Again, I’m not necessarily completely against that — I generally decline housekeeping services when we are staying at hotels, though there are other services I personally prefer more, like hotel breakfast or even hotel dinners.

(SEE ALSO: Which hotels give dinner for free?)

I just want to know what to expect when I get there without having to scour TripAdvisor reviews. Then I can decide what I’m willing to pay for, and how much.

Hotels vs. Airbnbs After the Pandemic

Then you have to wonder: What’s the difference between staying in a hotel vs. staying in an Airbnb? Historically, some of the benefits of staying in a hotel were things like housekeeping when you need it, a breakfast that you don’t have to make (or clean up) yourself and amenities like a pool or fitness center. If these amenities are going away, then that swings the pendulum even more toward staying in an Airbnb.

(SEE ALSO: 4 Things to Know Before Renting an Airbnb During COVID)

We just need to get an Airbnb credit card and the ability to transfer points to redeem at Airbnb. 🙂

The Future of Hotel Service Post-COVID

So what does the future of hotel service look like post-COVID? If I were a betting man, I would say that most hotels will be extremely slow to bring back some of these services, if they ever do. It’s kind of like airline fuel surcharges — they were added when the cost of fuel got super high, but then the cost of fuel dropped, and whaddaya know, we still have fuel surcharges. Again, I just hope that there are better brand standards and expectations so I can know what to expect when I stay at a particular hotel.

What has your experience been with hotel service during COVID? What do you think the future of hotel service will be like after the pandemic? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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