Before the pandemic, hotel beds had begun to resemble decorative pillow forts, with bed scarves and coverlets. The beds have now been reduced to a set of essentials that can be washed between each guest. A crisp white bed with sheets that look as if they can handle a scalding hot laundry cycle is in vogue, according to T-Y Group and Harbor Linen, which supplies hotel linens.
Nightly turndown service and mints on pillows have been eliminated to reduce interaction between guests and staff. Some hotels send housekeepers only when they are requested, and some won’t send them at all during a stay. The Wilson Hotel, a Marriott property in Big Sky Montana, moves guests to a new room if they want clean accommodations. The housekeeping staff waits 24 hours after guests leave a room to clean it.
Some environmental initiatives, like replacing small shampoo bottles with larger pump dispensers, will probably be paused. Items like bathrobes and pens will come wrapped in plastic.
In the lobby, free coffee has disappeared and plexiglass barriers are being built. Instead of removing furniture to decrease capacity, some hotel restaurants are decorating unused tables. The Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Va., has seated jauntily dressed mannequins at some of its restaurant tables to comply with new capacity limits. One mannequin is down on one knee and looks as if it’s proposing to another.
Before the pandemic, hotels had been trying to one-up one another’s offerings with small touches like “a slightly nicer free breakfast or better quality coffee in the room,” said Jeanne Casey, a principal at the venture capital firm MetaProp who analyzes investments in the real estate and hospitality sectors. Now that hotels are paring back those extras, she said, they can use it as an opportunity to rein in costs and reinvest in priority areas.
Many hotels had already turned to mobile apps for everything from check in to ordering additional towels or toiletries. Voice-activated assistants were starting to show up in rooms, to control temperature and order room service, and some hotels had installed sensors to monitor how many people were in public spaces. These systems are now seen as critical rather than just convenient, Ms. Casey said.
Amenities are also being aimed at a more local clientele. Global travel restrictions and concerns about air travel mean that guests are more likely to arrive in their own car from within a few hundred miles, said John Niser, director of the International School of Hospitality and Tourism at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Hoteliers need to recognize that these guests will have different needs, he said.