The Death Of Room Service?

room service
Will Merydith, Flickr

I’ve always felt that one of the great luxuries of staying in a hotel has nothing to do with how premium the furnishings are or how fancy the décor is. No, what really makes a hotel indulgent is the fact that I don’t have to do things myself. The bed needs to be made in the morning? Not my problem! Towels need replacing? Good thing fresh ones are just a phone call away. Stomach rumbling in the middle of the night? Why step out of my pajamas when room service can bring me whatever my belly desires?

Well now, one of those luxuries is under threat with the New York Hilton Midtown announcing that it is going to stop offering room service at its 2,000-room establishment.The four-star hotel has been experiencing a drop in the number of people ordering room service – a trend seen across the board. In the past year, room service accounted for just 1.2 percent of total hotel revenue in the United States.

Experts attribute the fall in room service requests to greater competition from restaurants popping up near hotels. They say some hotels have tried to counter this by putting restaurants and cafes in their lobbies to attract guests.

Whether the Hilton’s decision to dump room service will spread across the hotel industry is yet to be seen. However, the decision to kill off room service may come back to bite the hotel according to travel strategy firm Hudson Crossing. Analyst Henry Harteveldt told news.com.au that the Hilton’s star rating might be downgraded because it would no longer officially be considered a full service hotel. “If room service is a requirement to earn a four star rating from independent organizations like AAA, Hilton’s move may put (that) rating in jeopardy, unless the hotel can obtain an exemption.”

Hotel News We Noted: May 31, 2013

hilton coffee display
Courtesy of Hilton Hotels

It’s the last “Hotel News We Noted” of May, and we have lots of news to report. If you’re just tuning in, each Friday, “Hotel News We Noted” brings readers the latest, most interesting and downright oddest news of note from the hospitality world.

Have a tip or a comment to share? Leave a note below or shoot us an email.

Wellness Lovers Unite: Miraval Comes to … New Jersey?
When we envision a wellness retreat, New Jersey might not be the location we’d choose, but Miraval is betting that its loyal clientele will want to take their retreats east. Earlier this week, the brand announced plans to open a second resort in Somerset County on a property formerly owned by the King of Morocco. Dubbed “Miraval at Natirar,” the property should open in 2014.

New Brand Alert: Tommie Hotels
Commune Hotels & Resorts, the parent company behind Thompson and Joie de Vivre hotels, this week announced the launch of Tommie, a value-oriented brand for stylish young travelers. Rooms are called “crash pads,” meeting spaces are “incubators,” and lounges are called “reading rooms.” Self-check in, eclectic retail and gourmet grab-and-go foods should appeal to on-the-go travelers. The first location will be on 31st Street in Manhattan, and a West SoHo location is also planned, both of which anticipate a 2015 opening. What do you think?Hotel Opening: Traders Hotel, Puteri Harbour, Johor, Malaysia
Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts will open its third Traders Hotel in Malaysia on June 1. The 283-room property is a 20-minute drive from downtown Singapore and is ideal for family or business travelers as it is located near two theme parks and the state administration center. It’s pretty cheap too – starting room rates begin at $123 per night.

Hilton Gets A Jolt: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® Coffee Added to Hilton Hotels
Travelers love (or love to hate) the in-room coffee amenities at most hotels, and, of late, many chains have moved away from big brands to select specialty or local roasters for their in-room brew. Hilton has done the same, announcing a partnership with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®, to provide an exclusive new in-room assortment of coffee and teas at Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Embassy Suites Hotels properties across the Americas. The blend is called the “Hilton Morning Blend.” Purchase a 12-ounce bag on Hilton at Home to test for yourself and get 20 percent off your entire order. As Hilton heiress Paris would say, “that’s hot.”

Cool Contest: Four Seasons Goes After Brides
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts is celebrating wedding color palettes with the launch of the second annual issue of Four Seasons Weddings magazine with a Pinterest contest. Brides to be can enter to win a $1,000 Four Seasons gift card redeemable at any Four Seasons hotel or resort worldwide by creating their own wedding palette pin board. A panel of expert judges, including Style Me Pretty and Bridal Guide, will select the winner the week of June 24, 2013. We aren’t getting married, but we sure would like a $1k gift card, wouldn’t you? If you qualify, enter the “Pin Your Wedding Colour Palette” Pinterest contest here.

Facebook Timeline For Travel Industry

Facebook timeline of the travel industryThe World Travel and Tourism Council has introduced a fun element to their Facebook page: rather than a timeline of their own milestones, they’ve designed a timeline highlighting all of the events in the travel industry. Starting in 1400 with the first passport, and ending with the 1,000,000,000 international tourist arrival in December 2012, it puts the whole development of tourism in context. The first airport dates to 1909 in College Park, Maryland, and there are now over 44,000 airfields and airports all over the world. Hilton pioneered the hotel chain concept in 1943, and now has properties in 78 countries on six continents. Expedia has been around for 17 years, and TripAdvisor just celebrated their 13th anniversary.

Check out all the travel industry milestones on WTTC’s Timeline, and be sure to click through all the years.

[Photo credit: WTTC Facebook]

Tips For Gaming Hotel Websites To Get The Best Room Rates

hotel corridorMajor hotel chains have sophisticated software that dictates room rates based upon expected occupancy, but with a little knowledge and a bit of effort you can ensure that you get the best deal. The key to getting the best possible price is understanding hotel demand and trying different search terms to see which combination of dates yield the lowest prices.

Depending on location and time of year, some hotels have dramatically higher occupancy on the weekend, while others that cater to business travelers are busier during the week. If you want to save money, schedule your trip accordingly.

For example, let’s say you’d like to spend a week dividing time between San Francisco and the nearby Sonoma County wine region. If you want to save a bundle on hotels, hit Sonoma during the week, when it’s nice and quiet and the room rates are low, and then on the weekend stay in a business class hotel in the suburbs of San Francisco or in Silicon Valley.In many destinations, you can find a good deal on hotels any night of the week, save Saturday nights and sometimes Fridays. You can either work around this, as outlined above, or manipulate your search terms to make sure you’re not paying the higher Saturday night rate for more than one night.

If you plan to stay more than one night at a chain hotel, particularly if part but not all of your stay includes a weekend night, definitely split apart your travel dates into one-night increments to see how the price changes. For example, if you search for a room on the website of the Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia for a two-night stay, checking in this Saturday night, you’ll find a AAA rate of $260 per night. But if you split your search term to see the price for Saturday night and Sunday night, you’ll notice that while the Saturday rate is $260, the AAA rate for Sunday night plummets to just $134. The Hilton is quite content to charge you the higher rate for both nights but you’d be a fool to pay it.

This is not an isolated example. I did a quick search for other hotels this weekend and almost every hotel I checked out had a different rate for Saturday night versus Sunday night, but none offered the Sunday discount to the customer booking both nights together in one reservation on their sites. The Renaissance Marriott in Philadelphia offers a AAA rate of $279.95 for a two-night, Saturday, Sunday stay this weekend, but if you search just for Sunday night, you’ll notice the rate plummets to $180.45 – though you don’t get that rate unless you make two reservations.

The Hyatt Regency on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago has a Saturday night rate of $170 versus $116 on Sunday, but again their site doesn’t give you the lower Sunday rate unless you make two reservations. And the same goes for Chicago’s Westin River North, which has a $233 versus $118 split for this weekend.

The split can work the other way as well, especially in the suburbs. For example, the Hyatt House in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia is $18 more expensive on Sunday night compared to Saturday this weekend. And there are also occasions when the hotel offers a better rate for multiple night stays compared to a single night stay. Again, it all depends on expected occupancy.

This summer, Orbitz got a lot of bad press after admitting that it shows higher priced hotel options to those searching for rooms on a Mac, so many advocate double checking searches on a PC, if you can, but I tested various searches on my PC and my MAC and they all appeared to yield the same results.

The bottom line is that you always need to check and split apart your travel dates when searching for a multiple-night stay. If you can save money by making multiple reservations, go for it, and add a note in the comments section asking them to combine the reservations so you don’t have to move rooms.

Then remind them again when you check in. Or, to simplify matters, call the hotel directly, tell them what you discovered online and ask them to extend the lower rate for your entire stay. They might not do it, but it’s worth a try. Whatever you do, don’t throw away money by failing to explore all your options online before booking.

[Photo credit:Uggboy Ugggirl on Flickr]

New Study Shows What Families Want On Vacation

hiltonPools rule, say families traveling together. A new report from Hilton shows that families value pool and water activities most, followed by spacious and potentially adjoining guest rooms and all-inclusive options.

These valued options make sense, given that parents often wish to save money while on vacation. All-inclusive options keep costs down (92% of US parents were interested in this option), while pools and water activities are often free value-adds at a resort that might not have much in the way of off-property activities.

Kids’ clubs are another highly valued resort amenity for families – key considerations for kids’ club use are safety, flexibility and diverse programming.

None of these stats are particularly surprising; although, we were a bit shocked that interest in all-inclusive packages was so high, given the limited number of these types of resorts available for domestic travel.

Where are parents looking to go? Top destinations where U.S. parents want to vacation now include Hawaii, Orlando, the Grand Canyon, Southern California and Continental Europe, while U.K. parents pair their top choice of Orlando with Disneyland Paris, Italy, Mallorca and Dubai.