How to Be a Better Hotel Guest, According to People Who Work at Hotels
You don't have to walk on eggshells, but you should be considerate.
Over the past year and a half there has been a lot of talk about how amazing essential workers are. Which is totally true. It also means it’s a great time to reassess our interactions with those workers: nurses, grocery store clerks, restaurant servers and another group of people who have more recently re-entered the fray: hotel staff.
Now I’m not saying you’re some jerkhole who disrespects hotel employees left and right and walks around like you own the place (which if you are, please pay close attention). That said, even well-behaved hotel guests probably do things they don’t realize make life more difficult or stressful for hotel employees. That’s not to say you need to be walking on eggshells when staying at a hotel, because after all you are the guest and you are paying to stay at the place. What it does mean is that there are probably a few unconscious habits that, with a gentle nudge from a hotel employee, you could do slightly different at no inconvenience to you. Make sense? Great.
And so we found those folks — hotel managers, maids, union leaders — and asked them about their grievances. What can we as hotels guests do better to make their lives a little easier? Take note of their 10 suggestions below — not only will you get karma points for being a decent and thoughtful human being, you may also even get some nice treatment, perks or upgrades in the process.
1. Utilize New Post-COVID Methods
Plenty of hygiene and sanitary practices have been put in place due to COVID-19 that maybe should have been around all along. As Jon McGavin, the Area General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes says, “One way travelers can easily contribute to these efforts is by choosing to use contactless payment options opposed to cash in order to limit surface-to-person interactions.”
According to Tabish Siddiquie, General Manager at The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort and Golf Club, “Guests can easily support hotel staff by utilizing services like mobile check-in and in-room virtual fitness classes, to minimize unnecessary face-to-face interactions while on property.”
Meanwhile, Connie Wang, Managing Director at Hotel Figueroa in DTLA, points out that “many of us are not used to all the glass protections at the Front Desk or Concierge, and often believe others can hear us better if we speak around the barrier. The design of these safety protections have dramatically improved over the last year, and there’s no loss of sound on the other side.”
Even in a post-COVID world, these protocols should be observed: the glass and safeguards are there for a reason. That also includes being at a salad bar or food line: the glass is there for a reason, don’t point over it to alert the server to what you want. They know what potatoes are; you don’t need to pick one up to confirm.
2. Remember Cleanliness Protocols Are Not Just for You
As is kind of the point of this article, remember that hotel workers are not “the help.” They are real people with real lives and families, and their entire existence does not revolve around you. Leslie Weil, the General Manager of Moxy South Beach, extolls the importance of “understanding that our cleanliness rules and protocols are not only in place to keep guests safe, but to ensure the safety of our team members.”
It’s also important to remember that these protocols are not universal, so err on the side of caution whenever possible. Ming Liao, a room attendant at the Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston, says “I understand guests are not thinking about it because they feel ‘at home’ once they are in their rooms. But when you come out of your room, make sure to wear a mask. Many people do not think to put them on once they are in the hallway, or even when they are close to my face coming up to my cart and asking me when their room will be serviced or for some extra shampoo.”
3. Don’t Be a Slob
A general good rule of thumb is not to treat a hotel room any differently than you would treat your own home, within reason. Can you let your hair down a bit and not be militant about cleanliness? Of course. Andre Robles, Managing Director at ILLA Experience Hotel in Quito, Ecuador, urges guests to “not use towels or linen to clean of make up or dirty shoes, etc.” He also asks to “advise in advance if there is broken glass” for the safety of hotel staff.
4. Be Considerate of Workers’ Time
Remember that you are not the only guest of the hotel. There are countless other needs that staff have to attend to. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for things or should just make do with what you have. What that does mean is that you should be considerate about it. Hostel manager Will Hatton says, “The hotel staff have a multi-faceted service job. So when you get to your room and discover you have a need, stop. Don’t pick up that phone yet. Grab the freebie pad and pen, take an inventory of everything you need, then call with a list. Don’t make someone run back and forth on your whim.”
5. Think About Sustainability
Just as in other aspects of your life, you should also think about how to be more mindful of your carbon footprint while on vacation.
Lizette Sanchez, Learning and Sustainability Coordinator at Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués, asks for guests to pay attention to the waste-management programs each individual hotel has: “Be mindful of how you dispose of waste. Many hotels, including Banyan Tree properties, have put comprehensive recycling programs in place, so make sure to inquire about how to best reduce, reuse and recycle while on-property!”
6. Understand That Things May Be Slightly Less Convenient Right Now
The industry has undergone major change over the past year. There have been major staff layoffs and many protocols have changed. It is inevitable that things may not run as smoothly as in the before times. Be patient as hotels readjust to the new normal.
Jeff Crabiel, Area General Manager of The Westin Nashville and Bobby Hotel, says, “Travelers in today’s world should prepare for a new environment when walking into hotels. Hotels have strategically reorganized spaces and policies to make everyone safe. With demand rising and space limited, there are times that spaces fill up quickly, and today’s traveler should be prepared to potentially see wait times.”
This is especially important to consider when thinking about hotel amenities. Sara Velez, Hotel Manager of Palacio Provincial in San Juan, Puerto Rico, points out that “with Palacio Provincial’s sunny location, the rooftop infinity pool is one of our most popular amenities. A small way guests can help enhance the overall hospitality experience would be to be mindful of their pool time slots. We want to provide the best offerings while prioritizing the health and safety of both our guests and team members, so we limit the capacity space on the pool deck. When these time slots run smoothly, the overall guest experience is much more enjoyable.”
7. Support Local Businesses
According to Connie Wang of Hotel Figueroa, “What people don’t realize is that boutique, independently-owned hotels like ours are local businesses as well,” highlighting the fact that hotels like hers also tend to support “many other local businesses as part of our community platform and hub.”
And Lizette Sanchez at Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués urges guests to make sure they try local dishes, as “they are made with ingredients that are caught and cultivated in the region. In doing this, you’re helping to support the local economy.”
8. Don’t Be Stingy
Trish Berry, General Manager of YOTEL Boston, points out that “Guests should be regularly tipping housekeeping, doing so daily if you’re staying more than one night due to shift changes, and being cognizant of the level of work housekeepers are now doing due to the pandemic. Damage to the rooms increases as more guests are dining in-room, which typically means more trash is left behind and requires more time for housekeeping to clean and sanitize for the next guest.”
Tiffany Ten Eyck, Communications Director at Unite Here, a major labor union in the hospitality space, says with regard to tipping that “20% tips are considered a minimum for food and beverage workers. For housekeepers, we recommend tipping $5 each night of multiple-night stays.”
9. Be Aware of Your Power …
As Ten Eyck tells us, “In hotels where workers are not respected, hotel staff become invisible and can be expected to clean, cook and work in intolerable conditions. Hotel companies listen to hotel customers, particularly rewards members and frequent travelers, who can have a big impact in supporting workers’ demands.”
… But Don’t Abuse It
Don’t be one of those people who wants to get something in exchange for every little thing that bothers them. Lluis Sola, the director of Operations at Jurny, a boutique hotel operator, lets us know that guests should not “expect compensation for every small thing,” and that they should certainly not “threaten to post a bad review to get a free stay.”
Most of the time, that won’t get you anywhere.