Hotels Let Guests Borrow
Items or Leave Them
Until last year, when she became a planning consultant for a college in Florida, Alison Barlow traveled almost full time for an information technology company. She was away as long as three weeks a month. When a hotel stay at a Hampton Inn in suburban Omaha was punctuated by a bout of flu, the staff made drugstore runs and brought her tea and crackers. Knowing she would return soon, she would leave a bag behind with toiletries, workout wear and extra clothes. �You don�t want to check luggage on an airplane,� she said. While staying at a Candlewood Suites, she borrowed books and DVDs.
As hotels continue to add all manner of fees and executives look over their shoulders at Airbnb and the sharing economy, they are increasingly telling guests to pack light and borrow items from them. While loan programs are an accepted feature at luxury and full-service hotels, experts say that those hotels are now expanding their offerings to include bicycles, automobiles and running gear. And hotels on a lower tier, like Candlewood Suites, are starting their own programs. It�s reached all the way down from luxury to full-service hotels, and it�s not unusual for select service,� says Bjorn Hanson, professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism at New York University.
like Kimpton Hotels� �Forgot It? We�ve Got It!��have been available for a decade. They are drawing renewed attention because younger travelers are responding to hotels� attempts to create a relationship by going out of their way for guests. The Kimpton program offers a variety of small items and appliances, including chargers, hair dryers, extension cords and curling irons.
�Hyatt Has It� was introduced in February 2013 with similar offerings. �Before, travelers thought we didn�t offer any product other than a toothbrush,� says Kristine Rose, vice president for brand experience at Hyatt. The program is aimed at the female traveler. �Women tend to travel with a lot more things in their luggage,� she said. The program is offered under different names at all Hyatt brands.
In addition to lending books and DVDs, Candlewood Suites, an extended-stay division of the InterContinental Hotels Group, introduced a Lending Locker in 300 hotels in October 2013. The floor-to-ceiling enclosure provides items not typically found in guest rooms including fans, crockpots, dehumidifiers and office supplies. Robert Radomski, vice president for brand management at IHG's extended-stay brands, which include Candlewood Suites, says the program creates a feeling of belonging for guests. �It adds to their comfort,� he said.
Some programs emphasize fitness. Westin Hotels introduced a Westin-New Balance equipment-lending program at more than 200 hotels in November 2012. The company estimates 30,000 guests a year participate. Peter Shankman, an entrepreneur and author of the coming book �Zombie Loyalists� was one. Fourteen months ago, at a Westin in Atlanta, he was up at 5 a.m. for a run before an early meeting. After donning his shorts, he realized he forgot to pack running socks. Expecting to run a 10-kilometer race three days later, he thought wearing dress socks for a seven-mile run that morning invited blisters. The front desk staff offered him a free pair of running socks. �They allowed me to continue on a schedule I preferred, which meant more to me than anything,� he said. Still, he has not traveled without his own equipment since. A Westin hotel typically charges $5 per stay for the socks, freshly laundered workout wear in a variety of sizes for both sexes, and sneakers that are cleaned and disinfected after each use. The inner soles are changed monthly.
Fitness appeal takes different forms. In July 2013, Kimpton, in partnership with Public, a San Francisco boutique bicycle and equipment company, introduced a fleet of Kimpton-branded bicycles that are free for guests to use. Two to 10 bikes are available at 61 locations.
For guests who prefer four wheels, Loews introduced a chauffeur-driven car at five locations nationwide to take guests to nearby destinations. Guests are responsible for their return transportation to the hotel. At locations in Miami, Hollywood and Santa Monica, the hotels also offer free Fiat loaner cars.
Even as loan programs can create greater loyalty and perhaps a willingness to pay a premium for a specific hotel, they have potential drawbacks, according to one expert, who sees the possibility that fewer guests will request items in the future, because of concerns about health and well-being. �Some hotels may temporarily suspend these items as a precautionary response to protecting guest health and reducing liability,� Henry Harteveldt, an analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, wrote in an e-mail.
For some guests, like Ms. Barlow, a preferred amenity is the ability to leave belongings behind. Mike DeFrino, the chief operating officer at Kimpton Hotels, said he had noticed at locations in Cambridge, MA, and Cupertino, CA, as many as 5% of guests are leaving bags behind. By accepting guest property for safekeeping, hotels run the risk of losing reputation and loyalty if something happens to it. �The worst thing is to lose or misplace a guest item,� Mr. Hanson said. Ms. Barlow said she drew the line at leaving a laptop. Still, even as her travel has abated, she said she missed staying long enough to establish a rapport with the hotel staff.
Zipkin, Amy, "Hotels Let Guests Borrow Items or Leave Them," nytimes.com/2014/12/09/business/
hotels-let-guests-borrow-items-or-leave-them.html?_r=0, December. 8, 2014
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