For millions of Americans,
one of the best parts of the holidays is visiting loved ones in faraway
places. But for a significant part of this group the next-best thing is
saying good-bye at the end of the evening and going back to their hotel
rooms. Recent statistics, cited by organizations such as AAA and The Travel
Industry Association, suggest that for many people, booking hotel
accommodations has become as an important a part of holiday visits home as
exchanging gifts and sharing the traditional holiday meal. Jeremy Saum,
writing in the November issue of AAA’s Via Magazine, says staying in a
hotel room when visiting family and friends during the holidays is already
practiced by nearly one-third of holiday travelers, and can more than pay
for itself by giving everyone a little breathing room.
According to Andrew Crum, general manager of a Hampton Inn located on
Cincinnati’s I-275 outer belt, the advent of the holidays means catering
to guests with a very different set of priorities. Unlike the business
travelers hotels typically serve throughout the year, holiday guests
arrive with unique requirements that put them in a class by themselves.
For instance, business travelers look for Internet access, large work
surfaces, same-day laundry, room service and a free newspaper in the
morning. They’re focused on checking-in and checking-out fast, eating
without hassle and getting some work done in the room. But holiday
travelers are more focused on price, proximity to family and shopping, a
wide selection of cable TV channels, sofas, pools, an iron and ironing
board, and complimentary breakfast, beverages and snacks.
“Holiday travelers are looking for a home away from home,” Crum said.
“They’re more interested in comfortable beds and an indoor pool for their
kids than a desk or Internet services.” Money is also a consideration
around the holidays so many travelers seek out value-added offerings like
Hotel executives go to great lengths to inspect the rooms to make sure
nothing has been overlooked—mirrors are clean, there are hospital folds
on the bed, and the sheets are tucked in properly. They make certain
complimentary products in the bathroom are organized right, none have
fallen over, all the labels are facing out, and the room feels and smells
Providing guests turndown service that puts the hotel’s pillowcases and
sheets on public display is another way hoteliers try to set
quality-minded leisure travelers at ease.
“A lot of children stay with us during the holidays,” Crum added, “and
that means kids crawling on the carpet or under the bed. From a
housekeeping and safety standpoint, we try to pay special attention to
That’s one reason why many hotels have also moved from no-name cleaners to
familiar in-room cleaning and laundry brands customers may use in their
own homes, like Mr. Clean(R), Tide(R), Downy (R), Swiffer(R) and
Experts at Procter & Gamble , which has devoted an entire division to
developing products and systems to keep hotel rooms clean, suggest that
when entering the room guests give it a quick scan to make sure everything
“All areas in the room should look, smell and feel equally clean,” said
Kate Karazim, brand manager in P&G’s Commercial Products Group.
“Consistency is a good indication of a properly cleaned room.”
But how hotel use changes during the holidays is not limited to what goes
on inside guest rooms. It also affects public areas, in which family and
visitors often gather to talk and share activities.
“During the holidays we see more travelers and families take advantage of
our hotel’s common areas like the breakfast room,” Crum said. “They might
gather there in the evening before they go up to bed or meet there before
heading off to grandma’s house.”
Families naturally expect to have a good time on holiday visits. But it’s
worth remembering that many only spend a few days together during the
course of an entire year due to living in different cities, work
schedules, school and other pursuits. Old habits that are usually just
annoying can become major sources of irritation when families suddenly
begin spending every waking moment together.
This is the reason many guests cite for booking themselves and their
immediate family into a hotel before they ever hit town. People who do,
say it gives them something to look forward to if the extended family
experience gets too intense on Christmas Day.
“Whatever their reasons are,” Hampton Inn GM Andrew Crum observed, “a lot
of people seem to be more comfortable just being near home for the
holidays, rather than actually sleeping there.”