• Should Hotels Reuse Bath Towels?

    by Lifeboat Admin ,


    New fluffy towels used to be one of the daily perks of staying overnight at a hotel. You and your family would leave the room in disarray in the morning, and come back to a clean space with fresh towels in the bathroom to replace those left on the floor. But that has changed over the past decade.


    Now hotels are trying to save money—and be good to the environment—by not replacing towels for guests who stay more than one night. In fact, according to a 2012 American Hotel & Lodging Association member survey, 75 percent of U.S. hotels have linen and towel reuse programs.


    Some hotels have found that guests who pay the high prices associated with an overnight stay may be offended at the thought of having to reuse their towels, let alone the same complimentary bottle of shampoo. The hotels that find it a challenge to get guests to reuse linen and towels are generally those in the mid-price range, like Hampton Inn and hotels that attract young people who are more apt to throw their towels on the ground.


    However, hip hotels and luxury hotels seem to be having great success with reuse programs. For example, properties in the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group chain report 85 percent of hotel guests participate in the towel and sheet reuse program. Ritz Carlton started encouraging guests to hang up their towels to use another day in 2009, and to keep the same sheets two nights in a row in 2011. Both programs have been successful.


    Michael Giebelhausen, a marketing professor at the Cornell Hotel School, is currently researching the impact of hotel sustainability on guest satisfaction. As part of his research, he analysed data from a 2011 J.D. Power and Associates North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Study. Giebelhausen found almost 90 percent of guests were offered the option of doing something sustainable during a hotel visit. Of those guests, nearly 2/3 agreed to the terms. In addition, the guests who participated in sustainability efforts reported being very satisfied with their stays.


    Interestingly, the guests who said no to sustainability programs reported low levels of satisfaction. According to CNN.com, Giebelhausen responded to the question of why this is by saying, “One explanation for these findings is that when people don't live up to their ideals, and vice versa, this affects how satisfied they are with the entity that presented them this 'moral dilemma."


    A recent NY Times article looked at how weighing the pros and cons of making a decision is not the biggest influence on how people make a decision. Instead, people are most influenced by what their peers appear to be doing. Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University and his team of researchers studied this effect. They took a look at the signs that hotels leave for guests--which are intended to encourage participation in sustainability programs. The researchers found that by changing a few of the words on the standard hotel, there was a significant change in the way people responded. When guests found out that their peers were reusing towels (called a social norms appeal), they were 26 more times likely to reuse their own towels.

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