NEW YORK – Travelers: If you hate the idea of contributing those tiny, plastic hotel toiletry bottles to landfills, then you’ll love this growing trend in hotels: Those bottles are increasingly being replaced with toiletry pump dispensers in showers.
Over the years, I’ve spotted this trend at a mix of hotels ranging from inexpensive properties to the high-end, mid-century-modern-themed James Royal Palm in Miami’s South Beach to Robert Deniro’s understated luxury Greenwich Hotel in New York.
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But during my conversations with senior hotel-brand executives this week at the New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, I discovered that pump dispensers are catching on more broadly. Hotel giants such as Starwood and IHG are increasingly inviting guests to pump it up.
IHG’s new, wellness-themed EVEN brand, which will open its first hotel in Norwalk, Ct., in a few days, is rolling out pump dispensers in its showers, Jim Anhut, IHG’s senior veep of brand management for the Americas, said during a panel discussion about wellness and travel trends yesterday morning.
The showers in EVEN hotels will have dispensers with EO products including two different shower gels – one to relax and one to energize, he said. The dispensers will be locked, and instead of refilling the bottles once empty, they’ll be replaced with new bottles.
The four other panelists agreed that they not only would use the pump toiletries, but they welcomed the shift away from plastic bottles. Fitness guru David Kirsch, who’s known for being a personal trainer to celebrities such as Heidi Klum, said he despise plastic bottles. And futurist Stowe Boyd, who invented the “hashtag” phrase, echoed Kirsch, saying he refuses to consume anything – be it shampoo or water – that’s contained in a plastic bottle.
At Starwood, pump dispensers are a key part of the 15-location Element brand’s theme of being environmentally conscious and they’re also used in Aloft hotels, said Brian McGuiness, senior veep of Starwood’s “specialty select brands” Element, Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton. Consumers give them the thumbs up, he noted.
“We wondered whether the consumer would accept them,” he said. “They universally love them.
“When they learn that each hotel saves about 20,000 plastic bottles by using these dispensers, they fall in love with them,” McGuiness told me during our wide-ranging conversation.
But just in case customers are not in love with pump dispensers, Element hotels also provide bars of soap. “We struck a balance and gave them a choice, but often times, guests don’t use the bar of soap,” he said.
I wondered how well travelers would receive pumps because I recall writing a story about them a couple of years ago for USA TODAY that struck a huge chord with readers – in a not-so-good way. Many readers said they wouldn’t trust the stuff inside bulk dispensers, fearing that the contents could be tampered. McGuiness said they took preventative measures.
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“We do lock them,” he said of the dispensers. “We believe all children are pure, but there are those who have imaginary minds and creativity. Playdough, SuperGlue, Coca Cola…who knows? We lock them purposely.”
Some people, he acknowledged, have perceptions that bulk shampoos, conditioners and soaps might not be quality, he said. Yet, at the same time, people don’t have a problem pumping out toiletries at luxury spas, such as a Four Seasons hotel or (in my case yesterday) at the Langham Place, Fifth Avenue in New York.
During a CEO panel at the NYU conference, Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen said that the under-30 crowd has a true concern about sustainability that will push environmentally friendly practices.
“There’s a focus on sustainability that can be positive,” he said, “but also become an opportunity to see what kind of sustainable practices are acceptable to mainstream travelers,” he said.
The Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center property installed new toiletry pumps in its showers during the recent renovation of its 426 guest rooms. “The guests appreciate the environmentally-friendly nature of the larger pumps,” said Lauri Howe, the hotel’s publicist.
Readers: So, when it comes to shower pump dispensers in your hotel shower, do you use them? Why or why not? Would seeing that they’re locked from potential tampering influence your decision?
Photo by Barb DeLollis taken in April 2014 at Kimpton’s recently renovated Hotel George in Washington D.C. Photo below by Dom Miguel courtesy of the Seaport Hotel in Boston.