Is it possible that tipping housekeepers can be the next mandatory hotel fee? Yes, according to CNBC’s story published today.
In fact, consumers should start watching for a hotel or a chain of hotels to begin experimenting with mandatory gratuities as soon as the upcoming Thanksgiving season, New York University hotel school professor and veteran PricewaterhouseCoopers hospitality consultant Bjorn Hanson told CNBC.
A chain could “take this move by Marriott and start to add a mandatory gratuity as an experiment,” Hanson told CNBC, although it “will be a long time before there’s an expectation of an automatic housekeeping gratuity or surcharge.” It’s worth nothing that Hanson for years has been tracking the growing stream of hidden hotel fees in the U.S., with the industry this year projected to rake in more than $2 billion in fees.
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What’s the Marriott reference about? In case you missed it, Hanson is referring to Marriott International’s recent announcement to put envelopes that encourage (but do not require) guests to tip low-wage housekeepers into about 160,000 hotel rooms across the USA, from Ritz-Carlton properties to less-expensive Courtyards. The move sparked controversy, with critics – including Travel Update readers – perceiving Marriott’s move as a way to encourage guests to subsidize employees’ hourly pay.
Some hotels – including two luxury Fairmont hotels in Bermuda – are already charging guests mandatory gratuities, according to the piece. A Fairmont spokesman, however, told CNBC that the mandatory gratuities are based on a Bermuda labor union agreement and that the Fairmont chain does not have a plan to extend them.
When the short-lived Elysian luxury hotel in Chicago – which is now the Waldorf Astoria – opened in 2010, the owners decided to ban tipping so that customers didn’t feel that an employee always had their hand out. Gratuities were built into the lofty rates. It was an intriguing concept, though short lived. (Here’s a link to part of my old USA TODAY story.)
Some readers are already chiming in on this concept via Twitter.
@barbdelollis Pooled mandatory tips create no incentive to staff, just allow management to PAY LESS THAN MINIMUM WAGE. Vehemently opposed.
Readers: Comments about mandatory gratuity charges?