The 208 Billions dollar a year Hotel Industry
is massively competitive. Location, branding and architecture are all
very important. But in here is where the competition gets
particularly heated. Hotel Amenities, which are pretty much everything
that’s provided by hotels outside of the room and bed are an easy way for one hotel
to set themselves apart from others. Some amenities we’ve come to take for granted,
TV seems more like a minimal requirement than an added feature by this point. Some amenities seem obvious but have never
caught on. Why are three different soaps and two kinds
of lotion commonly available but toothpaste never provided? Occasionally a chain of hotels introduces
an innovative amenity, and the other chain’s race to catch up and one-up each other creates
a intense period of amenity competition. Let’s look at these hotel amenities wars,
and see if we maybe we’re in the midst of another one right now. The most recent and intense Amenity war centered
around bedding. It started in 1999 when Starwood’s Westin
introduced the “Heavenly Bed” the floral prints bedspreads were replace with a white-on-white
bedding package by Simmons with a pillow top mattress containing 900 coils, three sheets,
(ranging in thread count from 180 to 250) and a down blanket available in three different
thicknesses depending on the climate. The move to white-on-white bedding actually
caused the cleanliness scores for the hotel to go up. Not only did things look cleaner, but the
hotels were actually forced to watch the bedding more frequently since the white bedding didn’t
hide dirt and stains as well as the darker floral patterns. Hyatt was not to be left behind. They fired back with the “Grand Bed,”
a Sealy Posturepedic mattress with down blankets and 250-thread-count triple sheeting. And none of this was cheap. Marriott spent $190 million to upgrade beds
at its family of hotels, each king-size bed at Marriott featured 300-thread-count cotton
sheets, seven pillows, a fluffy mattress cover and a white duvet. Each chain introduced their own take on luxurious
bedding, the battle culminating with The Pan Pacific Vancouver installing $10,000 British-made
Hypnos Duchess mattress. But the war wouldn’t end there, it would
move to the bathroom before settling down for a while, Westin spending over $10 millions
dollars to upgrade it’s bathroom amenities. When an amenity shows up in an amenity war,
it doesn’t always stick around. The the 60s the battles were fought over color
televisions, remote controls and clock radios. Those are here to stay. But the sewing kits, and shoe horns of the
70’s are relics of the era. Even the mini-bar rising to prominence in
the 90s is being phased out for the most part. Hotels choose amenities that they think will
provide a feeling of luxury at a low cost to the hotel, so they don’t necessarily
go for the stuff you expect to have at home. Sometimes in the race to set themselves apart
hotels introduce amenities that border on the absurd. Wax for sealing letters, cowboy hats and bandanas,
cats that can visit your room, video cameras, dictionaries, in-room exercise bikes, and
rare books have all made an appearance as amenities over the years. While these things might seem like nice free
bonuses for guests, it’s important to remember that you’re paying for the cost of the amenities
somewhere. The $20 worth of soaps and coffee might be
subsidized by the $30 a night parking fee. And they can generate a massive amount of
waste. Hotels and travelers combined throw out as
many as 5 million used bars of soap a day. Charity organizations like Clean the World,
are working to recycle as much of this as possible, providing soap to places that need
it. But currently only 20% of US hotels are involved,
meaning the large majority of soap is still being thrown away. So when can we expect the next amenities war? We might be on the brink of one at the moment. This year a localized skirmish in Nashville
erupted, leading to chef-prepared meals for pets, recording studios, and a choice of buckwheat,
latex or goose-down pillows are all being offered as amenities at various hotels in
the area. Maybe the most interesting amenity I’ve
come across? Humans. In 2016 Westin started it’s running concierge
program in an effort to bring locals around the hotel in an effort to provide a more local
atmosphere for the guests who like to run. Ultimately hotel amenities are a great case
study for how competition in a market can generate both useful progress that benefits
the customer, and ridiculous features that will be laughed at around campfires for generations.