High prices and stripped-down service: welcome to the “shrinkage of hotels”

Tanya Leafloor in Ottawa on August 16.Blair Gable/Blair Gable Photography

Canadians flooding vacation spots this summer are finding that even though their hotel rooms are far more expensive than they used to be, services like daily housekeeping and towel changes can be hard to come by.

What you might call “hotel shrinkage” – inflated rates for a declining level of service – reflects a variety of factors. Growing travel demand and rising costs for the hospitality industry have driven rates up. Meanwhile, ongoing COVID-19 policies and labor shortages still often result in reduced room cleaning and restricted access to pools, gyms, and other amenities.

But there are also signs that some standard pre-pandemic hotel perks may never return.

“During the pandemic, hoteliers have kind of reduced their service levels to maintain profitability,” said Laura Baxter, director of hospitality analytics for Canada at CoStar Group, a property information provider based in the USA. For budget housing, this could become the norm, she added.

Despite an expected return to seasonal patterns – with vacation spots being cheaper in the fall than in the summer, for example – more expensive hotel rates are also likely to remain, according to Ms Baxter.

Prices for traveler accommodation, which covers hotels and motels, rose nearly 48% across Canada in July compared to the same month last year, and rose even more than 70% year-over-year in Ontario, Statistics Canada announced Tuesday. In contrast, the overall annual consumer price inflation rate in Canada was 7.6%.

The large increases in average hotel rates partly reflect a rebound after two very difficult years in 2020 and 2021. In Ontario, for example, average daily rates fell nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020, partly due to much lower occupancy rates at expensive hotels in Toronto. said Tony Elenis, President and CEO of the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association (ORHMA).

But amid easing COVID-19 restrictions and a boom in leisure traveler bookings, nominal prices have now risen above pre-pandemic levels, Baxter said. Preliminary data also indicates that last month’s occupancy rates were in line with those recorded in July 2019, she said.

Customers, meanwhile, have to swallow the price increases and service reductions.

During a recent weekend stay at a Super 8 hotel in Ajax, Ontario, for example, Tanya Leafloor from Ottawa said she paid $325 a night only to find there was no daily housekeeping and that the gym and pool were both closed.

“I chose this hotel because I wanted to be able to use the hot tub,” said Ms Leafloor, who accompanied her daughter to a lacrosse tournament and thought a hot dip would help ease sore muscles.

Super 8 locations, which are franchised, must provide daily housekeeping if requested by guests, said Stefanie Petropoulos, global communications manager at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Inc., whose portfolio includes the Super 8 brand, per e -mail. Franchisees must also service rooms every three nights of a customer’s stay, unless the customer requests otherwise, she added.

Staffing shortages are a major reason for reduced services and access to hotel facilities, said ORHMA’s Elenis. The pandemic has exacerbated a labor shortage already plaguing the industry, and prolonged COVID-19 disruptions have prompted many workers to leave the hospitality sector for good, he said.

The industry is currently going through a transition as hoteliers assess changing guest preferences during the pandemic, he added.

At Hilton-branded hotels, for example, daily housekeeping is still available free of charge, but you may need to request it.

“Recognizing that some guests may have different levels of comfort with someone entering their room after they check in, Hilton offers guests the choice and control to request the housekeeping services they want,” a doorman said. -speech in an e-mail.

Marriott International Inc. said guests staying at its upscale and luxury hotels receive daily housekeeping. However, “guests staying at Marriott’s branded and extended-stay hotels will receive cleaning service every other day,” wrote Noelle Perillo, senior director of public relations for the United States and Canada, per E-mail. “Guests can customize their housekeeping preferences during the booking process,” she added.

Both companies said travelers should check with their specific hotel to verify what amenities are available.

The reduction in hotel services is not a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. The pandemic has forced hoteliers to cut spending to a minimum during record occupancy, Ms. Baxter noted. In the process, the industry may also have found “efficiencies” it wants to preserve, she added.

Consumers, however, will not necessarily see these cost savings reflected in their overnight rates. That’s partly because hotel price increases reflect booming spending as the industry battles inflation that hits everything from food and drink costs to utilities, Ms Baxter said. .

For budget-conscious travelers who are also feeling the pressure of inflation, personal finance writer Jordann Kaye recommends booking early and scanning hotel reviews to spot low-cost options that offer a good deal. value for money.

Ms Kaye is based in Halifax but has traveled extensively throughout the pandemic to be with her partner, who works in civil construction and traveled frequently for work. Experience has taught him to include lower-rated accommodations in his search and to carefully consider customer reviews. If the negative ratings lament the lack of amenities and you’re just looking for a clean room, you might have found a deal, she noted.

Getting the best rates often requires booking months in advance these days, she added. That said, don’t pass up the opportunity to make a flexible booking.

With all the flight disruptions Canadians have experienced this summer, “that specific extra cost is worth it,” Ms. Kaye said.

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