Early Arrivals and Late Departures – Reductio ad absurdum

The New York Times’s (subscription required) “Practical Traveler” has a feature headlined “Early Arrivals and Late Departures Get Harder”. Lamenting how in the the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when “hotels had plenty of rooms available, it was often possible to arrive at almost any hour and get into a room”. The report acknowledges the logistical non-sequitur in customer expectations of an early check-in and late check-out by noting that “hotels have been adding amenities that tend to put a squeeze on housekeeping and that “late checkouts, often offered as a perk to guests enrolled in loyalty programs, delay housekeepers who must get rooms ready for the next guests”. Further, the introduction of “fancier sheets and fluffier pillows introduced in the bedding wars of the last few years add to the time necessary to clean and prepare guest rooms”. However, the Times’ reporting leaves the distinct impression that hotels are putting the squeeze on customers by merely ensuring customer adherence to clearly stated procedures. While it is certainly annoying and unproductive for Americans arriving in Europe after an overnight flight have to wait till noon for a room to open up it scarcely amounts to “inflexibility at a time when hotel prices are soaring”. European hotels happen to have other customers who operate on a different schedule and when a hotel is close to sold out, quite obviously, management that does not ask customers to depart at the scheduled check-out time can end up with a logistical nightmare in the middle of the day. Offering around the clock check-in simply does not maximize revenue and luxury hotels that offer it either make up for lost occupancy on rate or leave dollars on the table. At any rate the suggestion in the article that hotels “overhaul the antiquated check-in, checkout process” stems from ivory tower thinking with little understanding of workflow management or business processes. As the old, if tired, cliche goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. What hotels can and must do better is to continually inform guests of hotel policies in this and other areas. Guests, whose needs fall outside those parameters, are then more likely to pay for the benefit either by a surcharge or as some do by paying for an additional night.

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Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.