Q – Really interesting site – just stumbled across you via some algorithm hidden in the bowels of Google’s basement. Two weeks ago, on business in DC, I was checking in at the JW Marriott. I had checked and I knew, for a fact, that the next category up, a junior suite was available. I asked the front desk, and then the front desk manager, if they would consider an upgrade. They politely refused even though I am every kind of Marriott frequent stayer there is. As a security consultant (you can read anything into that you want) I could not believe they would refuse to upgrade me when I was checking in at 8:30 PM. 

One of my co-workers had almost the same scenario occur at the Grand Hyatt in LA. He is an off-the-charts Hyatt frequent traveler. I know you weren’t there – but wondering if you can think of any explanation that is making it harder and harder to secure hotel upgrades?

A – In other words you are a part-time security guard  who wants a free upgrade? No worries – you are asking a serious question and the tend you have noticed is, we think, very real. There are several possible reasons applicable to specific properties but you may very well be looking at a change in upgrade procedures that is a result of pandemic financial losses and a severe shortage of housekeeping staff. There are wage increaese pressures, threats of unionization, and a failing attempt by four and five star hotels to get guests to willingly forego housekeeping services.

Some of this is, we suspect, mathematical. The time spent cleaning a suite is greater than the time spenmt cleaning a standard-size room. The amenities and in-room cleaning requirements are greater.

One of the not so public issues that has arisen as hotels emerge from the pandemic with higher, much higher, average occupancy rates is the amount of time maids can spenmd cleaning rooms. In many larger cities like Los Angeles, hotels are addressing their increasing costs for housekeeping services by placing limits on the actual number of square feet a maid can clean. The number we are hearing is 3,500 square feet per day. After that the maid, or “room attendant” has completed their work and must be paid for a full day or, perhaps, be compensated at “overtime” wages. 

So upgrading you to any kind of suite would have increased the maid’s square foot coverage, would take more time, and would, if done frequently enough, more additional housekeeping staff.

The maid’s unions are in a stronger position then they have ever been and room cleaning services are increasingly going to be viewed by hotels as services for which the guest must sign-up and expect to pay for the “extra” services. 

In this environment, comp room upgrades are going to become less frequent.