Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Late Checkouts

Here's a great story about hotels embracing an opportunity to provide value that seems so simple I'm not sure why it hasn't been done all along.

Hotels Embrace Sunday Sleep-Ins with Late Checkouts

By Nancy Trejos

Hotels are encouraging their guests to sleep in on Sundays.

A growing number of hotels are granting travelers a reprieve from the oppressive 11 a.m. checkout on Sundays, when they have fewer guests checking in to take over their rooms.
Some examples:
  • Westin Hotels & Resorts recently launched the "Make Monday Better" program which allows for a free 3 p.m. checkout on Sunday at all 193 properties.
  • La Quinta Resort & Club in Palm Springs, Calif., is offering a Sunday 5 p.m. checkout free of charge throughout the summer. Guests can either stay in their rooms or use any of the resort's 41 pools.
  • Novotel hotels grant Sunday checkouts as late as 5 p.m. for free. On other days, guests can check out at 5 p.m. for $75.
  • The new Hyatt Union Square New York lets guests stay for 24 hours from Thursday to Sunday.
  • The Peninsula Beverly Hills last year introduced "Peninsula Time," a program that lets guests stay at the hotel for longer than 24 hours. Guests can check in and out at any hour of the day or night at no additional charge. Want to check in at 8 a.m. one day and leave at 10 p.m. the next? Not a problem. Just request it beforehand.
  • Radisson Blu offers free checkouts as late as 6 p.m. any day of the week, depending on availability. If there is limited availability, guests can still check out late, but it will cost them 20% to 50% of the room rate.
"We feel it speaks to our type of weekend guests - young adult leisure travelers who want to make the most of their time in New York and maximize the value they see in the hotel they choose," says Chris Holbrook, general manager of Hyatt Union Square. "We feel it is a great value-add that provides guests with the luxury of time."

Hotel managers say the service has been popular among travelers who often gripe about paying for a night, but not getting a full 24 hours. Guests particularly like staying in their rooms longer on Sundays to get over their weekend revelry or wait out the travel rush home.

Hotels set early checkout times to give housekeeping enough time to turn over a large number of rooms for new guests. Sunday is the ideal day to allow guests to linger longer, because more rooms will likely stay empty overnight.

"Since Sunday nights are the lowest occupancy nights for most hotels, offering a late checkout on Sundays does not put pressure on housekeeping to quickly clean the rooms to prepare them for check-ins," says Maryam Wehe, senior vice president at Applied Predictive Technologies, which does hotel consulting.

Javier Rosenberg, chief operating officer for Radisson, estimates that 15% to 20% of guests take advantage of the late checkout.

Experts say it's a way for hotels to distinguish themselves from competitors and attract repeat customers. Many hotel companies, including InterContinental Hotels Group and Starwood, allow late checkouts for their most loyal customers.

"Guests often feel that they have paid for a full night, and a few hours here or there should not matter," Wehe says. "As hotel brands strive to differentiate the guest experience and move away from 'nickel and diming' guests, being flexible about checkout time will leave a good taste with many guests."

But Wehe says hotels run the risk of overburdening their housekeeping staff. They could also lose revenue from business travelers who are willing to pay for an extra night even if they don't intend to stay just so they have a place to work or rest before an evening flight.

Frequent traveler Kimball Cassidy of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., has done late checkouts when she's had evening flights and needed to get work done. She says she will now only stay at hotels that offer late checkouts. "Remember, a hotel is also an office for us (who) travel," she says.