A few weeks ago, the New York Times published an article in the TRENDING section of their newspaper under the title: “How Skipping Hotel Housekeeping can help the Environment and your Wallet”. It explained how certain hotel chains are promoting sustainability by offering food and beverage credits and other perks for guests who forgo housekeeping services.
Several readers responded quite positively, mostly because they think that by foregoing housekeeping services, they are really helping the environment. No doubt their intentions were good. We also found the initiative quite intriguing at first glance, but once we thought about it some more, we started to have our reservations as to whether this really was about the environment and sustainability at all, or just about increasing profit margins for the hotels.
We find it frustrating that most hospitality companies continue to center their green practices exclusively on saving water and energy. Especially in the case of larger hotel chains, “going green” has become all about saving money. At the Cayuga Collection, one thing we know for sure is that forgoing housekeeping services wouldn’t make “sustainable sense” for the luxury hotels and lodges that we operate in remote regions of Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. And it has little to do with energy bills or consumption.
Unlike big hotel groups, when we talk sustainability, there’s an important “people focus”. That’s why we are finalists this year in the People category of the Tourism for Tomorrow Awards, and why we won the National Geographic World Legacy Earth Changers Award in 2017. If we suddenly had next to no need for housekeeping, that would hurt the locals who provide the service. We’d cut our energy bills but we’d have to cut our payroll too. And all in the name of sustainability?
At our hotels and lodges, the housekeeping department is a “talent incubator”. A lot of our staff success stories begin here. We’ve seen many a room cleaner work his or her way up to management positions through our career path programs. This is especially true for our female staff. Cutting back on employment opportunities in housekeeping would be counterproductive for the economic development of the communities we operate in, and for our operations themselves.
So this time we won’t be following the trends. We’ll continue to offer a twice daily housekeeping service to our guests and make sure it’s a “green” one. We’ll keep changing linens every three days, unless they are dirty or our guests request otherwise. We’ll keep using biodegradable cleaning products as we’ve done for almost 20 years. And we’ll stick to brooms and mops over vacuum cleaners. After all, no number of food or beverage credits could ever compensate for the joyful feeling of returning to your room to find your towels neatly folded, your clothes hanging in the closet and your sheets beautifully pressed.