HOUSTON—Many years ago hotels began introducing nonsmoking rooms for their guests—maybe a few rooms, then adding 10 more, then a section of one floor, then a whole floor, etc. Today, almost certainly, the majority of guestrooms at most U.S. hotels are designated as nonsmoking.
As the years have passed, we have all come to understand that tobacco causes cancer. Second-hand smoke has also been proven to be detrimental to our health and possibly cause cancer. Legislation and lawsuits regarding tobacco use have impacted our society so profoundly that tobacco use and its effects have been hugely reduced. As a result, there are fewer smokers today than ever before. Smoking and nonsmoking sections are mandated in most restaurants, and many buildings are designated “nonsmoking” facilities.
Hotels have progressed with the times and the downturn of tobacco usage in classifying more and more guestrooms as nonsmoking rooms. Many hotels have reduced smoking rooms to only 10 to 15 percent of their inventory. The cost of cleaning smoking rooms compared to the cost of cleaning nonsmoking rooms is significant.
“It is impossible to clean a smoking room correctly in the 30 to 45 minutes that housekeepers often have to clean a room before it is turned,” one owner says.
So, more managers are making their hotels completely nonsmoking facilities. Any hotel that has reduced smoking rooms to 10 percent or less should be able to become a nonsmoking facility rather easily.
Vinjay Danfani, owner of an 80-room Comfort Inn in Manhattan’s theater district, reports that his motivation to make the change to a nonsmoking property was a strong business reason.
“Demand is high for nonsmoking rooms,” Danfani says. “Because the smoking rooms were already reduced to only 10 percent, the change was easy.”
He also sees the change as fulfilling a health need—he’s a nonsmoker, as is most of his staff. When reservations are made, guests are clearly and explicitly informed that the property is totally a nonsmoking facility. Signs at the front desk stress that smoking is not allowed in any of the guestrooms, should a smoker arrive for check-in and be unaware. The reservation section for this hotel at the company’s Web site clearly states, “This is a nonsmoking hotel.”
Though the company Web site does not brag about the benefits of being a delight for nonsmokers, the Green Hotels Assn., Houston, believes management would do well to use that marketing tactic to bring in even more of those who would really appreciate the clean air and refreshing smell of a nonsmoking property.
When smokers do choose to stay at the Comfort Inn in Manhattan even though they say they were unaware of the policy at check-in, “there is very little complaining—they almost always go ahead and take the room and then they simply step outside the front door to smoke,” says a front desk clerk. “After all, this is New York City!”
Should a smoker prefer not to take the room reserved, the front desk staff is pleased to arrange a room for the guest at another company-owned property nearby where smokers have not been banished. Danfani says when, on the rare occasion, housekeepers do find that a guest has smoked in the room, the guest is politely but firmly asked to leave if they were to stay further nights. No fine is charged for the extra cleaning required by the indiscretion of the cheating guest, mainly because the incidents have been minimal.
Nonsmoking Savings Add Up
Danfani believes there are money savings that result from being a smokeless inn.
“Money is saved because it takes housekeepers less time to clean a nonsmoking room, and the need for cleaning products is certainly reduced,” he says.
How do the housekeepers like the change? Danfani laughs as he replies, “They’re thrilled with the change! They’re no longer breathing second-hand smoke!” A reduced workload because of dealing only with nonsmoking guests is a big plus for housekeepers.
The 100-room Howard Johnson Hotel in Williamsburg, Va., is in a far different setting, and so can make different decisions concerning its nonsmoking program.
“First of all, we’re in Virginia—in the tobacco belt,” says Shelley Miller, general manager. “So, making the change was a tough call from that aspect of business. Prior to making the change, the property had 20 to 25 percent of its rooms designated as smoking rooms.
“There are several different areas where smokers may lounge outdoors while they smoke,” Miller adds. “We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure smokers are comfortable outdoors. Smoking is allowed outside the front doors where benches and ashtrays are provided, around the swimming pool area on lounge chairs there, in a covered underground parking area where benches are provided, and at a sitting area outside the video game room.”
“Amazingly enough,” Shelley says, “even smokers love the fact that the property is a nonsmoking facility. Smokers say they love it because ‘the rooms are cleaner and the air is fresher.’ Families arriving at this historic tourist destination really appreciate the smokeless policy—it’s healthier for their children as well as for themselves.”
Can your property become a nonsmoking facility? What percentage of your guestrooms are now nonsmoking? Can you determine the extra cost in time, equipment and cleaning products for cleaning a smoking room? Can you accommodate those smokers who do decide to stay at your property with an appropriate area outdoors where they can smoke?
Consider polling your staff, especially the housekeepers because they breathe more of the second-hand smoke than other staff members, as to their thoughts on working in a nonsmoking environment. If your property includes a restaurant or bar, considerations would need to be made so that smoke cannot drift into the lobby or other public areas.
Management should see measurable differences in the life of guestroom soft goods when a property does not allow smoking. Bedspreads, drapes and carpeting will need cleaning less often, so will have a longer life. Pillows will last longer because they have not absorbed smoke. Windows will need to be cleaned (inside) less often. Painted walls will remain fresh longer. Management of a nonsmoking facility should see huge economic benefits.
Marketing your property as a smoke-free facility is an important next step. Be sure to brag about the benefits of the fresh, clean air, the healthy aspects of a non-carcinogenic environment, etc. Guests and clients will really appreciate the “fresh and clean” atmosphere of your smokeless property.
This article was republished with the permission of Patty Griffin, president and founder of the Green Hotels Assn. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.