Arthur Frommer: Hotel staggers shifts for early check-ins

05/15/2011 12:00 AM

05/15/2011 12:24 AM

We all know the situation — and the dilemma. You've arrived at your airport destination at an ultra-early hour, say 6:30 a.m., after an overnight flight. You then arrive at your hotel at 8 a .m., exhausted, craving to take a fast nap or yearning to shower and change clothes. The hotel advises, reluctantly, that you can't check in until 2 p.m. All the rooms are still occupied, and those that aren't have yet to be cleaned and made ready by the chambermaid staff.

One hotel chain — and one only, as best I know — has confronted that situation and solved it.

How? By staggering the work shifts of its chambermaid staff. Let's say that 10 rooms will be emptied by 7 a.m. Several chambermaids who normally arrive for work at 8 or 9 a.m. are instead rescheduled to come in at 7 a.m. that day. They immediately clean up the vacated rooms, so that they can be ready for incoming guests by 8 a.m. —something unheard of in all other hotels of the world.

The chain that has decided to do this is Capella Hotels, operators of some of the world's most expensive hotels, including the new Setai on Fifth Avenue and 36th Street in New York City.

The president of Capella has announced that henceforth, all arriving guests in all Capella hotels will be able to enter their room immediately on arrival, no matter how early.

The job of enforcing that guarantee is an enormously complex one, but he feels the goal is worth the effort. And clearly, there will be many well-fixed travelers who will choose Capella because of that guarantee.

So how about it, you lower-price hotels? The first moderately priced hotel chain to emulate Capella's initiative will be deluged with reservations, in my view.

But is the guarantee feasible? Why can't the midpriced motels and hotels of the nation stagger the work schedules of their chambermaids? How difficult would it be to do so?

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