No smoking signs are gaining more prominence at hotels across North America.
Choice Hotels recently announced that 1,800 of its Comfort Inns and Comfort Suites in the USA and Canada will be 100% smoke-free starting this year, making it one of the largest brands to say no to smoking.
Wyndham Hotel Group’s full-service and lifestyle brands — including Dolce Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Garden and TRYP by Wyndham — are smoke-free in North America.
Two of Hilton’s newest brands — Canopy and Tru — will have a brand-wide non-smoking policy. The first Canopy hotel opened in Iceland last year, and the first Tru has yet to open.
Except for a handful of properties, Carlson Rezidor Group’s hotels in the Americas are smoke-free.
These rules, in most cases, apply to both traditional and electronic cigarettes, which have become an issue for the hospitality industry in the past few years. The rules extend beyond the guest room to public spaces, such as lobbies.
“Over the years, hotels have had to adapt their smoking policies just like bars, restaurants and office buildings,” says Javier Rosenberg, president of the Americas for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, which includes the Radisson brand.
Hoteliers say even smokers ask for non-smoking rooms these days. It’s a boon for hotels, which incur extra expenses to clean and maintain smoking rooms, including the annual cost of replacing items damaged by smoke and cigarette burns, says Anne Smith, vice president of brand strategy at Choice.
“Nobody wants a smoking room,” Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce says.
Joyce says there was a time when having the option of a smoking guest room made sense, but that is no longer the case.
“The old school thinking was that (hotels) were accommodating a portion of their guests,” he says. “But when you talk to smokers, they don’t even want smoking rooms.”
The move to ban smoking aligns with many hotel companies’ efforts to help travelers, especially road warriors, stay healthy on the road. In Comfort’s case, the ban on smoking underscores its “Rested. Set. Go.” program, which focuses on health and fitness.
Aside from the health concerns, the maintenance issues that stem from cigarette smoking have become too onerous.
Hotel owners have to pay extra for the staff, time and supplies needed to remove cigarette odors from guest rooms. Housekeepers typically have to use odor-neutralizing chemicals as well as time-consuming methods such as cleaning HVAC filters. The rooms often have to be removed from inventory to accommodate for cleaning time, costing the hotel even more money. There is also an insurance liability.
“This is better for everyone,” Joyce says.
When they were introduced, electronic cigarettes caused consternation across the entire travel industry, especially airlines.
Last year, the Department of Transportation clarified its rules, explicitly banning electronic cigarettes on commercial flights into or from the USA.
Acknowledging that further examination was needed, the DOT noted that studies have shown that e-cigarette aerosol may contain harmful chemicals.
Airlines banned e-cigarettes on flights as a result. The hotel industry follows suit by treating e-cigarettes as regular cigarettes.
“We find many people’s perception of smoking, regardless of whether it’s an actual cigarette or an e-cigarette, tends to be the same,” says Kate Ashton, brand senior vice president of full-service brands for Wyndham Hotel Group. “Once you smoke in a public space, other people are exposed to whatever you’re putting into the air.”
Many states, such as California and Wyndham’s home state of New Jersey, have banned the use of electronic smoking devices in indoor public spaces.
“Smoke-free environments in the U.S. are not only widely accepted, they’ve become the expectation,” Ashton says. “Going smoke-free in guest rooms creates significantly healthier surroundings where guests sleep and relax, and it also creates a cleaner room and extends the life of items like bedding, carpets and window coverings.”
The majority of InterContinental Hotel Group’s brands in the USA and Canada offer an entirely smoke-free environment. The company recently expanded its no-smoking policy to include smoking in any form, including e-cigarettes.
All Marriott International and Starwood Hotels and Resorts properties are required to be smoke-free in the USA and Canada. Marriott recently acquired Starwood.
Hotels in other regions still allow smoking because of cultural norms, though Choice’s Joyce points out that “Europe is starting to catch up.”
For those smokers who desperately need a cigarette, many hotels have designated spots for them to smoke outside.
“We have received no negative feedback from guests on the move to smoke-free,” Rosenberg says. “In fact, even our guests who smoke understand these new policies, and in turn, we make designated smoking areas available outside the hotel.”
Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY