My work makes me take several business trips a year, mainly to places like Singapore, Germany and the UK. For the first time in five years, I was asked to visit the Nordic Region – to Helsinki to be exact – and I was more than happy to experiment with summers in Stockholm. For those who aren’t aware, Sweden is the hub of Scandinavian Design and iconic companies like IKEA.
The Swedes have been making a conscious effort to synchronize everyday life with sustainability. It is reflected in the way they do business, the lifestyle, and even in their eating habits. For example, I was pleasantly surprised to see a strong movement towards a plant-based diet. Evidence of this includes the sumptuous meal that I ate at the Fotografiska Museum restaurant followed by a dessert of Mushroom ice-cream.
My trip was rather uneventful, but my hotel stay on the other-hand made me acutely aware of the changes taking place in the hospitality industry. Many hotels have put new practices into place that they don’t refer to as cost-cutting measures. Instead they say things like “we’re not changing your towels everyday in order help save the environment and reduce waste.” I will agree with the way the hotel receptionist had packaged the changes to me, but I’m still not 100 percent sure what to make of it. Curious? Read on …
Room Cleaning on Request
When I checked into the Scandic Grand Central in Stockholm, the receptionist explained to me that they no longer clean the occupied guests’ rooms every day. You have make a request to book a cleaning using the TV channel with twenty-four hours prior notification. To make you understand it better, suppose you check in for three nights and four days, the hotel staff will not be in-your-face or embarrass you by walking in on you while you stubbornly refuse to open the door for housekeeping. Like room service, you will need to order it off your TV menu – albeit well in advance. For example, on Day 2 you can log into the service and request for a room cleaning on Day 3.
To be honest, since I was a solo traveler, and out for meeting for most of the day, my room didn’t need much cleaning. Of course, I missed the turndown service, which meant a crisp and tidy made-up bed that I could snuggle into after returning from a hectic day at work. I’m not sure how well this pans out for families though, and I’d guess that certain people will schedule the service on a regular basis, especially those with children.
The Java is in the Café
One of the most comforting appliances in a hotel room is the coffee machine. Even if it’s a water heating machine with assorted teabags and coffee sachets, it works for most of us! Well, some hotels in Sweden (including the one I stayed in), have done away with keeping coffee machines in the room. It is available only in the superior rooms, but not in the standard rooms. Although breakfast is included in most plans, it means stepping outside of the room to get your morning fix.
When I enquired, the staff simply pointed me to the coffee vending machine that they had set up in the lobby – and yes, you had to pay for the beverage. Mind you, I stayed in a business hotel that was rated well on most travel aggregators, however, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. I remember staying at a boutique hotel in Singapore where free coffee, cookies, sodas, and ice cream bars were available in the lobby. And all simply because they couldn’t accommodate all of the extras into the colonial-styled rooms.
I’m not certain if taking away this basic amenity helps one to live more sustainably or not. Unless, hotels are going the low-cost airline way and cutting down on frills – in the name of environmental standards only.
I understand that many guests abuse the mini bars in the rooms, but it robs the legit hungry business travelers from the joy of consuming super-expensive chips or nuts and adding it to the company’s tab. As expected and once again, the hotel staff pointed me in the direction of the lavish window of edible goodies stocked in the lobby. So you had a choice, pick up a snack or beverage at a premium charge or hop on over to the SevenEleven across the street – where the same items sell for much less!
During this hotel experience, the only mainstay was the free ice available from the ice dispensers located on every floor. Most hotels are now also doing away with the toiletry kit, and instead, installing dispensers in the bath. For regular travelers like me, it’s a sharp change on some levels. Do let me know if you have experienced something similar on your travels.