Hotel bathtubs are becoming an endangered species

Newer facilities from the big lodging chains now favor luxurious showers, as many consumers apparently do as well.

By Bruce Kennedy Mar 8, 2013 11:48AM

Stock photo of a bathtub, shower curtain and toilet in a bathroom (© Image Broker/Rex Features)If you spend a lot of time traveling on business and living out of your suitcase, you might have noticed something odd about bathrooms in many of the newer hotels. That is, their lack of a bathtub.

Certainly, many travelers still enjoy a long soak while on the road. And, of course, families with small children may need those tubs for their kids' cleanliness, playtime and as a transition to bed.

But on the whole, "less than 2% of people ever use a bathtub in a hotel room -- except at a resort," veteran hotel consultant Michael Matthews told Joe Brancatelli at several years ago.

So, the hotel industry is now taking note of consumer trends while saving bathroom space -- and overall costs -- by installing luxurious showers instead of tubs in their new and renovated rooms.

NBC News recently quoted a spokeswoman for Marriott (MAR) who said the hotel chain is "advising our newly built hotels to put showers in 75% of the rooms and bathtubs in 25% of the rooms."

The Wall Street Journal reports Holiday Inn, now owned by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), had tubs in 95% of its rooms just a decade ago. But that's down to 55% at its newly built facilities.

"We’ve committed to 60% [shower-only rooms] and we’re not going back," Adrian Kurre, senior vice president of Hilton's Garden Inn brand told Brancatelli. Hilton is now owned by Blackstone Group (BX). "Business travelers," he added, "prefer showers."

Two other factors that are sending hotel bathtubs to the showers. One is the so-called "ick" factor: using a tub that's not yours exclusively, no matter how clean it may be. The other is that the majority of hotel accidents take place in either a guest's bathtub or shower. So, eliminating the potential liability risk of a bathtub can also benefit a hotel's bottom line.

But even having a swank hotel shower with all the spa-like bells and whistles can go only so far when it comes to attracting business travelers.

A new, six-month study by Boston-based Brodeur Partners analyzed 18,000 online conversations about hotel choices and preferences. One of its major findings was that while a lot of hotels have been investing in better beds as a selling point, "the subject that most people talked about in the 'touch' or 'feel' category [of a good hotel room] was the shower, specifically the water pressure of the shower."

More on moneyNOW

Mar 8, 2013 12:32PM
The worst thing hotels are doing now is the sink outside the bathroom thing, I HATE that! I won't even book a room in a hotel that does that.
Mar 9, 2013 11:08AM
I find it hard to believe that only 2% use a hotel bathtub.
Mar 9, 2013 8:45PM
I wouldn't set my butt in a  hotel bathtub for cleanliness reasons. The only time I have sat in my own bathtub in the last thirty years is because of health issues (back problems). Even then, I drained the tub and took a shower afterwards. It makes sense to me that hotels are eliminating the bathtubs. 
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