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Hilton and Marriott Chains Experimenting
with Dumping the Tub

By Tony Mecia, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

August 29, 2005 - As travelers take showers, hotel-company executives have been watching.

And apparently they like what they see.

In a move spurred by what hotels say is customer demand, major U.S. hotel chains are getting rid of what would seem to be an essential element of a bathroom: the bath.

They're replacing tubs with bigger shower stalls in a nod, they say, to the reality that few travelers take baths on the road.

Hilton Hotels Corp. has quietly started testing shower-only rooms at two of its signature properties: the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., and the New York Hilton. Company president Matt Hart says he's no fan of the tub.

"Who uses it?" he says. "A tub is a pain in the butt. You've got to step over it."

He's quick to point out that Hilton has no plans to eliminate tubs entirely. People who want rooms in which they can bathe will still have that option. But that doesn't describe most Hilton customers, he says.

"There was this old wives' tale that women like to take baths on the road," Hart explains. "At a resort, with a separate shower, with marble tile and candles, maybe. But that isn't what we give customers."

At the Beverly Hilton, which removed tubs from 200 of its 352 Wilshire Tower Rooms and replaced them with "spa-like" showers, manager Brian O'Connor says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. He says the hotel has been able to accommodate bathtub requests.

This year, Marriott unveiled new shower-only room designs for Marriott and Renaissance hotels. It plans to phase the rooms in as it renovates properties, depending on location, says spokesman John Wolf.

Some hotels might not be appropriate for such a change, he says. For instance, he says, cities that attract large numbers of European tourists would probably want to steer clear of shower-only rooms, because Europeans like to take baths more than Americans, he says.

And messing with bathrooms too much could be dangerous, he says, because travel guides published by Mobil and AAA place a premium on four-fixture bathrooms: ones with a sink, toilet, and separate bath and shower.

"You could have the cleanest, coolest, chicest most luxurious hotel in some locations, and it might only have three fixtures," Wolf says. "That might be what keeps you from earning the fifth diamond." 


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