|By Douglas Hanks III, The Miami Herald
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Apr. 10, 2006 - Those of you looking forward to winding down in a hotel room with a hot bath -- well, you'd better call ahead first.
Hotels are ripping out tubs in order to give guests roomier showers and tidier, modern bathrooms. The trend toward shower-only rooms comes as hotels increasingly see a bath as a dated ritual and tubs as an unused and inconvenient amenity.
The business-traveler mind-set looms large in these calculations.
"Typically your business traveler is jumping in the shower and heading off to meet a client," said John Wolf, spokesman for Marriott International.
For the first time, Marriott has designed shower-only rooms for its new Marriott and Renaissance hotels.
When LXR Luxury Resorts took over Fort Lauderdale's Hyatt Regency Pier 66 a little more than a year ago, it left the tubs out of most of the 100 rooms it modernized.
"You definitely want to have a big shower," General Manager Carlos Molinet said during a recent tour of a renovated room, where three people could easily fit in the glass-walled shower. One corner has a small tile bench, and it's big enough so that no door or curtain is needed, just an opening.
Hotel baths, apparently, have a few things working against them. The ick factor, for one.
"The research shows many women won't take a bath in a hotel because of concerns about cleanliness," Robert McCarthy, president of Marriott's North American lodging operations, told me last year at a South Beach conference where the new shower-only rooms were unveiled.
Tubs have no place in Indigo, the new boutique brand by Intercontinental Hotels Group that is aimed at business travelers. So far, it has ripped out about 500 bathtubs at its three debut Indigo hotels in Chicago and Atlanta, which are all shower-only.
"If you look at where the emphasis is being placed in residential design today, it is in the shower. Multiple shower heads; they're bigger; they have seats in them now," said Jim Anhut, Intercontinental's senior vice president of brand development. "That's really what we're trying to emulate."
With the tub gone, hotels have more leeway to make vanities the focus and give more counter space for guests. That's the Marriott strategy with its new rooms where dark-wood vanities dominate the design.
Even so, Wolf said, it should be hard to find a Marriott without a tub. New hotels simply will offer more shower-only rooms. And for resorts -- where leisure guests still like the occasional soak -- and hotels catering to Europeans, who like their baths, tubs will remain the norm.
So what to do if you're eager for a spacious shower or an old-fashioned tub? Browsing through hotel websites, it was hard to determine which rooms had gone shower-only.
If you care, be sure to ask when making reservations.
TUB OR NO?
Which brings me to this question: Would you miss a bathtub in your next hotel visit? Let me know at the e-mail address below.
There was lots of response from my query in the last column on whether it's easier just to check luggage and not have to fight for carry-on space in the overhead bins.
The question stemmed from former Ambassador Luis Lauredo telling me he had "bowed out" of the carry-on luggage system and now simply checks his luggage on business trips.
Some of your responses:
"I've been checking my baggage for a few years now. It's so much easier that way, considering the long treks one has to make, because somehow I always manage to board or deplane at the furthest possible gate," wrote Monica Harvey, a real estate agent with Esslinger Wooten Maxwell in Miami Beach. "Another reason to consider is you have to be at the airport so far in advance, it's a drag to have to schlep a lot of bags with you."
Sandy Emmett, head of administrative services in Ecuador for HCJB World Radio, a Christian missionary group, writes she enjoys the luxury of boarding a plane with little to carry.
"It is freeing especially in big airports with far-off gates," she writes. Given the post-9/11 security increases, carrying a small bag means "much less strain getting items to the gate."
Judy Daversa wishes more people would join the checked-luggage movement -- for her sake.
"What happened to the size requirement for carry-ons?" the retired registered nurse from Palmetto Bay wrote. "The last two trips on Delta, someone has shoved a chunk of luggage the size of a small buffalo in the bin above me. How they get it in or out is an amazing feat. That, of course, leaves no room for my coat if they get there first and I sit with it on my lap."
Doug MacKay usually checks at least one bag while on trips for Exec|Comm, a New York firm that sells business-communication seminars. His advice: 'Always check [luggage] inside if you're getting close to the cut-off time, as the Red Caps' stations are that much further from the airplane. The only two times my luggage didn't make it domestically happened when I checked at curbside."
Mauricio Chavez, operations director for Per-Se Technologies in Miami, wasn't buying the checked-luggage argument because he's had too much of it lost in the past -- including the scarf, gloves and hat he packed for a winter trip to New York.
"Case in point why I don't check," he wrote from the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. "I am headed to Omaha from Miami -- the flight left late from Miami and I missed my connection. Now I have to go via Cincinnati to get to Omaha! I don't know what would have happened to my bags had I checked them.
"The only good thing about the delay is that I had time to read your article and reply . . . flight leaves in two hours," he continued. "Know what the best bar is in the Atlanta airport????"
Readers: Do you?
Have some thoughts on business travel? Questions? Movements you want to lead? Write to On the Road Again, which appears every other week in Business Monday. Send correspondence to dhanks@Miami Herald.com.
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