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Can your hotel reach new highs without catering to smokers?

Tuesday January 28th, 2014 - 10:56AM


Dennis Nessler, Editor at Large

It comes as no surprise that the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which began on January 1, has reverberated throughout the country as debate rages on about the potential benefits and pitfalls. While much of the world analyzes this groundbreaking decision from a moral or economic perspective, I’ll spare everyone my thoughts on that for now.

I will, of course, share my thoughts on what it could mean to hoteliers and the industry in a broader sense. Right now, the issue is confined to Colorado, but you can be relatively certain that the dominos that are other states are going to start falling since the precedent has been set. In fact, four more states, including California, are expected to pass the same legislation this year.

One critical decision for hoteliers is whether or not to set aside part of their inventory for “smokers.” In fact, there are already hotels that are marketing themselves as “cannabis friendly.” Likewise, there are also savvy tour groups that are already working with these hotels and setting aside room blocks for their clients. So, obviously, there is an immediate financial benefit to hoteliers who choose to accommodate these cannabis enthusiasts by opening up 25% of their rooms, which is the maximum permitted as a result of the Colorado Clean Air Act.

But while there may be short-term financial benefits, what is the long-term impact on the room itself? The smell of marijuana can be quite strong and potentially damaging. Who’s to say that even smokers will want to stay in a room that reeks of marijuana? 

Meanwhile, when it comes to public spaces, the law is pretty clear that smoking marijuana is not permitted. However, a building owner or operator can establish his or her own rules when it comes to the grounds on which the building stands. Some owners, for example, have already created enclosed patios, not visible to the general public, where guests can smoke. 

Then, of course, there is the issue of any paraphernalia that may be left in the room. Suffice it to say, smoking room or not, you wouldn’t want the next guests, which could include children, walking into that. Furthermore, how do you want your housekeepers to handle such a situation?

In addition to establishing some of these policies, how does your hotel want to deal with violations? Some properties have taken to implementing fines for anyone caught smoking in their rooms, for example. Is this too harsh? Are you willing to enforce such a penalty and run the risk of that guest never returning and possibly telling the world on TripAdvisor or another social media outlet?

There are obviously a lot of decisions for hoteliers to consider, things they never had to deal with before. Christine O’Donnell, president of the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association, insists “hoteliers must put in place a separate set of policies for smoking and possession of marijuana on the premises.”

She added that, thus far, most Colorado hotels have opted to not allow marijuana smoking, and that while there is an expected influx of tourism from neighboring states, there are a good number of families refusing to come to Colorado for vacations.

O’Donnell further noted that, at the end of day, it could end up being a “wash.” For Colorado hoteliers right now, and likely many more U.S. hotels in the coming years, they need to decide if they want to be clean.

—Dennis Nessler