ROCKVILLE, MD—Ongoing guest enhancements by Choice Hotels International to transform the Comfort brand have been hitting properties across the continent. Initially encouraged by guests, one upgrade, just a portion of the brand’s commitment to a cleaner and healthier stay, has finally made its way into the guestroom, moving away from a stench of the past: Comfort Inn has joined Comfort Suites in offering 100% smoke-free rooms.
“When we announced the [smoke-free room] initiative to Comfort franchisees, we were met with strong support,” said Anne Smith, VP of brand strategy for Choice, in an interview with Hotel Business. “Franchisees cited many reasons for backing this decision, from the savings they will gain through reduced costs associated with cleaning and maintaining smoking rooms to the annual cost of replacing items damaged by smoke and cigarette burns.”
Some costs include not having to remove rooms from inventory until the smoking odor is removed, thereby simplifying inventory management. “There is never a problem placing or relocating a guest who requests a non-smoking room or room change,” she said. “Hotels could see savings through reduced insurance liability.”
Through any CRS or third-party channels, Comfort properties are now unable to offer smoking rooms. Guests are informed of a hotel’s smoke-free status through a variety of ways: at the point of reservation, in the reservation confirmation, with door signage at entry to the hotel, with signage at the front desk lobby and with signage on the desk in the guestroom. “Additionally, guests now are asked to initial the guest folio acknowledging their agreement not to smoke in their room or inside the hotel, as well as the associated fine for doing so,” Smith explained, speaking on smoking policies.
Comfort does allow properties to have outdoor smoking areas. The space must be at least 25 ft. away from exterior doors. It must also have seating for two, and the area must be on a hard surface (i.e., cement, asphalt, pavers). “Additionally, the hotel must indicate the location of a designated smoking area on in-room signage,” she noted.
Comfort’s guests in the U.S. and Canada have been pushing the brand to adopt a smoke-free hotel policy at its properties. “Our customer research shows that the vast majority of Comfort guests, including smokers, prefer smoke-free hotel environments that extend even beyond their guestroom to all areas of the hotel,” she said.
The brand’s new smoke-free hotel policy is part of its #GoodForYou initiative, which is an effort to help guests with their New Year resolutions by encouraging them to share their experiences on social media. “The Comfort brand strives to help people be refreshed and ready for the day when on the road,” she said. “Comfort has been systematically helping travelers achieve this through a multitude of recently rolled out brand programs that let guests know Comfort keeps their wellness top of mind.” The #GoodForYou conversation is part of the brand’s “Rested. Set. Go.” tagline, which aims to promote wellness to guests and assist them with healthy friendly goals.
In addition to its recently launched smoke-free hotels campaign, Comfort has also implemented the following wellness-focused conveniences for all of its guests: complimentary healthy breakfast; Raio bath and hair products developed exclusively for Comfort; larger, plusher towels; lemon-infused water stations in the lobby; new bedding; and complimentary fitness center and/or pool, available at most locations.
“Already, these enhancements to the Comfort brand have led to sustained higher than ever guest satisfaction scores, increased hotel development agreements for our new construction prototype and yielded strong business performance,” Smith said. “Collectively, Choice Hotels and Comfort brand franchisees have already committed more than one quarter-billion dollars toward making the brand better than ever with widespread renovations occurring coast-to-coast and significant investments in the guest experience.”