The Rush for Hotel Suites and Connecting Rooms Is On
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The Rush for Hotel Suites and Connecting Rooms Is On

Families more used to renting homes on vacation now want a more communal experience during hotel stays

By ALLISON POHLE
Fri, Jun 16, 2023 8:23amGrey Clock 4 min

The most in-demand hotel room for travelLers right now is the room right next to theirs.

Hotel and resort managers say requests for connecting rooms and suites have increased recently as multigenerational families and large groups of friends gather. Continued flexibility from hybrid work and travelLers bringing family members along on business trips have also contributed, hotel managers say.

Some hotels have reported a more than 20% increase in demand for these types of rooms.

The jump means more competition for connecting rooms, which families already struggle to book due to outdated room-assignment technology and limited supply. Some hotels are adding the ability to connect more rooms. Others are adding suites or upselling larger rooms with living space to groups.

“It amazes me every time I book a hotel that we can send people to space but can’t figure out connecting rooms,” says Lindsay Bowling, a full-time mom from Danville, Calif., who has traveled internationally with her husband, mom and kids, ages 8, 6 and 1.

Bowling, 40, says the family used to stay in Airbnbs, but says she needs more predictable lodging these days. She has run into booking issues where hotel rooms are adjoining, meaning next to each other, but not connecting.

Now, she watches travelLers’ YouTube videos to see what rooms look like. She also started using a travel agent who has helped book guaranteed connecting rooms. Sometimes she ponies up for a villa or a suite.

“You end up paying at least three times the amount to get something that works for families,” she says.

Family-style hotels

Vacation rentals and timeshares have long been popular options for families. These options got a boost earlier in the pandemic as people looked to spend more time in a destination. Families also booked more short-term rental stays to allow grandparents, parents and kids to stay under one roof. Short-term rentals remain popular this summer, too.

Some traveLlers are bringing those preferences to hotels, and asking for more than the so-called suite that’s an open space between a bedroom and a foldout couch.

At most hotels, connecting rooms aren’t a guarantee. Hotels have a limited number, and room-booking technology doesn’t always present connecting rooms to guests who search for them. Last-minute issues with rooms, such as broken toilets, can also jettison plans for connecting rooms.

Guests are staying longer at resort properties, which means connecting rooms might not open up simultaneously, says Cate Farmer, senior vice president of hotels and resorts at the hospitality company Margaritaville. Options are more scarce on weekends, she says.

In the two years since launching its confirmed connecting rooms program, Hilton says the average monthly booking rates for connecting rooms increased by about 10% year-over-year. Hyatt says it is beta testing a feature that lets people book guaranteed connecting rooms.

“Before two years ago, connecting room doors were mostly about having an annoying neighbour that you don’t know that’s too loud,” says Kyle Killion, founder of Suiteness, a travel company that helps people book suites and connecting hotel rooms. “What’s nice about booking the connectors is that the person on the other side can be annoying, but they’re probably your family.”

At the five-star Alila Napa Valley in California, children under 18 aren’t permitted. But requests for connecting rooms have increased by 23% since last year as parents travel with adult family members and loved ones, general manager Heidi Miersemann says.

The 68-room hotel plans to add at least one more set of connecting rooms to meet demand, she says.

Connecting rooms in a renovation isn’t as easy as it sounds, says Warren Feldman, chief executive officer of Nehmer, a hospitality design and architecture firm. Hotels must consider factors like rewiring before knocking a new space in a wall.

Pair of king rooms

Nicole Rathsam is a 40-year-old executive for an insurance company from San Diego. She recently booked connecting rooms at the Wynn Encore in Las Vegas. She was in town for an event, and her husband and three kids tagged along.

Rathsam says the only option was for two connecting king rooms—less than ideal for her, but better than having five people crammed into one room.

A Wynn spokeswoman says that, if asked, the hotel could have accommodated connecting rooms with different bed sizes.

To get a suite at some of the other high-end properties would cost more than $2,000 a night—more than four times the rate for connecting rooms. If hotels can figure out a better apartment-style experience for families, “they’re going to have a big edge,” Rathsam says.

Hotel prices have remained high this summer, especially in Europe. In Paris, prices are 50% above 2019 levels, Sébastien Bazin, chairman and chief executive officer of the hospitality company Accor, said at a recent lodging conference.

But a certain subset of travellers aren’t looking at the price. “They are saying ‘Give me your best suite,’” he said, adding that the company doesn’t have enough suites to meet demand.

Suite bookings at Marriott properties have risen 10% from 2022 to 2023, a spokeswoman says. About 31% of Marriott hotels in development are all-suite properties, says Eric Jacobs, senior vice president for select brands.

Designers are putting more of an emphasis on creating separate workspaces in rooms, including through junior suites, which Feldman of Nehmer says can be used for both business and leisure travellers.

During the holidays, travellers requested more connecting suites than the newly opened Tower hotel at the Boca Raton resort could accommodate. Rates start at $799 for a one-bedroom suite with a living room this summer. The top six floors offer the option to connect one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, which President Daniel Hostettler says he thought would suffice.

This summer, the hotel is renovating 15 other floors so that the entire building can accommodate connecting suites.



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The Lifespan of Large Appliances Is Shrinking

Appliance technicians blame a push toward computerisation and an increase in the quantity of components inside a machine

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Thu, Feb 22, 2024 4 min

Our refrigerators, washing machines and ovens can do more than ever, from producing symmetrical ice cubes to remotely preheating on your commute home. The downside to all these snazzy features is that the appliances are more prone to breaking.

Appliance technicians and others in the industry say there has been an increase in items in need of repair. Yelp users, for example, requested 58% more quotes from thousands of appliance repair businesses last month than they did in January 2022.

Those in the industry blame a push toward computerisation, an increase in the quantity of individual components and flimsier materials for undercutting reliability. They say even higher-end items aren’t as durable.

American households spent 43% more on home appliances in 2023 than they did in 2013, rising from an inflation-adjusted average of $390 to $558, according to Euromonitor International. Prices for the category declined 12% from the beginning of 2013 through the end of 2023, according to the Labor Department.

One reason for the discrepancy between spending and prices is a higher rate of replacement, say consumers, repair technicians and others. That’s left some people wishing they had held on to their clunky ’90s-era appliances and others bargaining with repair workers over intractable ice makers and dryers that run cold.

“We’re making things more complicated, they’re harder to fix and more expensive to fix,” says Aaron Gianni, the founder of do-it-yourself home-repair app Plunjr.

Horror stories

Sharon J. Swan spent nearly $7,000 on a Bosch gas range and smart refrigerator. She thought the appliances would last at least through whenever she decided to sell her Alexandria, Va., home and impress would-be buyers.

That was before the oven caught fire the first time she tried the broiler, leading to a 911 call and hasty return. The ice-maker in the refrigerator, meanwhile, is now broken for the third time in under two years. Bosch covered the first two fridge fixes, but she says she’s on her own for the latest repair, totalling $250, plus parts.

“I feel like I wasted my money,” says the 65-year-old consultant for trade associations.

A Bosch spokeswoman said in an emailed statement that the company has been responsive to Swan’s concerns and will continue to work with her to resolve ongoing issues. “Bosch appliances are designed and manufactured to meet the highest quality standards, and they are built to last,” she said.

Kevin and Kellene Dinino wish they had held on to their white dishwasher from the ’90s that was still working great.

The sleeker $800 GE stainless steel interior dishwasher they purchased sprang a hidden leak within three years, causing more than $35,000 worth of damage to their San Diego kitchen.

Home insurance covered the claim, which included replacing the hardwood down to the subfloor and all their bottom cabinetry, but kicked the Dininos off their policy. The family also went without access to their kitchen for months.

“This was a $60 pump that was broken. What the hell happened?” says Kevin, 45, who runs a financial public-relations firm.

A GE Appliances spokeswoman said the company takes appliance issues seriously and works quickly to resolve them with consumers.

Increased complexity

Peel back the plastic on a modern refrigerator or washing machine and you’ll see a smattering of sensors and switches that its 10-year-old counterpart lacks. These extra components help ensure the appliance is using only the energy and water it needs for the job at hand, technicians say. With more parts, however, more tends to go wrong more quickly, they say.

Mansoor Soomro, a professor at Teesside University, a technical college in Middlesbrough, England, says home appliances are breaking down more often. He says that manufacturers used to rely mostly on straightforward mechanical parts (think an on/off switch that triggers a single lever). In the past decade or so, they’ve transitioned to relying more on sophisticated electrical and computerised parts (say, a touch screen that displays a dozen different sensor-controlled wash options).

When a complicated machine fails, technicians say they have a much harder time figuring out what went wrong. Even if the technician does diagnose the problem, consumers are often left with repairs that exceed half the cost of replacement, rendering the machine totalled.

“In the majority of cases, I would say buying a new one makes more economic sense than repairing it,” says Soomro, who spent seven years working at Siemens , including in the home-appliances division.

These machines are also now more likely to be made with plastic and aluminium rather than steel, Soomro says. High-efficiency motors and compressors, too, are likely to be lighter-duty, since they’re tasked with drawing less energy .

A spokeswoman for the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers says the industry has “enhanced the safety, energy efficiency, capacity and performance of appliances while adding features and maintaining affordability and durability for purchasers.” She says data last updated in 2019 shows that the average life of an appliance has “not substantially shifted over the past two decades.”

When simpler is better

Kathryn Ryan and Kevin Sullivan needed a new sensor to fix their recently purchased $1,566 GE Unitized Spacemaker washer-dryer. GE wasn’t able to fix the sensor for months, so the couple paid a local technician $300 to get the machine working.

The repairman also offered them a suggestion: Avoid the sensor option and stick to timed dries.

“You should be able to use whatever function you please on a brand new appliance, ideally,” says Sullivan, a 32-year-old musician in Burbank, Calif.

More features might seem glamorous, Frontdoor virtual appliance tech Jim Zaccone says, but fewer is usually better.

“Consumers are wising up to the failures that are happening and going, ‘Do I really need my oven to preheat while I’m at the grocery store?’” jokes Zaccone, who has been in the appliance-repair business for 21 years.

He just replaced his own dishwasher and says he bought one with “the least bells and whistles.” He also opted for a mass-market brand with cheap and readily available parts. Most surprisingly, he chose a bottom-of-the-line model.

“Spending a lot of money on something doesn’t guarantee you more reliability,” says Zaccone.

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