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Why hotels are installing fewer bathtubs

Ashley Milne-Tyte Apr 22, 2019
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Shower-only hotel rooms in the U.S. now make up nearly a quarter of all rooms.
Max_grpo/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Anyone who travels for work has probably noticed that a once familiar staple of hotel bathrooms is less common than it used to be – the bathtub. Hotels say guests just aren’t using the tub. Michael Suomi, a principal at architecture firm Stonehill Taylor in New York, has heard this a lot. He designs hotels for a living.

“We have a lot of clients and a lot of brands who are saying, ‘get rid of the bathtub,’” he said. “’The bathtub is a thing of the past. Tear them out of our old hotels and put in big, beautiful, glass- enclosed walk-in showers.’”

Plenty of hotels are doing just that. Shower-only hotel rooms in the U.S. now make up nearly a quarter of all rooms. That’s triple the number only a couple of years ago.

The Moxy hotel in lower Manhattan is one example. Its small, sleek bathrooms feature walk-in showers with gray tile, fancy bath products, and wide shower heads. The hotel’s developer, Mark Gordon, said they considered putting in tubs, but decided against it.

“Because the rooms really are efficiently designed from a special perspective, we thought that the highest guest satisfaction would result in a large shower,” Gordon said. The entire room – bathroom and hallway included – is a compact 185 feet.

That’s far smaller than the average hotel room built 20 years ago, according to Joe Brancatelli. He runs the business travel site JoeSentMe and has been traveling for work for decades. Brancatelli said ditching the tub for a standalone shower saves space.

“Hoteliers say, ‘Wait, I can give customers what they want, give the impression of being stylish and use less space, which means I can squeeze more hotel rooms into the same sized building,’” he said. And, he added, get more revenue from those extra rooms.

But Michael Suomi of Stonehill Taylor said tubs won’t disappear. Some vacationers like a good soak. Also, Suomi said, “For hotels that cater to families, and if there’s small kids, having a bathtub is a necessity.” Plus, it’s still cheaper to upgrade old finishes and replace moldy shower curtains than it is to haul out the tub and install a walk-in shower.

Suomi said hotels will proceed gradually. Bathers still have time. 

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