Last year, Marriott International replaced the little bottles of toiletries common in many hotels with in-shower dispensers in around 450 select-service hotels in an effort to reduce waste.

IT’S THE LITTLE room with a hugely important function in every hotel. Guest bathrooms are the key to an enjoyable stay, and many properties are making changes to this pivotal center of comfort.

That evolution starts with the small, replacing the tiny amenity bottles that so many travelers have come to love enough to take some home with them. It extends to the large, total renovations aimed at increasing bathroom size and layout.

So long tiny bottles

While travelers may appreciate the bonus souvenir of taking home a tiny bottle of shampoo bearing the logo of the hotel where they stayed, some hotels are replacing the single-serve amenities with permanent, refillable fixtures. It’s a matter of sustainability as much as cost savings.

For example, last year Marriott International replaced the little bottles with in-shower dispensers in around 450 select-service hotels in an effort to reduce waste. The company planned to install the new system at more than 1,500 hotels in North America, thus eliminating more than 35 million small plastic bottles from ending up in landfills.

In a way, the trend could be the end of an era, said Jay Wadher, vice president for sales at Amtex hotel supply distributor.

“In the hospitality space there have been entire businesses made just selling those single-use toiletries,” he said. “Those items gained popularity a few years ago because they are very hygienic.”

There might be wastage with the single-serve bottles, Wadher said, but guests could be satisfied that they were getting a sanitary experience. While refillable dispensers can save the most cost per ounce, he said they comes with a serious liability.

“When the hotel staff open that bottle up to refill it, there’s a contamination issue,” he said. Also, mold can build up within the lid of a refillable unit.

Marriott has adopted non-refillable cartridge style dispensing system, Wadher said. The empty cartridge is disposed of and replaced in a much cleaner fashion.

“You have a lockable dispenser that holds the bottle,” he said. “They’re not something you can tamper with.”

Amtex offers its Suite Solutions amenities with non-refillable bottles that squeeze the shampoo or soap out from the bottom. Wadher recommends against product dispensers with pump tops.

“The last thing any hotel wants is a call from a guest saying my pump doesn’t work,” he said.

At the same time, sustainability ranked high in the findings of American Hotel & Lodging Association’s recently released Lodging Survey. In 2018, the year covered by the survey, 25 percent of hotels in the survey had a Green Certification, up from 16 percent in 2016. About 94 to 99 percent of branded hotels in the survey had linen and towel reuse programs, as did 83 percent of independent hotels. About two-thirds of hotels within all chain scales report some type of water savings program.

It isn’t just the little amenities that are changing about hotel water closets. The rooms themselves are evolving with every new build and renovation.

Upsizing the lieu

“They’re getting bigger,” said Chris Dolme, founder of Hotel Vanities International. “Of course in some downtown areas they want to make the bathroom bigger, but they only have so much room.”

Dolme also has seen a trend of hotels removing tubs altogether and replacing them with standalone showers with glass doors. Many hotels are going with glass shower doors over shower curtains, Wadher said.

“They harbor mold, they harbor mildew, they’ll stink up the room if you don’t change their lining,” Wadher said.

Dolme has noticed a trend toward rectangular sinks over oval shaped, and lighter colors in the décor to brighten up bathrooms’ small space. Of course, changes like this require renovation of an existing property or initial redesigning in a new build, and Dolme has suggestions for both situations.

One money-saving option for hoteliers undertaking a renovation of their bathrooms is an engineered marble tub surround that fits over existing tile so it doesn’t have to be removed. It’s also possible to remove just the apron under a granite vanity top to replace it with a wooden vanity base with cabinets, Dolme said.

“Sometimes the brands want the wood base,” he said.

Hotel Vanities carries vanity bases made from composite, sustainable materials, Dolme said.

“There’s a big push for sustainability,” he said.

As for new builds, Dolme said it comes down to careful planning.

“The best thing you can do to save money is not to run out of lead time,” he said. “Plan it out well in advance. A lot of the products are custom and take a long time to procure.”