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Flexible Checkout: the Latest Direct Booking Amenity

Flexible Checkout: the Latest Direct Booking Amenity

Hotels continue to test the waters of flexible checkout practices that allow guests to extend their stay beyond the mid-day standard. Two years ago, Starwood Hotels made 24-hour checkout a perk for rewards members with at least 75 stays in the system. And recently, the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas rolled out a 24-hour checkout for guests that book their stay directly on the hotel’s website, instead of through a third party.

Logistically these 24-hour checkout services are difficult on a hotel’s staff since they allow guests to spend a full 24 hours in their room instead of respecting fixed check-in and check-out times. “In low occupancy periods the service is not a problem for hotel operations,” says Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the hospitality school at New York University. “On high occupancy days with leisure or international guests remaining late to gain an extra day or to wait for an evening flight at the same time arriving guests show up early from morning flights or to gain an extra day and they’re all looking for a room. Then it’s a problem.”

The way 24-hour checkout runs at the Palms, guests note their anticipated check-in time on the website (standard check-in time is 3 p.m.) and provide a cell phone number to receive text alerts when they arrive. If guests choose to check in at 10 p.m., for example, they will be able to stay until 10 p.m. on their checkout day. The hotel will also accommodate early check-ins if rooms are available.

Speaking to USA Today, Daniel Lee, CEO of Palms Casino Resort, said his property is the first in Las Vegas to provide the service and that other hotels are reluctant to provide late checkouts because they pose a challenge for housekeeping staff, many of whom work day shifts. To make the new 24 checkout system work, some of the housekeepers will need to switch to night shifts rather than day shifts, he said.

Hanson says 24-hour checkout is a highly valued option for guests. While the Palms’ implementation of it is innovative, tying the program to the hotel’s website instead of throwing it in as a perk could be the most ingenious part. Especially if the Palms receives a bump in direct bookings due to flexible checkouts.

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