Luxury travelers want to be green—except when it comes to their bathroom amenities

Plastic-plated luxury.
Plastic-plated luxury.
Image: Reuters/Nguyen Huy Kham
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

In case you missed it, single use plastic is the modern day consumer’s pariah. From Starbucks to Alaska Airlines to the IKEA, companies and retailers are ditching single use plastic in a bid to be more environmentally friendly and live up to the ideal of conscientious consumption.

The hotel space is no different. Edition Hotels, which is co-owned by Marriott, recently announced it was going plastic-free and is hoping to lead a coalition of boutique luxury hoteliers to do the same. Even Hilton has pledged to remove plastic straws and plastic water bottles from meetings and events in certain regions. The conventional wisdom around these changes is that if it’s better for the planet then, as Edition’s vice president of brand experiences Ben Pundole recently told Quartz, “guests are really behind this kind of thing.”

Except there’s one place where it appears they’re not: in the bathroom. Joao Rocco, vice president for luxury brand management of hotel chain Sofitel, recently told Skift that the company found an interesting statistic when researching how to upgrade the French chain’s bathroom amenities. Based on a survey of 2,000 guests, Sofitel found a strong dislike for eliminating single use bottles in favor of bulk containers: “72% of the survey respondents said dispensers don’t convey luxury, while 87% get the impression that they are being used to reduce costs.”

It appears that the allure of taking home a 40 ml plastic bottle of Aveda shampoo or Acqua Di Parma body lotion is a luxury that hotel guests are not willing to part with—even if it might help save the planet. In locations where there are more restrictions on using plastic, like Costa Rica, Skift noted that hotels may go the bulk bottle route, but they are trying to do so in a way that is still designed-focused.

One notable exception is Ace Hotel, which sells the shower caddies and utilitarian-chic bottles found in their properties in their online shop. But while that frugal-chic sensibility may appeal to a hipster-inclined luxury guest, brands catering to a a more traditional demographic—who perhaps remembers the days when luxury hospitality included a turn-down service and a full service concierge—may find that guests still want to have their shampoo, and take it home too.