Westin nonsmoking rule could be trendsetting

Call it a sign of the times: Westins recent decision to no longer permit smoking in its hotels follows a longstanding trend to cut back on the percentage of rooms that permit smoking, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Associations 2004 Lodging Survey.

The survey, which is conducted periodically by the association, found hotels in the U.S. have steadily increased their number of nonsmoking rooms over the years.

In 1988 only 30% of all hotel rooms were designated nonsmoking. By 1991, that percentage had jumped to 40%.

The ratio of nonsmoking rooms jumped from 61% in 1999 to 73% in 2004.

Hotel rooms in the luxury category are more likely to be nonsmoking -- guests are not allowed to smoke in about 80% of the rooms.

A total of 47,735 hotels were canvassed by questionnaire for the survey.

Westins decision may be a harbinger of things to come at other hotels.

Joseph McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, said hotels are reflecting changing lifestyles and laws in many cities that limit smoking in public places.

More and more cities are becoming smoke-free, he said.

Still, Westins smoke-free policy is very cutting-edge and far ahead of the curve, McInerney said.

Hotel analyst Douglas Shifflet, president and CEO of D.K. Shifflet & Associates, believes other hotel chains, in time, will likely follow Westins lead.

When Westin says, No smoking here, then people who dont smoke are liable to think that maybe the smokers went to the hotel down the street and it will be worse than ever, he said.

So it could have a compounding effect on other hotels. I think that alone will drive other hotels to the same approach.


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