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Why hotels no longer give mini shampoo bottles

Why hotels no longer give mini shampoo bottles

by Scott Long

3 weeks ago

The hospitality industry is always evolving, driven by changes in consumer expectations, economic pressures, and environmental considerations. One notable shift that has gained traction in recent years is the move away from single-use toiletries, such as mini shampoo and conditioner bottles, to larger, refillable dispensers. This change, which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, reflects broader trends in sustainability and cost efficiency. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind this transition, its financial implications for hotels, and its impact on the customer experience.

The Shift from Mini Bottles to Multi-use Dispensers

Hotels across the globe are increasingly abandoning the practice of offering single-use toiletries in favor of larger, refillable bottles. This shift is not merely a trend but a significant change in how hotels operate and engage with their guests. The traditional small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and lotion are being replaced with wall-mounted dispensers that are regularly refilled. This transition is driven by a combination of economic, environmental, and guest satisfaction factors.

Historical Context of Hotel Toiletries

Hotel toiletries have long been a staple of the guest experience. Since the early 20th century, providing personal care products was seen as a mark of luxury and hospitality. The practice gained widespread popularity in the post-World War II era, as hotels sought to cater to the burgeoning middle class with amenities that promised comfort and convenience. Miniature bottles became synonymous with hotel stays, offering a touch of indulgence and a practical solution for travelers.

The Influence of COVID-19 on Hotel Practices

The COVID-19 pandemic profoundly impacted the hospitality industry, prompting hotels to re-evaluate their practices to ensure safety and sustainability. Concerns about hygiene and cross-contamination led to a reassessment of single-use items. Multi-use dispensers, which reduce the number of touchpoints and are easier to sanitize, emerged as a safer alternative. This health-driven shift also dovetailed with increasing environmental awareness among both hoteliers and guests.

Environmental Benefits of the Transition

While cost savings are the primary driver behind the switch to refillable dispensers, the environmental benefits are significant and marketable. Single-use plastic bottles contribute significantly to plastic waste, which is a growing global concern. By transitioning to multi-use dispensers, hotels can significantly reduce their plastic footprint. This move aligns with broader sustainability initiatives within the hospitality industry, which seek to minimize waste and promote eco-friendly practices. However, it's important to note that while environmental reasons are a significant marketing angle, the primary motivation for hotels is financial savings.

Cost Savings for Hotels

The financial implications of transitioning to multi-use dispensers are substantial. Single-use toiletries, while seemingly minor expenses, accumulate significant costs over time. The production, packaging, and disposal of these items contribute to a hotel's operational expenses. By contrast, large dispensers, though requiring an initial investment, prove more economical in the long run due to lower refill costs and reduced waste management expenses.

Detailed Cost Analysis: Mini Bottles vs. Multi-use Dispensers

To understand the cost dynamics, let's compare the expenses associated with mini bottles versus multi-use dispensers. A standard hotel with 200 rooms might go through thousands of mini bottles annually. Assuming each bottle costs about $0.30, the annual expense could easily exceed $12,000.

The cost of installing refillable dispensers is around $12 per unit, with bulk refills costing significantly less per use. For a hotel with 200 rooms, the initial investment in dispensers would be approximately $2,400. If the annual supply cost for refilling each dispenser is around $5, the yearly expense for toiletries drops to $1,000. Over a year, the savings on purchasing and waste management can be substantial, with this example hotel saving over $10,000 annually.

Moreover, dispensers have a lifespan of about five years, meaning the initial investment of $2,400 is spread over this period. The average annual cost for the dispensers themselves would then be around $480, further increasing the savings compared to using mini bottles every year.

In-depth Case Study: Marriott's Transition

Marriott International, one of the largest hotel chains in the world, provides an illustrative case study for understanding the financial impact of transitioning to multi-use dispensers. Marriott operates over 7,000 properties worldwide, encompassing various brands from luxury to budget. When considering the switch, Marriott evaluated the potential savings across its entire portfolio.

Each Marriott hotel, on average, has around 250 rooms. Before the switch, the company was purchasing millions of mini bottles annually. If each bottle costs approximately $0.30, the company was spending an estimated $21 million annually on mini toiletries. By switching to multi-use dispensers, Marriott significantly cut down on these expenses. Assuming the cost of a dispenser is about $12 per unit and each dispenser is installed in every room, the initial investment across all properties would be around $21 million.

However, the bulk refills for these dispensers are far more cost-effective. If each refillable unit's annual supply costs about $5, the yearly expense for toiletries drops to around $8.75 million. This shift results in substantial annual savings of over $12 million, not including additional savings from reduced waste management and labor costs associated with handling and disposing of mini bottles. Over five years, Marriott stands to save approximately $60 million after the initial investment, significantly boosting profitability.

Wider Financial Implications for the Hospitality Industry

The financial benefits seen by Marriott are reflective of broader trends across the hospitality industry. Let's take Hilton Hotels & Resorts as another example. Hilton operates approximately 6,200 properties globally. Using similar estimations, if Hilton spends around $0.30 per mini bottle, their annual expense on mini toiletries could be around $18.6 million.

Switching to multi-use dispensers, with an average cost of $12 per unit, Hilton's initial investment for dispensers across all rooms would be about $18.6 million. Assuming an annual refill cost of $5 per dispenser, Hilton's annual expenditure on toiletries would drop to about $7.75 million. This translates to annual savings of around $10.85 million. Over a five-year period, after accounting for the initial investment, Hilton could save upwards of $54 million, significantly enhancing their profitability.

Impact on Hotel Profit Margins

The cost savings from reducing single-use toiletries directly impact a hotel's profit margins. Lower operational costs mean higher profitability, which is especially crucial in a highly competitive industry. While hotels can reallocate these savings to other areas, such as improving guest services or investing in sustainability initiatives, the primary outcome is increased profitability for shareholders. This financial benefit enables hotels to not only sustain but also grow their business, offering more competitive rates to attract guests and boost occupancy rates.

Consumer Preferences and Feedback

Guest feedback plays a crucial role in the hospitality industry. Initial concerns that guests might miss the personalized touch of mini toiletries have largely been unfounded. Surveys and reviews indicate that many guests appreciate the environmental benefits of refillable dispensers. Moreover, the quality of products provided in dispensers is often higher, as hotels can afford to offer premium brands in bulk. This shift aligns with the growing consumer preference for sustainable practices and responsible travel.

Enhancing Customer Experience through Sustainability

Incorporating sustainability into the guest experience enhances overall satisfaction. Today's travelers are more environmentally conscious and appreciate hotels that share their values. By using multi-use dispensers, hotels can communicate their commitment to sustainability, which can be a significant differentiator in a crowded market. This practice also fosters a sense of community and responsibility, encouraging guests to participate in eco-friendly practices during their stay.

The Role of Marketing in Transition

Effective marketing is essential to successfully implementing the switch to multi-use dispensers. Hotels need to clearly communicate the benefits of this change to guests, emphasizing both the environmental and quality aspects. Marketing materials, from in-room signage to online content, should highlight the superior quality of the products and the hotel's commitment to sustainability. Transparent communication helps mitigate any potential guest concerns and enhances the hotel's brand image.

Challenges and Solutions in Implementation

Despite the clear benefits, transitioning to multi-use dispensers is not without challenges. Hotels must consider the initial installation costs, staff training, and potential resistance from guests accustomed to traditional amenities. However, these challenges can be effectively managed with strategic planning. For instance, gradual implementation, starting with pilot programs in selected rooms, allows for adjustments based on guest feedback. Training staff to maintain and refill dispensers properly ensures hygiene and efficiency.

The Future of Hotel Toiletries

The move towards refillable dispensers is likely just the beginning of broader changes in hotel amenities. As sustainability becomes increasingly important, we can expect further innovations in how hotels provide for their guests. Future developments might include biodegradable packaging, waterless toiletries, or even personalized in-room amenities based on guest preferences. These innovations will continue to reshape the hospitality industry, balancing guest satisfaction with environmental responsibility.


The transition from single-use toiletries to multi-use dispensers in hotels marks a significant shift in the hospitality industry. Driven primarily by cost savings but also benefiting from environmental considerations, this change offers numerous benefits. Hotels can achieve substantial cost savings, reduce their environmental impact, and enhance the guest experience through sustainable practices. As travelers increasingly seek out eco-friendly options, this shift not only meets current demands but also sets the stage for a more sustainable future in hospitality.


Why are hotels switching to large multi-use bottles for toiletries? Hotels are switching to large multi-use bottles for toiletries primarily to reduce costs and increase profitability. This change also aligns with increased hygiene standards and guest preferences for sustainable practices, providing a marketable environmental benefit.

How much money can hotels save by using refillable dispensers? Hotels can save millions of dollars annually by using refillable dispensers. For example, Marriott International saves over $12 million annually after the initial investment in dispensers and bulk refills. Over five years, Marriott could save approximately $60 million.

Do guests prefer refillable dispensers over mini bottles? Many guests prefer refillable dispensers due to their environmental benefits and often better-quality products. Surveys indicate that the majority of travelers appreciate hotels' efforts to be more sustainable.

Are refillable dispensers more hygienic than mini bottles? Yes, refillable dispensers can be more hygienic if properly maintained and regularly sanitized. They reduce the number of touchpoints and are less likely to be tampered with compared to single-use bottles.

What are the environmental benefits of using multi-use dispensers in hotels? Multi-use dispensers significantly reduce plastic waste, as they eliminate the need for single-use bottles. This reduction in plastic usage contributes to less environmental pollution and aligns with global sustainability efforts.

How do hotels communicate the switch to refillable dispensers to guests? Hotels communicate the switch to refillable dispensers through clear signage, marketing materials, and in-room information. They emphasize the environmental benefits, improved product quality, and the hotel's commitment to sustainability.


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