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R.I.P. the minibar

R.I.P. the minibar

In 1974 Hilton Hotels began the trend and in 2013, Hilton Hotels are leading its demise. It's been a great source of comfort for business travellers with expense accounts for 40 years, but it appears it's time for hotel owners and guests alike to say goodbye to the minibar.

A recent article in The Independent reported that they've become more trouble than they're worth, thanks to the recession and the closer scrutiny of expense accounts. Minibars require a lot of work to maintain and theft has always been a problem, so many chains, such as Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt Hilton, are now scrapping them altogether.

It’s reported that guests are getting thoroughly fed up with them anyway, mainly through having to prove they didn't use them. Hotels are now using infrared sensors to check up on how much guests use them; the sensors detect when an item has been moved in the minibar and automatically charges it to the room. However, as comments on Trip Advisor testify, this isn't exactly a popular move: “Mini bar items on a motion sensor - we accidentally knocked over a water and ended up getting charged $5!” and “Get rid of 'automatic' mini bar.”

In New Zealand, there may also be legal reasons for the minibar's demise. 3News reported that changes in licensing laws will mean that from 18 December 2013, it will be illegal to sell alcohol between 4am and 8am. Tourism Industry Association hotel sector manager Rachael Shadbolt told 3News: "It's impossible - we couldn't knock on the door at 4 o'clock in the morning and say just a friendly reminder, don't use the mini-bars”; which led her to speculate that minibars will be removed altogether.

American travel journalist Peter Greenberg reassures anxious guests that room service is too valuable to go, so you'll still be able to order food and drinks to be brought to your room. Indeed, some hotels are introducing mobile apps and loaning iPads so that you can order food without even having to pick up the phone. Other hotels are leaving empty fridges in the rooms so that guests can buy their own drinks and snacks at the local supermarket. Other chains have moved the snacks and drinks out into the open, leaving chocolate bars or bottles of wine on a table in the hope that guests won't be able to resist what's in full view.

And of course the budget chains such as Premier Inn and Travel Lodge have well stocked vending machines in the reception area. But even vending machines aren't just confined to soft drinks and snacks – these days you can buy virtually anything in hotels around the world, e.g. iPods, gift shop items, swimming costumes, and breakfast – one hotel in Abu Dhabi has even installed one that dispenses gold, which is well beyond the scope of a minibar!

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