I appreciate that Marriott is trying to be more "green" by giving guests the option to reuse their towels, but one thing has been bothering me for a while, and I finally received an answer.
Ever notice how if you hang your towel up on the rack to dry and indicate that you will reuse it, sometimes when you get back to your room at the end of the day, all the towels are folded and its hard to determine which is the used one and which are the clean ones? My nagging concern was that if I didnt use any towels the morning I checked out, how would housekeeping know which ones to replace? And did I just check into a room where some of the folded towels might have been used by the previous guest?
I was at a RI in Sacramento this week and this very thing happened to me - all the towels were folded when I returned to the room, so I didnt know which was used or clean. I asked at the front desk and the engineering manager was there also, and they never thought about this question, but they promised an answer. The engineering manager immediately went to see the housekeeping manager and much to my delight, they said that when someone checks out that ALL towels are removed from the room and replaced. No more fear of using dirty towels!!
Marriott cited the threat of H1N1 as one of the contributors having an impact on travel. When we were staying at our timeshare villa in Orlando last month, this subject came up in several conversations. The 'Green Initiative' is about preserving the environment but it's also about saving $$. So, there is a valid concern about the possibility of cutting corners. Thanks for setting the record straight on towels.
Towel changing on demand might be more symbolic than beneficial. The same number of employees are needed to ensure that the clean and reused towels are in the room; the hotel's washers and dryers run continuously regardless of guest's behavior (have you toured any Marriott property's laundry? I have--liike an engine room on an ocean liner!); the need to clean your room exists with or without towel swapping; and Concieirge level step-on bathmat rugs (where available) are changed daily (or supposed to be -- perhaps no longer).
Some Courtyard hotels have independently replaced cotton with bamboo products--towels, etc, in the hope they will dry more quickly. Perhaps yes but they are not very absorbent. Towels need to be able to dry you off and needing two instead of one defeats the purpose of being environmentally conscious.
A recent article (that I can't find at the moment to cite) relayed advice from a US female flight attendant who said that she never walks barefoot in her hotel room since she feels that the carpeting is the most dangerous place! She wears footwear at all times when in a hotel room. You've no doubt noticed that room rug cleaning is very occasional and vacuuming is not every day (required to be but often is not). You often see room rugs being shampooed after a guest leaves--perhaps on a schedule or because of a spill. Not to keep you happy and healthy.
So, best advice: stay well by washing your hands as much as you can. Towels and rugs--that's entirely another matter.
Knowing this about the towels at hotels is like not wanting to see the kitchen at a restaurant. And I'm not convinced that by throwing the towel on the floor or hanging it from the shower curtain rod, is saving or costing any more or any less. But now, I have to wonder if housekeeping simply picked my towel up, re-folded it, and put it back in the stack? Let's hope that housekeeping staff at all hotels are as conscientious as those at RI Sacramento. Recently, there was a travel tip posted by someone who completely cleans the room with clorox wipes and brings shower shoes for wear around the room and in the bath. Maybe they're on to something. Happy travels.