During the pandemic, I became much more conscious of the heroism of our essential workers. What are the best ways to support housekeepers and other hotels workers? — MaryAnne G., Chapel Hill, N.C.
I went to people who work in the industry to hear how they'd like to be recognized.
Curtis Crimmins, once a concierge at five-star hotels and now the founder of a hotel booking startup called Roomza, said the best way to support front-line travel workers is to recognize them, pay them better if you're in the position to do so and try to stay with operators who appear to be doing those things.
You can also try supporting locally owned travel businesses. That may be staying at a bed-and-breakfast over a big-name chain, or spending an afternoon taking a cooking class to learn a regional dish, learning about a city's history on a walking tour or eating at mom-and-pop restaurants.
Tour guide Rebecca Grawl of DC By Foot, says: Book as early as possible. As certain areas of travel are still recovering from the pandemic, many continue to deal with staffing issues. Booking in advance alleviates stress on the people accommodating your requests by giving them more time to prepare. "We're spread really thin," Grawl says. "Last-minute bookings are going to be really hard to accommodate."
Also, "I encourage people to be flexible," Grawl says. With those staffing shortages, and busy travel rushes, places may seem more crowded or it may feel like you're getting help more slowly. Give employees a break from complaining about minor inconveniences and go with the flow.
One of the easiest ways to support the efforts of travel and hospitality workers is to acknowledge them in person.
"I know immediately we think about things that we can buy," says Atlanta-based travel expert Jewels Rhode, "but on a basic level, you can just show kindness and respect to them … thanking them, making eye contact."
Carol Whitaker, who has worked as a bartender at San Francisco International Airport since the 1980s, says, "They could just be grateful and thankful and leave them a nice tip."
But even in travel situations where tipping isn't mandatory, it's still appreciated. While flight attendants don't expect anyone to give them a gift, receiving a gift card (think Starbucks, Dunkin', Amazon) or something like candy is a pleasant surprise that can make a flight attendant's day.
A free alternative is to give a thank-you note. For example, "a handwritten note for the housekeeping staff would be nice," Rhode says. "Little things go a long way." If you have a few minutes and an internet connection, share your appreciation with the masses by writing a positive review about the person who helped you on sites like Yelp, Google Maps or Tripadvisor.
If you still need another nudge to give back: Showing gratitude is good for us mentally and physically, says Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist and host of the new podcast "Baggage Check." "It helps reduce loneliness, and it also gives you a sense of making a difference."