The Indian tourism ministry plans to wipe out the use of toilet paper in hotels in India, switching to water sprays and bidets. Clearly, this will not sit well with American tourists, or even Europeans, where bidets are found less often than in the past either at home or in hotels, or even with modern, western-raised Indians visiting family in the homeland.
The travel industry magazine Tour and Travel World reports M.D. Kapoor, general secretary of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurants Association of India, says the switch from western paper to eastern water is in response to “overwhelming demand” from hotel members. The responses were in a recent survey, part of the Indian hotel ministry’s new guidelines for reclassifying hotels with a class of service – the star system – three star, four star, five star.
Existing hotels will have until 2022 to overhaul their plumbing, but hotels now under construction or planned for the future must have sprays and bidets by 2016. The report mentions that the switch from paper to sprays and bidets will help save trees, but does not address whether the additional water use would have an even greater impact on the environment.
This decision to wipe out toilet paper also will not sit well for western-owned luxury chains such as Mandarin Oriental or Ritz-Carlton, or even the Indian-owned Taj hotels. Or with luxury tour operators such as Abercrombie & Kent, which help fill those five-star hotels with upscale tourists.
There are clear international requirements for a five-star designation, and toilet paper is one of them, so it will be interesting to see how this decision shakes out.
Recently, upscale tour operators in the US and Europe reported cancellations for trips to India, especially by women, in response to headlines about the rapes, kidnapping and killing of women in public, including on public busses, and including Western women tourists. Rape is not good for tourism, and the safety of women in public in India should be a higher priority than whether hotels use toilet paper or water sprays.
However, there are several parts of the new rules for hotels in India that all tourists will appreciate.
Beginning in April 2014, hotels in India must –
- display their star status prominently both outside the hotel and at the reception desk
- clearly mention which items are free and which are not, including whether breakfast is complimentary breakfast and toiletries provided. There should be no hidden cost.
- websites must spell out what facilities are provided only “on request” but are included in the room rent.
- hotels with four-star or higher ranking must provide complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities in rooms.
- hotels with three-star or higher ranking must provide an electric iron and an ironing board, a hair dryer, a mini-fridge and a safe in every room.
But no toilet paper. Sigh. Just more things to remember to pack when I travel.