Lonely Planet Writer

Why 'Do Not Disturb' signs are disappearing from US hotels

If you’re a fan of using the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign to gain an extended period of undisturbed solitude in your hotel room, take note that change is afoot. Three hotel chains have instructed staff to conduct ‘welfare checks’ on rooms displaying the sign for extended periods, while Disney has changed the wording on the signs at four of its hotels around the Magic Kingdom to say ‘Room Occupied.’ The sign goes on to warn guests that “staff reserve the right to enter your room, even when this sign is displayed, for maintenance, safety, security or any other purpose.”

These signs could soon be a thing of the past. Photo by James Doberman

The three hotels involved are Boyd Gaming, Wynn Resorts and Hilton in Las Vegas, and the Disney hotels are the Bay Lake Tower, Grand Floridian, Contemporary and Polynesian Village resort in Orlando. It is anticipated that all other Disney hotels will introduce the “Room Occupied” signs in the near future. The Hilton group has instructed its staff to alert security if a ‘Do Not Disturb’ is displayed for more than 24 hours. It also advises guests at check-in that it reserves the right to visually inspect rooms every 24 hours to ensure the well-being of guests and confirm the condition of the room. “If service is refused for this length of time, a member of hotel management will check on the guest room,” it warns.

Online posters have reacted in dismay at these changes, expressing fears that hotel staff will enter the rooms unannounced to make safety and security checks. Others go so far as to say that the new policies and wording changes constitute an invasion of guests’ privacy. Are they right? Not so, according to industry experts also commentating online. Hotels have always had the right to enter a guest’s room for various reasons, they say, whether or not a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign is hanging on the door.

Staff may enter hotel rooms for safety and welfare checks. Image: Zvonimir Luketina / EyeEm

Hospitality experts say that there should be no real practical difference for anyone using these hotels. Hotels have no wish to upset guests with unwanted room visits, but they are alerting their guests to their policies for safety and legal reasons. So if you generally like to hole up in your room and keep the world at bay, be mindful that this may not be practical from now on.