The guest experience


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Innovative Trends for Creating a More Personalized Stay

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The guest experience

  1. 1. The Guest Experience: Innovative Trends for Creating a More Personalized Stay As competition for business and leisure travelers intensifies, hotels are seeking to provide custom experiences and amenities targeted to groups such as millennials, baby boomers, women and business travelers. The idea is to build strong brand identities, create loyalty and adapt to popular attitudes toward the environment, personal health and well-being, and technology. These perks have reinvented the arrivals experience, in-room amenities, and meeting and event spaces. Here are some of the innovative ways hotels are attracting these guests.
  2. 2. At Arrival As soon as guests pull up to Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, they notice one particular perk: preferential treatment for drivers of electric or hybrid vehicles. Appealing to eco-conscious travelers, Fairmont began a program this year that installed charging stations for electric vehicles at properties in the United States, Canada and other international locations. One of its properties, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Quebec City, offers complimentary parking for hybrid and electric cars. To add credibility to the initiative, the luxury brand partnered with the World Wildlife Fund in its program. 2
  3. 3. Do a hotel’s environmental efforts make a difference to you? 39% No, I’m more concerned with factors such as room rate 37% No, but I expect them to have some programs in place 24% “Fairmont Hotels & Resorts works with WWF to raise awareness among policymakers, guests, employees and suppliers of the need for business and industry to lower emissions. We firmly believe travel and sustainability go hand in hand,” said Sarah Dayboll, Fairmont’s manager of environmental affairs. “We believe our encouragement of the use of plug-in hybrid electric and battery electric vehicle adoption helps stimulate market transformation.” Yes, I look for hotels with a commitment to sustainability The effort is part of Fairmont’s own pledge to reduce its hotels’ operational CO2 emissions by 20 percent below 2006 levels by the end of 2013. The brand also developed an energy and carbon-management program. Kimpton Hotels also offers free and discounted parking for hybrid and electric vehicles, an initiative that it has kept even as more people have started driving them. “Those are the sort of things that we do,” said Kimpton Chief Operating Officer Mike DeFrino. “The hybrid parking idea was, let’s try to identify those people and applaud that. But there’s also a business case for that. If you’re a hybrid driver and there’s an opportunity to stay somewhere with free parking, you might choose that. Although it wasn’t intended this way, it probably swayed some buying decisions.” 3
  4. 4. Providing Amenities for Different Lifestyles When individual properties develop a successful amenity program, Kimpton has been known to expand it to its entire portfolio. An example is a bicycle-share program that started 10 years ago at Hotel Marlowe in Cambridge, Mass. The bike friendly city actually required the hotel to offer bicycles for guest use, but the program was so popular that other general managers noticed and wanted to bring it to their properties. Kimpton made it a brandwide program this summer, and the launch was so successful that Kimpton is ordering more for next summer. “We think we’re the first brand to say, everyone has bikes that are free for use,” DeFrino said. “Obviously, it’s not for everybody, and not every business traveler is going to use it, but invariably it puts a smile on their face. Maybe they don’t use it this time, but they’ll make a note and use it next time. Once they jump on and take it for a spin, they can’t say enough about it. It gets written about in the comments all the time. We think that makes for good experiences, and we think it makes for good customers who want to keep trying things at our hotels and restaurants.” 4
  5. 5. Stress-Free Business Travel At the luxury Langham Place, Fifth Avenue in New York, the hotel will press five items of clothing upon arrival, a service business travelers in particular appreciate. “We first introduced this amenity because we listened to what our guests were telling us and specifically observed the habits of the business travelers at our hotel,” said Francois-Olivier Luiggi, general manager of Langham Place, Fifth Avenue. “In the past, business travelers often came in the day before their meetings, giving them enough time to prepare. Now, very often, business travelers arrive just in time to quickly refresh and then head out to a meeting or a business dinner. We give them the option of free pressing of five items right when they check in, with the assurance that their clothes will be delivered back to them within one hour.” Luiggi noted that female business travelers in particular appreciate the service and can time it with a trip to the hotel’s Julien Farel Express Salon, where a blow-out, manicure and pedicure take about an hour. 5
  6. 6. Staying Ahead of Technology Needs While pressed clothing is truly a luxury amenity, one perk that travelers are demanding at all types of hotels is free Wi-Fi. Younger travelers in particular view it as a must-have for any hotel stay. A recent Wall Street Journal survey of business and leisure travelers in the United States found that free Internet access is the most important hotel amenity for travelers. Guests use their hotel Internet access primarily to check and send email, the survey found, but they also spend time looking at news online or using news apps on a mobile phone. Hotels also want to cater to their guests’ technology needs. At Ocean House in Rhode Island, every guest room comes with an iPad. The historic hotel added the modern perk in April 2013 to invite guests to interact with its other amenities in a different way, offering easier access to things such as ordering room service or scheduling luggage pick up, according to President and Managing Director Daniel Hostettler. It also caters to guests’ news needs by offering apps for The Wall Street Journal and other news sites. Guests who are not as digitally inclined still have the option of reading a print version of the newspaper. 6
  7. 7. Will you stay at a hotel if it does not offer free Wi-Fi? Do a hotel’s environmental efforts make a difference to you? 39% No, I’m more concerned with factors such as room rate 37% No, but I expect them to have some programs in place 24% Yes, I look for hotels with a commitment to sustainability While providing free Internet access is considered a must-have amenity at many hotels, including Hawks Cay Resort & Villas in the Florida Keys, General Manager Sheldon Suga acknowledged it can be difficult to manage the bandwidth so a handful of users do not dominate the network, slowing Internet speeds for other guests. He said the hotel is considering switching to a model that offers a certain amount of bandwidth for free, then requiring a fee for premium use. “Hotels are challenged with this,” he said. 57% 26% No way 17% Yes, but only if my company pays Yes, I consider that a worthwhile expense 7 Even in a high-tech hotel environment, operators are still offering guests complimentary newspapers. Nearly 75 percent of travelers said news consumption is an important part of their daily routine, and two-thirds said they value the service. Hotels that want to target baby boomers should note that older travelers who are used to physically reading the paper particularly appreciate the service. But as smartphones and iPads proliferate, hotels are adapting by providing digital news options to meet guests’ needs. For 60 percent of travelers, the survey found mobile is the primary way they receive their news.
  8. 8. In Room Hotel minibars have a reputation as being pricey indulgences. But hotel operators are rethinking how they present in-room drinks and snacks. Hyatt’s Andaz hotels offer free minibar items such as nonalcoholic beverages and snacks. The Peabody Orlando—which converted to a Hyatt Oct. 1—stocks its minibars with items that guests request. With Feed the Fridge, guests preorder packages of snacks and beverages to be stocked in the guest room before they arrive or anytime during their stay. The idea behind it is to give guests the opportunity to customize their stay with options rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Families can order the Night at the Movies Package, filled with popcorn, candy and sodas, or have snacks to take with them to theme parks or other attractions. For business travelers, the Tiny Bubbles package with Champagne, brie and crackers is designed for celebrating successes with colleagues or clients. “Before Feed the Fridge, we had an entire department dedicated to minibar management,” said John Askew, food and beverage director at the Peabody Orlando. “In order to keep minibars for 1,641 guest rooms stocked, we had to maintain an unbelievable amount of stock. If an item wasn’t moving, you could find yourself with cases of expired soda and snacks. Feed the Fridge allowed us to better manage our resources while also delivering a valuable service to our guests. Plus, the savings of Feed the Fridge allow us to be more competitive in pricing, and ultimately sell more, because we know today’s guests aren’t interested in the premium prices of a traditional minibar.” 8
  9. 9. Offering More Than Just a Snack Other snacking opportunities target specific demographics as well. For families, Four Seasons Hotel Boston invites children to Raid the Fridge! For three hours on Saturday night, children can choose a complimentary late-night snack to take back to their room. The idea is to surprise guests by presenting a fun side to the brand, which has a formidable reputation as a luxury property. About 20 children attend each week and are welcome to come in their pajamas. “We have a large number of families visiting each weekend, and we wanted to offer something fun, exciting, engaging and unique,” General Manager Bill Taylor said. “The greatest measure of success for us is the positive feedback from our valued guests. In this instance, the feedback has been tremendous across the board.” 9
  10. 10. Pet Services Amenities for pets have become popular as more people are traveling with them. But for over-the-top pet pampering, the Trump Pets program offers unique creature comforts. It includes perks such as plush dog beds, dog-walking services, in-room pet dining, toys and a map with dogfriendly parks. Trump SoHo New York will serve pet meals on embossed placemats. The program also is offered at Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago and Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. “Our goal is to provide the most customized guest experience in the industry, and with so many people traveling with small- to medium-size dogs, a program like Trump Pets was a natural,” Trump Hotel Collection Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Lisa Potts said. “We collect and analyze guest preferences via our Trump Card Privileges Program and learned that an increasing number of guests prefer to travel with their dogs. Accommodating the family pet at our properties allows guests more freedom to travel. We’ve had a tremendous response to the program and plan to build on it in the future.” 10
  11. 11. “I think some people just intuitively like the privacy of their room when they travel,” said Omni Chief Marketing Officer Tom Santora. Omni began the program more than a decade ago but recently enhanced it by asking loyalty members their preferred exercise programs, such as spin classes, pilates or yoga. The hotel’s loyalty ambassador then researches the best classes in the neighborhood and can recommend them upon arrival, along with a schedule. Supporting Healthy Minds and Bodies Travelers want to stay healthy on the road, which means continuing a workout regimen. Not everyone feels comfortable using the fitness center, however. Women traveling alone may not feel safe working out early in the morning or late at night when the space may be nearly empty. Some women would rather have a private workout. Hotels are meeting this need in several ways. The James New York offers a women-only rooftop yoga program twice a week. Westin sells designated fitness rooms that come with a treadmill or other exercise equipment. And Omni Hotels & Resorts offers members of its Select Guest loyalty program a Get Fit Kit, in which guests can request complimentary weights, a yoga mat, stretch mat or other equipment to be present in the room at check-in. Weaving the amenity into the loyalty program means Omni can see which guests are using it. Santora estimated that about 8 percent of guests request the fitness kits, mostly people between ages 35 and 55, and the majority are women. Feedback from guest surveys has shown the program to be popular. “It’s those comments that lead us to keep the Get Fit Kit,” he said. “You can imagine every hotel having 10, 15, 20 kits is not an inexpensive proposition. It’s about taking care of your best customers and allowing them to customize their stay.” 11
  12. 12. Wellness encompasses more than working out. JW Marriott hotels saw an opportunity to incorporate healthy living while transforming its turndown experience for a particular demographic: VIP guests. “It’s one of those moments in the experience where you capture guests and can do something more unique,” said Mitzi Gaskins, vice president and global brand manager for JW Marriott. The new nightly experience rotates the traditional bedside chocolate (in this case from Astor Chocolates) with two custom amenities: an aromatherapy oil and a bedtime snack bar with natural ingredients intended to promote sleep. JW Marriott partnered with Aromatherapy Associates—a company that blends custom oils for royal families—on an oil blend called “Revive.” It may not sound like a nighttime amenity, but the oil actually is intended for the following morning, when the scent of pink grapefruit, rosemary and juniper berry is intended to invigorate guests. It brings the spa to the guest room, Gaskins said. There’s also a retail component, with the oil available on the brand’s retail site, The other nighttime amenity is the Dream Bar, a snack developed by noted nutritionist Keri Glassman. Ingredients such as rolled oats, blueberries, cashew butter, almonds and quinoa make guests feel relaxed by stimulating serotonin and fighting inflammation. “We’ve always found with our guests that they are focused on overall wellbeing,” Gaskins said. “These guests love a very balanced life. They want to do the same things on the road as they do at home. Offering the experiences helps add value to their trip. We feel that that’s where we can create loyalty.” 12
  13. 13. Meeting and F&B Spaces To capitalize on the farm-to-table dining movement, hotels are planting entire gardens and farms on their properties. One of the largest initiatives is Grande Lakes Orlando’s Whisper Creek Farm, a 7,000-square-foot fruit and vegetable garden with an adjoining 6,000-square-foot outdoor event space that opened in October 2012. The produce and herbs are used in restaurant dishes, beverages and spa treatments, and guests can peruse the Primo Organic Garden and even pick and taste the products. Future additions to the farm include a chicken coop, composting and a communal fire pit. For events, Whisper Creek can arrange family-style meals of seasonal menus served at long communal tables for groups of as many as 250 people. For more intimate events, groups of 12 can sit at a handcrafted wooden chef’s table. 13
  14. 14. “We’ve launched Whisper Creek Farm with an eye toward guests who are interested in learning about where their food is sourced,” Grande Lakes Orlando Vice President and Managing Director Jim Burns said. “Even on a rustic farm, Grande Lakes Orlando provides a fine sense of craftsmanship and quality that ensures every experience at the resort is luxurious.” Hotels without expansive tracts of real estate also are catering to the growing foodie demographic. The Westin New York Grand Central, a hotel in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, has a rooftop garden that grows produce and herbs used in the hotel’s food and beverage service. On a tour of the garden, which consists of raised beds, Executive Chef Brian Wieler said guests are more savvy about where their food comes from and appreciate that the journey from the soil to their plates was as long as an elevator ride. He has plans to expand the garden. 14
  15. 15. Creating a Multi-Media Experience Screening rooms are becoming a hot amenity at hotels across the country— not just in Hollywood. Instead of one-size-fits-all meeting spaces, hotels such as Chicago’s theWit and Miami Beach’s Delano offer theater-quality media rooms for business presentations and social events. Delano created its 800-square-foot Media Room in late 2012 during a renovation. Executives noticed other hotels creating media-screening rooms but wanted to make sure the space they added could be used for multiple purposes. So the interior designers gave it a residential feel while adding the luxurious touches, such as chandeliers, that tied it into the rest of the hotel. The 20-person room features an 85-inch screen and state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment. The project cost about $500,000 including the audiovisual equipment and buildout, according to JP Oliver, Morgans Hotel Group regional vice president. “It’s very productive for us and a great amenity,” Oliver said. “It’s been a very good ROI on the project so far.” The room is in use about 75 percent of the time, he said, an increase over the typical industry average of 60 percent. Guests have been creative with its use. Directors have screened films for potential investors, corporate CEOs on vacation will use it for videoconferencing, and this spring a sports agent hosted an NFL draft-day party for three of his clients. One group used the space for a sushi-rolling class, with an overhead camera projecting the instructor’s work onto the screen rather than the traditional method of using an overhead mirror. 15
  16. 16. Do you consume news differently when traveling? The Wall Street Journal The Wall Street Journal The Wall Street Journal “We’ve seen unique utilization of the space,” Oliver said. “It’s been a tremendous surprise.” rd y Ke 43% Ca Yes, I read the print newspaper since it is provided free with my room or in lobby 35% No, I still read the newspaper online or in print, just like at home 22% Yes, I am more likely to read it on my smartphone or tablet since I’m on-the-go What social media sites do you use for news while traveling? 73% 22% 3% 2% 16 DoubleTree Hotel, theWit, has a private, luxury theater dubbed SCREEN. The room offers seating for 40 on seven levels, along with cocktail tables throughout and an adjoining reception area. The hotel invested in projection and content-security measures that meet Hollywood and Digital Cinema Initiative standards, and it has succeeded in attracting high-profile corporate groups. Recent bookings include the Chicago Blackhawks, which hosted screenings of playoff games for Wirtz Beverage VIPs when the team played away games. Sony Pictures and InTouch magazine booked a sneak preview of “Burlesque” for VIP advertisers, decorating the space with pink lighting and boas on the reclining chairs and serving cosmopolitan cocktails. Warner Bros. used the room for a sneak preview screening of “Sherlock Holmes” that fans could win entry to by searching around the hotel for clues.
  17. 17. Conclusion The practice of designing amenities for specific demographics is a trend that likely will continue as hotel brands try to differentiate themselves from the competition and attract new travelers. Hotels are investing sums both large—for media rooms and multiacre gardens—and more modest—for custom-stocked minibars and the daily newspaper. “I don’t find that guests keep expecting us to throw more stuff at them,” Kimpton’s DeFrino said. “I think their reaction is always such delight and surprise. I don’t think they’re expecting it. We cast a fairly wide net as a brand. This is one of the ways that we try to appeal to an audience that’s diverse. We will continue to try to think of new ways people will reestablish or continue to have a relationship with us.” The perks instantly speak to various segments of travelers and make them feel like valued customers. It follows that the amenities can be leveraged to create loyalty that will drive guests back to the brand in the future. Whether your guests are traveling for business or pleasure, you can satisfy everyone’s interests with It offers a full spectrum of daily news covering everything from global events, business & finance to sports, travel and entertainment. To see how could benefit your property, click here to watch a short video. To request further information, click here. 17 The industry leader in curated business news. Serving more than 5 million senior executives, thought leaders and industry professionals, SmartBrief is the leading online publisher of targeted business news and information by industry. By combining technology and editorial expertise, SmartBrief filters thousands of sources daily to deliver the most relevant industry news in partnership with more than 180 trade associations, professional societies, nonprofits and corporate entities. Visit for more details.
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