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Keep Your Hotel From Slipping into The Twilight Zone

photo by: Twilightzone.org

photo by: Twilightzone.org

Imagine this: You’ve been traveling all day. Your plane has landed… and thank goodness the airline didn’t lose your luggage. After waiting in line for what felt like forever, you’ve picked up your car, gotten to your hotel and parked. The nice hotel staff takes your credit card and ID. After she has registered you, the front desk clerk hands you a lovely brass key, announces that “you’ll be in room 433 tonight,” and directs a bell boy to carry your luggage – because there’s no elevator in the hotel.

You get into your room and you find that that’s not the end of the surprises:

 

There’s no TV.

Where are the wi-fi directions?

And what do you mean there’s a bathroom down the hall?

 

Take a Gut Check

While the above description might feel like a nightmare or an adventure from the Twilight Zone, take a moment and really think about how you (might have) felt during the hypothetical situation:

Disappointed?

Frustrated?

Angry?

Ready to go find another hotel (that is, if you can get bars for your cell phone in this place so you can start searching)?

That’s how customers feel when they check into a hotel that isn’t “current” or “modern” – at least according to what their definition is of what their kind of hotel is or should be.

The Twilight Zone drew on and reflected people's fears. Title graphic by CBS/Rod Sterling

The Twilight Zone (1959-64) drew on and reflected people’s fears of the time. Title graphic by CBS/Rod Sterling

Who’s Your Customer?

Of course each hotel has a target market – an ideal customer segment their hotel is best designed to serve. Those customer segments then have different ideas about what they want in a hotel: from the prices they’re willing to pay, to the amenities that “should” be included in the room rates, to the types of services available in the hotel (ie: full service restaurant, room service, mini bar).

“Guests overall strongly agree that they would be willing to pay much more for significantly improved services such as Internet connectivity, comfortable beds, and responsive employees,” a Gallup poll suggests.

“Luxury and upper upscale customers consider the look and feel of the hotel as one of the most important factors for first and repeat visits. They tend to rely on their own observations about a hotel, rather than others’ recommendations, when booking a stay.”

Once a hotel has met the minimal requirements of a “nice, clean, quiet hotel room” though, guests do pay attention to what’s readily available to them. Ok, yes, in the nightmare scenario above, you had a bed and a clean room… So what was the problem?

What DO Hotel Guests Really Want?

The problem is that when people check into your hotel, they don’t just expect a bed.

They are replacing their lodging needs. Normally, they “lodge” at home.

Your guests are accustomed to what they have at home. They aren’t at home right now – they’re someplace else – and staying at your hotel. But what they are accustomed to having still stands.

They likely have a TV at home.

They likely have a phone (or cell signal) at home.

They have a bathroom that they don’t have to share with 10, 15 or 20+ strangers at home.

What people typically have at home is your real, bare minimum threshold of what customers expect or want.

For example:

But where hotels can really connect with customers are in terms of what do their customers “aspire to?” What do they wish they had at home?

Screen capture of the 1983 Warner Brothers remake, Twilight Zone, via YouTube.com (John Lithgow shown).

Screen capture of the 1983 Warner Brothers remake, Twilight Zone, via YouTube.com (John Lithgow shown).

So for example, take a look at what your customers are reading. Are they seeing headlines like “10 Ways to Make Your Bathroom More Spa-like”? or “How to Make Your Bedroom Your Sanctuary?” If so – these are strong cues as to what they’re leaning toward: the types of baths and bedrooms that they may not have right now – but they’d sure like to have.

And a spa-like bath or a sanctuary-esque sort of hotel room would have been awfully nice after the long travel day described at the beginning of this article, wouldn’t it?

If your guests are surrounded by images of spa-like baths, and they are aspiring to have (in the not so distant future) is a bath that has a spa feel – then your spa-like baths in your guest rooms will only reaffirm that this is a place they want to be – because it already speaks to what they’re already starting to aspire to.

So don’t let your rooms become an episode of the Twilight Zone for your customers: take some time to invest in really understanding who your customers are, what they really aspire to or appreciate. Take time to get a fresh perspective on your rooms from someone who’s never been there.

  • Do the furnishings seem creaky?
  • Have the surfaces and bath fixtures lost their luster?
  • Does the bedding or window dressings seem dated?

Their room has to feel like a place that they would want to be: because if the customer doesn’t get that feeling during their stay, they certainly won’t voluntarily stay there a second time.

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Is Your Hotel Ready: Here Come the Baby Boomers!

Yes, yes, we’ve all been talking about Millennials and younger siblings, Generation Z.  But let’s not forget the Baby Boomers just yet. … And what they mean for your hotel business.

Baby Boomers, those born between 1946-64 are now between 52 – 70 years old. As Dave & Deb of the travel website, the planetd.com, say “Adventure is for everyone…. Baby Boomers are hitting the road and traveling further and longer. Senior travel is one of the fastest growing travel markets around the world.” More than half of these travelers are expecting to inherit part of the 1 trillion in wealth expected to transfer from their parents. 20% of Boomers anticipate more than $100,000, while one third anticipate inheriting between $25-100,000… And travel is their top thing they plan to do with those funds.

AARP says in its 2016 Boomer Travel Trends: “The vast majority of Baby Boomers are planning to drive, fly or set sail on leisure trips in 2016, with an average of 4 or 5 trips already in the works.”  “Boomers make up a large segment of the traveling public, and so it’s particularly important for the travel industry to be aware of what Boomers are looking for in their vacations going into 2016,” said Stephanie Miles, VP, Products & Platforms, AARP.

I know, when we think of “seniors,” so many of us think of our parents – old. Don’t move well. Slow. But remember, the Boomers have been rewriting what we as a society think is “average or normal” for a long time. And how we age – and how we want to spend our time in our later years – is really no different.

Baby boomers Genealogy Travel

Graphic Image: Who Do You Think You Are Show title slide, from TLC.com

And that includes travel. Travel is still high on the list for how today’s modern, healthy senior wants to spend their time. Here are some travel trends to pay attention to as you plan for your hotel:

  • Genealogical tourism. According to USA Today, genealogy is still the #2 most popular hobby in the US thanks to the ready accessibility of online archives and databased as well as the ever popular shows like Who Do You Think You Are and Finding Your Roots.

How can you take advantage of this market? If your hotel is near a noted genealogy library or research center (like The New York Public Library – listed on FamilyTreeMagazine.com’s Top 9 Genealogy Libraries to Visit Before You Die), make connections with these centers. Are there events coming up? Conferences? Are there things you can do to best serve their guests and their unique interests (ie: a shuttle to their library?)

 

  • Multi-Generational Tours.  Travel designed for grandparents to spend time with their kids and grandkids are on the rise. “The typical multi-generational traveler takes about 4.4 trips per year. Nearly 80% planned a vacation around a life event such as a birthday (50%), anniversary (40%), family reunion (39%), and wedding (37%).”  This target market of Boomers see travel as “a worthwhile expenditure” as it allows them to reconnect with their family.
Boomer Travel Trends

Graphic by AARP via hotelnewsresource.com

 

 

  • Educational Travel. While we normally think of “educational travel” as high school kids taking a class trip, or Gap-Year students off on an adventure, or even college students taking a year abroad, Seniors are mixing travel with their need to grow and learn more about the things they are interested in.

How can you take advantage of this? What’s near by that might be food for someone else’s passions? Are you in the heart of the Theatre District? Or perhaps are situated in an art lover’s paradise? Maybe your hotel is near a famous baseball stadium that die hard fans often make a pilgrimage to?

  • Bucket List Travel. Made popular by the 2007 movie of the same name (The Bucket List), more Boomers are making those bucket lists of places they have always wanted to go to  – and then doing it.
Boomer Travel Bucket List

Boomers are making travel a priority in 2016. Is your hotel ready? Photo by Forbes.com.

Catering to the Boomer Traveler:

  • Remember – more than half of all Boomers under 60 years of age are still working.  When they travel, one third of them still expect to be bringing some work along with them.  So technological access/capabilities are still important.
  • Make sure your baths are safe from slip and fall incidents.  While you’re planning any renovations, take the time now to ensure all of your bath surface areas have been treated/texturized to prevent falls (and potential lawsuits!).

 

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From Around the Web: Hotel Capital Expenditures – Is Your Hotel Reinvesting Yet?

Hotel Industry CapEx NYU Study

“After some very bad years following the 2008 financial collapse hotels feel safe to spend again.” Graphic Credit: skift.com via NYU School of Professional Studies

With the recovering economy, guests are starting to venture back out and travel again. That’s good news for hotels. But those same guests are pickier than ever about where they spend their lodging dollars — and many are turning to hotel review sites and photos to ensure the hotel they choose is actually one they’d like to stay at and enjoy.  So hotels are starting to renovate their properties.  “The expenditures in 2015 still reflect some deferred items from 2009 to 2014 as well as meeting new brand standards, ranging from new or enhanced in-room equipment to redesigned lobbies,” the report states.

“In addition to brand standards influencing capital expenditures, social media postings are resulting in additional capital expenditures as owners become more aware of and respond to criticisms and unfavorable comments. This effect became significant starting around 2012 and continues to increase.”

Are you making plans to renovate? In the middle of a renovation?

 

Read More!

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Why Are Bathrooms SO Important to Your Guests?

hotel guests travel with more bath products. Image by iheartorganizing.com

The burgeoning personal care product market has increased the number of products guests travel with. Image by iheartorganizing.com

We know that bathrooms are a potential gateway to negative hotel reviews. After all, comments about bathrooms appear 2.24x more often in negative comments from guests than in positive ones. Ranking right up there with overall room size and hotel location, baths can be considered a vital element in how your hotel guests evaluate your hotel.

So why ARE hotel guest baths so important?

In reviewing a discussion thread on Trip Advisor, “Hotel Bathrooms – Size Does Matter,” a few common themes kept reappearing:

Modern Travelers Carry More Stuff.  Granted historically this may have been divided by male/female, but overall we are seeing a growing trend as more men are investing in personal care products to hygiene/health/well-being as well as a growing population interested in physical appearance improvement.  Women on average use 12 products/men use average of 6 products daily.  So it’s safe to say that typically, people today have more “things” in the bath: toiletries, makeup, appliances like hair dryers, curling irons, shavers, etc.

Further emphasizing the need for bath design attention, as one reviewer notes, when you’re at home, you have places to put thing away, “everything you needed within reach.” This harkens to some similar sentiments we’ve seen in hotel guest reviews that guests want at least what they have at home… if not better.

 

Hotel bath size

Image from TripAdvisor.com

 

And as families travel together, the need for counter space to accommodate everyone’s personal care items only multiplies.

hotel bath size and function

Image from tripadvisor.com

 

Plus, as some reviewers note, spaciousness — as in extra counter space, drawers, shelving (all which allow a guest places to put their accoutrements) — contributes to the overall feeling of luxury, accommodation and roominess.

hotel bath size importance

Image from TripAdvisor.com

Granted, there are some people who will complain out of sheer sadism. There are also those who are/were confused about your offer/what they thought they would be getting. However, researchers at MIT’s Sloan Management school found that the majority of customers write bad online reviews out of sheer desperation – because they have typically tried to get resolution to their problems offline, first.

So how can you address this? Do an audit of your baths, with the modern traveler in mind.

  • If you typically have 2 people staying in your room, don’t assume everyone is “low maintenance.” Plan for the “high maintenance” traveller who brought their own hair dryer, a curling iron, and 22 beauty regime items.
  • Don’t assume your guests will keep their toiletries in their little “ditty bag” or “kit.” Some guests will like to spread some things out on the counter to be able to get to the items easily.
  • Now: put two people in the room.  Can you and one other person “get ready” in the morning easily? Comfortably? Are you both fighting for the outlets so he can trim his beard, while she curls her hair?
  • Now, throw in a monkey wrench: what about kids?

Go back to an earlier statement: hotel travelers expect at least as much as what they have at home. If the average American family is 2.54, and is used to having 2600 square feet, with 1.05 people per bath (or, virtually no one in a family having to share a bath anymore). Single family homes average 2.56 baths.

Not only are hotels “asking” guests to share baths with their fellow travel companion(s), but they are also typically doing it in smaller spaces. Even if it’s a short trip (1-2 nights), that could become uncomfortable quickly.

Consider redesigning your baths with your modern traveler in mind. You may be surprised at the impact to your hotel revenues and reviews!

Read More About Awesome Hotel Baths:

 

 

 

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The Relationship between Online Reviews, Hotel Baths and Increasing Hotel Revenue

Reviews are so vital to the hotel industry. Just take a few of these facts into consideration:

hotel baths and hotel reviews

Photo by businesshe.com

  •  A Trust You survey says hotel location, service and the quality of the rooms were the most important attributes that were mentioned more than anything else in hotel reviews.
  • Bathroom cleanliness and their size were imperative to the hotel reviewers.  Negative reviews are 2.24x more likely than positive wants to include some kind of comment about the bathroom.

 

 

Improve Hotel Baths Proactively

So while a good review might not necessarily include comments about the hotel bath, if a hotel manager or operations director is trying to proactively address potential issues in their hotel — trying to prevent bad reviews, there is no bigger hot button for people who write bad hotel reviews than the bath area.

What makes this even more important: a recent survey was conducted by Search Engine Land and found that 88% of people now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. People trust the reviews they read on hotel sites like Trip Advisor.

Other people’s opinions matter. A lot.

Improving Baths Can Improve Bottom Line

How much can those opinions matter to your hotel business?  Positive reviews on review websites, like TripAdvisor, can be extremely beneficial for our hotel customers.

  • According to hospitalityandresourcetools.com, just a one star increase in your online average review rating can increase your hotel’s income by 9%.
  • 360Commerce found that revenues rose by 56% for hotels that consistently generate good online reviews.

 

Read More About Revenue, Reviews and the Role of Baths:

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Hotel Spending Is Back: Is Your Hotel Ready?

Hotel spending trends

Photo by mentalfloss.com.

It’s official! People are traveling again!

While many of us have known for some time that travel is on the uptick, the recent quarterly earnings announcements confirm our own suspicions.

Recent quarterly sales findings in the retail sector have been disappointing, with executives from everyone from Macy’s to Nordstrom to Target reporting anemic sales figures, thanks in large part to the consumer market spending less on clothing.

But if people aren’t spending money on clothes then what are they spending their money on?

The consumer research arm of Thompson Reuters knows the answer: nesting and travel.

Consumers are foregoing clothes and investing in bigger ticket items: cars, homes and experiences – travel.

income at starwood hotels

The Starwood Hotels group is part of the larger, Marcus Hotels, brand. Image by Royal Contract Lighting (royalcontract.com)

And these figures hold true in earnings reports. Hotel owners Marcus (IHG, Starwood, Hilton, Pfister, Heidel House, Grand Geneva and Timber Ridge), Royal Caribbean Cruises and Boyd Gaming (who owns more than 20 casinos) show earnings growth rates of 344.4%, 185%, and 130% increases respectively.

This also holds true with what we’ve been seeing as of late. The tide is turning from buying “things,” and Millennials, plus the older end of Generation Z (and younger Gen Z who are influencing their Gen X parent’s spending decisions) are flexing their interest in travel.

Is your hotel ready for an influx of guests?

 

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From Around the Web: Smart Hotel Brands Are Already Thinking About Generation Z

Generation Z and Hotel Stays

Photo Credit: Skift.com

While thinking about your hotel planning, renovations and marketing, keep this important generation in mind. “Even though most of Generation Z is still in school, smart hospitality brands are already marketing to this highly influential group of future hotel guests to generate loyalty.”  (Skift)

 

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Branded Experiences: It’s More than Just a Logo

It’s no secret: Customers are wanting more than just utilitarian solutions when they travel. They want an “experience” – something new, unique or memorable.

Not that long ago, standardization was key to just about anything. Think of it like the “McDonald’s” formula: a customer could walk into a McDonald’s anywhere from Spokane to Sarasota to Stockholm… and it would be the same experience. The customer would know exactly what to expect. The McDonald’s experience would always be the same.

While setting high standards is important, and there are operational benefits to standardizing, cookie-cutter approaches to the customer experience aren’t the answer.

Think about it: Even McDonald’s adapts its international menus to appeal to local markets. J

Today, customers are delighted by brands that can still maintain their own personality – and yet give a nod to the local environment or community.

Just as McDonald’s might serve pasta at its Italian locations, so too are hotels finding that they can still be part of a brand family, and yet be unique by being highly connected to the local community.

So what does that mean for your hotel? Here’s a few ideas for breathing some personality into your specific hotel location, yet while still honoring any branding concerns you may have as well.

Art Exhibits in Hotels

Reach out to a variety of artisans – metal workers, large format sculptors, painters, ceramicists, etc. – your backyard to create an impactful connection to your local community. Photo Credit: productfind.net

The Ties That Bind: Creating a Community Connection

Not only are hotels are striving to be part of the local community, but they are also positioning themselves to be communities – destinations — themselves: Where the local bar or fabulous restaurant – the place to go – just might happen to be in a really cool hotel.

This sort of “presence” in a community means that even when you have empty rooms, you might still have locals coming to dinner, hanging out in your bar, or interested in a local weekend get away from home.

Another way hotels can honor their local roots – thus differentiating themselves from just being “yet another hotel” — is through art. Local art can infuse a hotel space with the culture and character than will entice visitors further into the community and bring guests back.

You don’t have to have a local artist like world renown glass artist Dale Chihuly in your backyard – or include large scale art installations into your hotel space.

An emphasis on a local art connection can be displayed on a smaller scale such as local art displayed in rooms or incorporating local artisans’ ceramic, glass or metal work in your fixtures, tile work, or furnishings in room.

It’s these little details that all add into creating a saturated branded experience for your customers that they will ever forget.

These connections and attention to detail reclassify your hotel from “a place to sleep,” to “THE place to go if you want to visit [a particular city.]”

Think Fusion.

hotel design trends

The “real” look of wood in a ceramic form. Photo Credit: South Cypress.com

When you’re rethinking interior designs for your hotel, take some sage advice from Chanel: “Fashions fade. Style is eternal.”

A foundation of high quality furnishings, rich textures, intensely saturated colors, and excellent lighting in your rooms and hotel space creates sensory and ephemeral luxury.

But don’t be afraid to set yourself apart: create your own fusion of classic style and local culture. Give a nod to your community’s local history, roots or influences.

A hotel by the shore could include sea glass inspired accent tiles into bathrooms. A heavily forested region might draw on ‘wood-like’ tiling that has a reclaimed, authentic feeling in baths or entryways. A statement color wall or textured wall materials (bamboo, rattan etc.) can make a huge impression.

Green Still Pays.

hotel design living green walls

Gorgeous “living walls” are another way many firms are bringing the outdoors inside. Photo credit: Ambius.com

Consumers are more environmentally conscious and savvy than ever. They understand there are lot’s of ways to save the environment – and it doesn’t take a lot of money to do it either. Hotels are wise to incorporate these tactics into their operations in such a way that also publicly affirms the hotel’s commitment to the environment. Sustainability can be included through:

  • local sourcing of suite furniture,
  • locally grown food for your hotel restaurant,
  • conscientiously thinking of and designing rooms with oversized windows to capitalize on natural lighting,
  • “green” plant life walls,
  • grey water recycling,
  • electronic/water-efficient faucets and tubs,
  • or “even supplying their own energy,”

The key is to create an identity for your hotel brand that shapes every element of the customer experience. Create a branded experience that resonates with both your own company values as well as honoring your local environment. Build that experience so that your customers will want to come back again and again.

Learn More About Creating Hotel Experiences

 

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Hotels: It’s Not Just a Stay – It’s an “Experience”

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Hotels: It’s Not Just a Stay – It’s an “Experience”
Four-Seasons-Hotel-New-York-bathroom

hotel bath design

Hotels have become more than a utilitarian solution to finding a place to lay your head for the night when you’re away from home.

Now competing with not just each other, or a favorite cousin’s extra bedroom, hotels are competing with the likes of Airbnb or couchsurfing.com. And like so many other companies in the new economy – modern hoteliers are trying to figure out exactly what consumers want.

We surveyed a range of news reports, studies and general articles to learn just that.

Experiences Mean More
Researchers have found that the Millennial generation (those born from 1980- 1996) value experiences over things. But don’t just feel that this just applies to only your Millennial customers. This can be applied in general to the over all hotel experience across all generations.

It used to be that “experiences” meant how well a hotel treated a guest: just a different word for customer service. Modern hotel design goes beyond the literal customer service sense of that definition and realizes that “experiences” include how your guests engage or interact with the actual room or hotel property.

The experience isn’t just human. It’s tactile. It’s visual. As ehotelier.com found, “luxury is not just about having a great looking interior, it has to feel good too.” From luxurious nap of your couches to the sheen of your bathroom fixtures, your customers “engage” and “relate” – judging your hotel every step along the way with every finishing, furnishing and floor covering.

 

Hotel Design

 

Add A Little Flair
The trend towards classic, quality furnishings, rich textures, and intensely saturated colors provides a foundation. But this also gives you an opportunity to judiciously use color, culture and local flair to create interest throughout your hotel.

Think of your hotel color palate like a wardrobe: picking rich, high quality foundational items allows you to “splurge” on interesting aspects that make your hotel memorable.

One way to keep your hotel from looking like a cookie cutter of every other well appointed hotel is to take inspiration from your locale or local culture.
• Highlight local artists in your rooms and entry areas.
• If you’re near the beach, pull nautical elements such as sand or driftwood or sea glass into your decorating scheme.
• Even locally sourced, luxury bath products specially created for your hotel, say “luxury” in a way that speaks to your guests senses.

A Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name
As ehotelier.com has previously shared, “hotels are becoming destinations themselves.” So destination planning isn’t just thought of in terms of a locale or city (ie: Orlando) but rather in terms of the specific experience or care a traveler wants in that city. So for example, a family might say they want to stay at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or Cabana Bay Beach Resort.

Travel has always been a series of personal choices. Today – it’s even more so – and so personalization is key.

Another example of the convergence between personalization and luxury is in the hotel bar or restaurant. Lousy hotel restaurants are a thing of the past. Now hotels are making sure their restaurants are unique, extraordinary restaurants that even locals want to make as their own hang outs and haunts, often bringing in big name chefs to anchor that experience with extraordinary fare.

Personalization then becomes the name of the game: getting to know your clients and delivering exactly the experience they want and need. Customers are looking for highly personalized, luxurious experiences that still evoke a sense of comfort – and are comforting.

A hotel restaurant, as an example, might take “experience” to the next level with extraordinary meals made with high quality, local ingredients, that can be created and served table side or in room – incorporating the local flair with custom, direct table side service that allows the patron to engage directly with the master artisan chef.

By taking just a few of ideas, find new ways to incorporate more “experience” into your hotel, its restaurant and bar, and you too will find guests craving your unique brand.

Read More About Hotel Experiences:

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