Keep Your Hotel From Slipping into The Twilight Zone

photo by:
photo by:

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:




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