The five-star experience


Establishing a hotel for the ages

by Colleen Keating

In the time since I began my career in this industry 30 years ago, hotels have become increasingly differentiated. From midscale, upper-midscale, upscale, upper-upscale to luxury, today’s traveler can find a hotel suited to virtually every travel occasion.

With many different types of travelers – the business traveler, the leisure traveler, or even the traveler who mixes the two together, for example – some wonder whether it makes sense to build hotels that cater to specific age demographics. Would it make sense to create a hotel for, say, retirement-age Baby Boomers or emerging Generation Z, whose older members are now of an age where they can travel independently, and choose and book their own hotel accommodations?

In principle, it’s a good question. In practice, I’m not so sure.

It’s certainly important to understand the unique opportunities and nuances associated with different generations of guests. However, my sense is that any hotel that caters too heavily to one primary age demographic may do so at the expense of other travelers.


To do so would be a major gamble. The simple and obvious question: What happens if aging or economic trends impact this group’s ability to travel? Dig a little deeper and increasingly complicated questions arise: What happens when the preferences of the targeted generational group evolve over time as they age? How would our industry or an owner of a hotel hedge against dating the property, almost instantly, from the day the front doors open?

The better strategy, in my view, is to adapt constantly and re-invent enthusiastically to keep up with trends, and remain relevant by offering a consistent guest experience regardless of age. It seems to me a hotel that offers true hospitality is already creating a deeply personal, inclusive experience for its guests, one that makes every guest under its roof feel comfortable and at home, whether that guest is 5, 35 or 65.

The fact is, true hospitality transcends one age group. Time and time again, we find that the (adult) guests in our hotels generally want the same things, regardless of age. These timeless, universal principles generally fall into the following areas:

Trust and Reliability

We know that value and location will always be among the leading drivers for bookings. An almost equally important consideration comes in the form of trust. Regardless of age, people want to feel like they know what they’re signing up for.

When guests are checking into our hotels, they’re trusting that their room will be spotless and safe. They’re relying on our rooms to provide a quiet, great night’s sleep, which should be the No. 1 priority of every great hotel, regardless of price point.

They also want to know that they’re getting a good quality food and beverage offering appropriate to the hotel segment. They want satisfying options that truly hit the spot, whether that’s a “grab-and-go” or full hot breakfast, after-work appetizers and drinks, or a celebratory fine-dining experience for a special occasion.

In addition, today’s guests also expect that the rooms will be technology-ready. While there are a range of different ways this comes to life across the different hotel segments, strong and reliable Wi-Fi is consistently the one thing everyone expects to work flawlessly fast. Whether you’re a road warrior catching up on important work emails, a wanderlust chronicling your latest adventure in a series of social media posts, or a family with children who want to use their mobile devices for entertainment, Wi-Fi is a must-have.

A Seamless Guest Experience

Hand in hand with reliability, all guests are looking for a welcoming, comfortable, and smooth stay.

From a guest journey standpoint, this starts with an easy, direct online booking experience, followed by a convenient and pleasant check-in experience, either through mobile check-in or by a front desk agent who greets the guest warmly and knows his or her preferences. It’s embodied by a hotel staff that knows its neighborhood and can point guests in the right direction. And, it’s tied in a bow with a fast, easy checkout.

Seamless also comes from a hotel’s ability to provide its guests with a sense of normalcy in their everyday routines. Certainly, some guests may be seeking completely unique, disruptive experiences by design. But most guests are looking for hotels to offer them the option of continuity in their everyday routines. That could be anything from access to fitness facilities, an appropriate assortment of bath amenities and accessories, or the ability to enjoy their favorite programming the way they likely do at home – on-demand with the ability to stream to their devices.

Personalized Service

An ideal service philosophy is one expressed not by conducting transactions with guests but via meaningful interaction with them. It’s why we invest heavily – in talent selection, training, and technology – to create opportunities to interact and build as personalized an experience as possible for each guest.

Ultimately, the test of a great hotel is the staff’s ability to provide consistency in the fundamentals that guests expect, while personalizing the experience to amaze each individual, regardless of age.

From the front desk to the concierge, the F&B team and housekeeping, the best hotelier is always paying attention to guests’ needs to delight them in real time.


Bringing together these timeless, universal principles (trust and reliability, a seamless guest experience, and personal service) is truly how to build a hotel for the ages.

Colleen Keating is chief operating officer, Americas, at InterContinental Hotels Group.


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