Creating a custom-fit guest experience
Anecdotally, it often seems like many independent hoteliers eschewed the brand side of the industry because they want to blaze their own trail. Or maybe independents just don’t play well with others. Regardless of where you fall, when it comes to addressing the guest experience, independent properties have freedoms and resources at their disposal the brands can only dream of possessing. Incidentally, by the time a brand rolls out a new program or policy, chances are it was first executed at an independent hotel.
Differences aside, though, we all have a vested interest in ensuring we consistently monitor the evolution in guest preferences and tailor our approaches to best meet those needs. As the old saying goes, “heads in beds bring money,” and guests who feel their needs aren’t being met will find another bed in another hotel.
As independents, we have virtually unlimited freedom to take the flexible, smart approach to navigate our way through the evolution of the industry. To give some insight and inspire ideas, let’s break it down into four key elements where guest preferences and needs are concerned.
This is an indispensable aspect of our industry regardless of property location or size. Guests want to feel like they’re away from home but comfortable enough to act like they are home. Adding an experience value point could act as the deciding factor for potential guests, and independent hotels often have a leg up in this department as they’re more easily able to establish unique identities. For example, creating a culture where a hotel is perceived as being supremely accommodating helps guest feel relaxed. And it doesn’t cost a penny to smile. You can also train the front-desk staff to ask guests questions about their travels. Simply inquiring “How is your day going?” or “Do you have anything interesting planned for your stay?” can help staff connect with guest in a meaningful way and improve a guest’s mood during their stay.
A great deal of research has been conducted on the major role colors play in affecting human emotions. For example, blue and yellow are often associated with waking up, which can be a good option for bathrooms. A blue with a modern matte or light blue can help guests start their day in a good mood. Grey is typically associated with feelings of calm or relaxation, so it’s a prime candidate for bedrooms to enable guests to feel comfortable and relaxed. A flat, light grey can bring light in during the day but help ease the guest at night for sleep.
This vital piece of the puzzle can improve the overall guest experience while providing a budgetary argument for implementing new technology-based tools and services. For example, most PMS systems today have mobile check-in giving the guest this luxury feel without the extra cost of a front desk. Using economical low-commission and user-friendly online travel booking engines helps the guest feel no time was wasted in reserving their stay. Many new OTAs and PMS platforms have two-way communication capabilities so guests shouldn’t have to call or go to the front desk. They can communicate directly from their application giving them a dedicated concierge.
While greater rate flexibility can serve as a key weapon in our arsenal, we must be exceedingly prudent when adding new expenses for experience so we don’t sabotage ourselves in the process. For example, when all the brands installed in-room coffee makers it became the new norm overnight and vendors immediately started selling these products in bulk. Generally speaking, the smart option for independent properties is to adopt the new amenity at a measured pace, gradually adding it to the business as needed. So, instead of buying coffeemakers, utensils, etc. for all your rooms, buy them for a small handful of rooms and sell those room at a premium. This allows you to monitor the demand and profit at a slower pace while still being budget friendly on the other room options and adding value to the guest experience.
While we, as independent hoteliers, have a wealth of freedom at our disposal – especially when it comes to catering to evolving guest needs by working on value-added elements like experience, technology, and being budget friendly – we have to be smart while we continue blazing our own trail.