Hotels often know the overall profile of their guests: business travelers, families, tourists on a city break, couples looking for a romantic escape etc - but many hotels assume that knowing the purpose of a guest's trip tells them all they need to know about the experience that guest is looking for. But does it really?
Over the past few years I've stayed in many "business" hotels across the US in places like Waltham MA and Garland TX, places, some might argue, one would only go to for a client meeting. Many of these hotels ticked the boxes for me as a business traveler in terms of having fast wifi and a large desk in the room to work. But when I read recently in Entrepreneur magazine a list of top gripes business travelers have with their hotels, the list sounded all too familiar.
The gripes included no bath. Perhaps business hotels assume this isn't important but I know from experience that there's nothing like a soak after a long flight hauling hand luggage stuffed to the limit, a computer bag and a briefcase full of heavy files. Another complaint was not enough power sockets to charge laptop, work and personal phones and laptop. I always found it particularly annoying that there weren't enough power sockets by the bed when, after a long day travelling or in meetings, and my laptop out of juice, instead of propping myself up in bed to work, I had to sit at the desk because it was the only place within reach of a socket.
The article also mentioned the lack of local papers. I guess hotels assume business travelers aren't concerned with local news - but if you're meeting clients its often good to know about local sports events and political gossip.
Thinking about it, what struck me was that many of these gripes are borne out of misconceived assumptions regarding what kind of experience guests want: they're business people, so they'll only want to work at the desk, they'll just want a quick shower in the morning before rushing to meetings - people on business trips don't have time for a bath. Well, it seems, some of them do.
And it's not just business hotels, I was recently at a hotel in Medellin where the majority of the guests were families. I planned to spend the afternoon working on the terrace by the pool but unfortunately I had to quickly abandon the lovely terrace as there was only wifi in the bedrooms. At first I shrugged, thinking I'm not their target market, but then I thought about a statistic I'd heard that a third of kids and teenagers now have portable internet devices. Now I'm not advocating that kids (or their parents) spend their family holidays glued to a screen - but it might avoid some family arguments if the teenager doesn't feel cut off from their online community, or if the parents who, under pressure from work, have to log on to the office for a bit can do so from the terrace as their kids play nearby. And let's not forget people love to brag that they are tweeting or posting on Facebook direct from their sun lounger by the pool - so it helps get word out about the hotel too! But all these factors seemed to have bypassed this hotel.
City hotels often assume that there is no need for food and drink options within the hotel given the vast array of restaurants in the city. But one hotel we stayed at in Madrid really impressed us by finding a unique middle ground. The hotel didn't have a restaurant, but it did provide take-out menus and reception was able to call and make an order for us and charge it to the room. At 6pm, when most of the restaurants in Madrid are closed, and caught between an early brunch and an 11pm dinner reservation with friends (Madrileños are notorious for eating extremely late) this was an absolute Godsend. It was a very small investment for the hotel, the cost of a telephone call, but we left that place raving about the wonderful service.
Of course, we're not saying just because they don't have baths, or local papers, or wifi, or food options 24 hours that business, family and city hotels are doing a bad job. Of course not. However, it's in the details that hotels really differentiate themselves from the competition.
But a hotel needs to measure just how important these things are to guests before it starts taking costly measures like installing baths in every room (which we know isn't very environmentally friendly!) or installing high speed internet in every inch of the property. The question is, on what basis are hotels making these decisions? Are they even asking guests what they want or just making assumptions based on their general profile?
At Hotel Trail, we believe every hotel has the capacity to offer their guests the experience they really want for the price they're paying, and it starts with listening to guests and thinking intelligently about what they're saying. When hotels really know what their guests want, they can often come up with low cost solutions that can make a huge difference to how satisfied the guest is with the experience - like buying a few local papers, or extension leads or getting a few take out menus. Simple things that, if you really know your guests, can have a huge positive impact both for your guests and for your hotel.