*An earlier version of this report stated the webinar was sponsored by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. It was actually hosted and sponsored by the Wall Street Journal.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Providing a memorable experience is a critical part of enhancing a guest’s hotel stay and sparking bookings. In order to achieve that goal, however, hoteliers need to ensure they have a wide array of amenities offerings to suit millennials, baby boomers and the like, experts said last week during a webinar hosted and sponsored by the *Wall Street Journal.
Panelists during the webinar titled “The Guest experience: Innovative trends for creating a more personalized stay” highlighted several offerings their hotels are using to improve the guest experience: bike rentals, personalized turn down offerings, fitness and nutrition packages and more.
Mike DeFrino, COO at Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group LLC, said the company tries to appeal to a wide swath of customers, including those who are environmentally conscious. The company offers free parking to guests who use hybrid vehicles, for instance.
“We really think it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the business reasons for it,” he said.
The panelists said more guests are looking for health and fitness amenities at the properties where they stay. Lisa Potts, senior VP of sales and marketing for the Trump Hotel Collection, said this is an area where Trump can personalize a stay.
She said the hotels offer guests the option to borrow running shoes during their stay. If a certain guest is always asking for, say, a size 8 shoe, that preference is noted in his or her profile. If that same guest makes a reservation at another Trump-affiliated property, the guest will receive a note stating that his or her size 8 running shoes will be waiting in the room upon check-in.
Trump provides pre-programmed iPods as part of its “Travel Fit” program for guests, while Omni and Morgans Hotel Group also offer bike rentals for guests. Other panelists mentioned yoga mats are brought up to guestrooms for those who don’t want to go down to the exercise room.
“We obviously think things like this (bike offering) will drive bookings,” said Tom Santora, chief marketing officer and senior VP of sales at Omni Hotels & Resorts.
While guests often expect environmentally friendly options at hotels, they still appreciate the little luxury touches that come along with a hotel stay, said Mitzi Gaskins, VP and global brand manager for JW Marriott. That includes simple touches, such as good water pressure in the shower.
“Whether they want to be friendly to the environment, it’s important to have the touches of luxury,” she said.
Luxurious touches can also happen during the nightly turn-down service. More guests checking out of a hotel remotely has removed that last interaction hoteliers normally have with guests at the front desk, she said. This is an opportunity for staff at the various JW Marriott properties to leave little luxuries in the guest’s room, including nighttime snacks, aroma therapy oils, and so on.
“This is really our last touch point where we can make that lasting impression,” she said.
The panelists also touched upon technology offerings, including Wi-Fi.
Mike DeFrino, COO at Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group LLC, said the company has offered complimentary Internet access to members of its loyalty program since 2004.
“There is an expense along with it in that you give up some revenue, but we think we offset that,” he said.
As for the prospect of offering two tiers of Internet service, J.P. Oliver, regional VP of Morgans, is not a fan.
“I think it should be top shelf all the time,” he said.
Oliver said Morgans offers iPads in guestrooms that are loaded with magazines and newspapers. This might be the preferred way for guests to receive news, as Gaskins noted that fewer than 10% of guests at JW Marriott hotels ask for newspaper delivery to their rooms.
“This indicates to us that even the baby boomers are getting their news in other ways,” she said.
Meetings and events
Personalizing a stay is an important part of the guest experience and that should extend to meetings and events clients, the panelists said.
For example, Trump hotels will routinely use guestrooms as breakout space during meetings, Potts said.
“Getting creative with our (meeting) space has become an opportunity to personalize our space,” she said.
Potts said hoteliers who host meetings and conferences should take a long, hard look at their pre-function space. A lot of those areas are underutilized and could perhaps better be used for hosting exhibits, Internet cafes, vendor demonstrations and the like.
Regardless of the particular amenity offered, the panelists said hoteliers should think twice before attaching a fee to the offering. Potts said customers don’t want to be nickeled-and-dimed.