High-end guests expect more personalization
14 JANUARY 2015 7:04 AM
Luxury brands are responding to the increasing demand of their guests with more unique, curated and personalized experiences on and off property.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—With high-end rates come high-end expectations, and major luxury brands are responding with a variety of perks, fringe benefits and other personal touches to make guests feel valued.
Some examples include one-on-one walkthroughs at check-in, unique off-site experiences and tailored food-and-beverage offerings—to say nothing of an increasing array of all-inclusive packages.
“We have an overall philosophy of getting to know our guests,” said Rick Riess, managing director of the 250-room Montage Laguna Beach.
The hotel employs four guest-service workers with that goal in mind.
“When people check in to our hotels, we have a front-desk person walk with them to the room and check them in with an iPad, getting to know them in a very non-questioning way,” he said. “We also have a very wonderful computer system that can track their likes and dislikes—whether they like a particular server in the restaurant or a specific bottle of wine—any employee can access that information.”
The return on investment for such offerings does not always come down to money, Riess said. It is measured in guest satisfaction scores, aggregate online reviews and return business. Of the hotel’s business, 38% of it is repeat, an increase over recent years, he said.
“We probably are heavier-staffed than most and spend a little more, and when we do our benchmarking and compare our staffing guides to others, we are almost universally higher than other 5-star properties,” Riess said. “I can’t boil down exactly what the ROI is, but from talking to our guests, we think it’s well worth it.”
Katherine Melchior Ray, VP of luxury brands for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said the Park Hyatt brand is committed to delivering sophisticated service that is personalized and in tune with each guest’s preferences.
“For example, if a guest arrives at Park Hyatt New York and tells us that he or she loves classical music, the hotel will make note of that information and perhaps offer that guest a behind-the-scenes tour of Carnegie Hall (a partner of Park Hyatt New York), along with VIP tickets to a show,” she said. “Or, if a guest arrives to Park Hyatt Milan and we know he or she loves learning about food and wine, we will share information about our Masters of Food & Wine series and invite that guest to join the hotel on a truffle-hunting adventure in the hills of Italy, followed by a cooking class with the executive chef.”
Getting to know you
The trick to success, sources said, is learning about guests before they walk through the hotel’s doors. When equipped with this kind of information, a luxury hotel can ensure each guest has a personalized and memorable stay.
“As a company, we have taken a lot of time to learn about the needs of today’s luxury guests. We know they want a full sensory and intellectual experience; they seek a journey full of surprises and enriching twists; they are curious about the process behind a finished product or service; and they are genuinely interested in exploration,” Melchior Ray said.
For example, through Park Hyatt’s partnership with Switzerland-based luxury watch maker Jaeger-LeCoultre, the company offers guests a “rare and intimate look behind the process of designing multimillion-dollar watches,” she said.
Dawn Truemper, area director of sales and marketing for the 151-room St. Regis Atlanta, said its personalized service includes offering an “on-the-go” Georgia Power Bar, crafted by the hotel’s pastry chef; providing a business-centric roomservice menu, which includes phone chargers and tailored Sid Mashburn suits for the next day’s meeting; and featuring tech-enabled cabanas at the Pool Piazza, complete with iPads and Bluetooth connectivity.
“We place a large importance on connecting with our guests on a personal level, and by providing them with options of amenities that are perhaps unexpected, we are able to offer a degree of service that we believe brings guests back and creates loyalty,” she said. “Our staff is accustomed to the luxury traveler, and our team understands that they expect over and above little details, not just impeccable service.”
The St. Regis Atlanta butler service also is available to travelers staying in its 31 suites. This includes complimentary shoe shining, garment pressing and in-room beverage service.
The all-inclusive experience
All-inclusive resorts are not immune to the increasing demands of high-end travelers.
Kathy Halpern, VP of sales and marketing for Miami-based Palace Resorts, said each of its eight distinctive 5-star all-inclusive properties in Mexico and the Caribbean revolve around a personal connection with guests.
“Today’s luxury travelers are savvy and are seeking value, personalized service and the highest caliber amenities and attractions,” she said. “Luxury demands have gradually increased for both leisure and incentive travelers. More and more, travelers seek value along with their luxury experience.”
For example, its signature property, Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancun, began offering complimentary tickets to star-studded concerts ranging from such artists as Usher to The Beach Boys as part of the resort’s all-inclusive offering.