Still searching for a unique hotel experience
Still searching for a unique hotel experience
29 JANUARY 2016 7:17 AM
I read so much about hoteliers saying they must deliver unique experiences for guests. I’m still waiting to experience that.
Hotel News Now’s pages are filled with hoteliers talking about delivering a unique guest experience. They speak of surprise and delight. They speak of experiential travel. They speak of personalization.
They speak of it.
Has anyone actually experienced it? I know I haven’t—and not for lack of trying. I’m not so sure the idea of a unique guest experience translates well on-property.
A few real-life examples to consider:
On a business trip
After reading stories of hoteliers using social media to engage with guests and respond to guest requests, I decided to give it a whirl. A few days before I would arrive at a hotel for a business trip, I tweeted at the hotel asking to put a kettle bell in my room so that I might work out in my room before bed. I wanted the privacy of an in-room workout because I figured the hotel’s fitness center would be packed as the hotel was sold out due to a couple city-wide events. I received a response, saying I should tweet at the hotel when I arrived. 
I did just that. I then received another response back, wishing me well during my stay. But what about my request? After a few tweets back and forth, it never did get fulfilled. I chalked it up to the hotel being too full and staff being too busy. And I was fine with that. But I also didn’t think the experience was personalized in any way. A few tweets back and forth does not make for a personalized experience. What would have been a personalized experience would have been the “surprise and delight” of my request being fulfilled. 
But I’m sure in a 1,600-room hotel, it would be a little difficult to surprise and delight just one guest. So I shrugged it off.
For my wedding
So I’d thought I try again at a much smaller hotel. I booked a room directly on the hotel brand’s website that my husband-to-be would stay in the night before our wedding. In the special requests box, I put the directive: “I am booking this room for my soon-to-be husband to stay in the night before our wedding. Please treat him well!”
My goal for this was not to have a free bottle of champagne in the room upon his arrival. Rather, I was testing to see if the front-desk staff would welcome him warmly at check-in and simply congratulate him on his upcoming nuptials. 
When I asked my husband if the staff had said anything to him about it or congratulated him, he said no. Here, I wasn’t sure if I could find an excuse. A simple “congratulations” certainly would have been a personalization to make my husband feel special, and it wouldn’t have taken away from staff resources.
Putting it into practice?
The above are just two of my personal experiences. As I sit here and write this blog, I am trying to think of a hotel stay that left me walking away feeling like I was a person and not a number making up an occupancy percentage.
I can’t think of one.
I’m left wondering if the talk of delivering unique, personalized experiences is just something that sounds good discussed on industry panels at conferences. Don’t get me wrong: It’s a great theory. But how can hoteliers put the concept into practice?
Or is the reason my experiences resulted how they did because I’m not high up in the loyalty-program chain? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t you be trying to build my brand loyalty? Because the next brand I stay with that even attempts to personalize my experience has won my loyalty forever. (P.S. Millennials can be loyal. You just need to give us a reason to be.)
My loyalty could have been built with your brand by a simple read of the guest comments and a one-word “congratulations” to my husband. We would have remembered it. And we would have booked again.
Maybe it’s that hotel employees need to feel more inspired to offer that personalization. Or maybe they are too busy to offer it. Or maybe it’s that the concept hasn’t been communicated to them.
But one thing’s for sure: A unique, personalized experience isn’t the norm. Can the industry put its talk into action?
Email Alicia Hoisington or find her on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

1 Comment

  • The truth. February 1, 2016 3:52 AM

    Someone finally said it! Thank you! The giants of the industry are kidding themselves if they think their newest brands will do even better than the other guys' new brands--let alone their own previous new brands--at creating a 'unique' and 'personalized' 'experience' for guests. Let's stop with the splashy, marketing-fueled buzzwords and oneupmanship. Let's stop pretending we are reinventing the wheel, that we are doing anything truly revolutionary. Changing with the times is good, and surely necessary--but let's not forget the basics when we do it.

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