How to make your hotel feel more like home
How to make your hotel feel more like home
11 MARCH 2016 7:32 AM

A hotel has to “flow” and feel welcoming and comfortable. Here are tips on how to help guests feel more at home.

I’ve been involved in the architecture and design of many hotels. My experience working hospitality on three continents has taught me one critical key to success: pleasing your guests.

I adhere to the wisdom of Steve Jobs: “Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works.” How do you ensure your facilities will work for guests, providing what pleases them, what they like rather than what architects and designers like?

By being empathetic to travelers.

Imagine you are a guest walking into your new hotel. Does it adhere to status quo, an entryway to a registration desk with tired furnishings that almost snore? Or does your lobby breathe energy, broadcasting a welcoming environment stimulating all five senses?

I’m a fan of open lobbies because guests love them. Our “restaurant, lounge and bar” begin at the front door and end at the back door. From the moment guests enter, they feel welcomed, at home and relaxed. Desk personnel are not anchored to the counter; they’re trained to engage. A welcoming lounge/bar is available.

The lobby becomes a hub of hospitality, where guests feel comfortable using the open space to work, relax, eat and drink, without being confined to the room waiting for roomservice. This communal atmosphere sends a great message to arriving guests–– people like seeing people unwinding and enjoying themselves.

Here are five criteria for open lobbies:

  • Check-in feels like entering a lounge; the space buzzes with activity and welcomes.
  • The reception desk is obvious to arriving guests, and staff members can quickly establish rapport.
  • Bar placement and lounge seating are close to the check-in counter and accessible for guests to sit.
  • Seating is mixed among sofas, armchairs and comfortable restaurant accommodations. There are a variety of coffee, occasional, small, communal and restaurant tables. Counters contain plug-in power for devices, and it’s obvious that guests can eat and drink anywhere at any time (why have guests going off property where their hunger and thirst feeds someone else’s bottom line?).
  • Guests should feel encouraged to seat themselves and all staff members, including reception personnel, are trained and focused on fulfilling guest needs.

Now, let’s discuss the design of guestrooms. Over the years, we have conducted many surveys and talked with travelers about their preferences. We listened, and here are things they like in guestrooms:

  • a spacious, well-lit entryway and hallway table or wall shelf for keys and small items;
  • as much working /counter /desk space as possible, used for everything from actual work to a convenient place to empty pockets and lay magazines, papers, etc.;
  • light switches that are obvious and easily accessible;
  • simple bedside switches to operate all lights;
  • a large bench for a suitcase, rather than a folding luggage rack;
  • multiple power outlets at desk height, with at least two by the bed for charging electronics (everyone wants more power, and if you have international travelers, supply at least one power outlet for European and World pins);
  • draperies that open and close easily and can darken a room;
  • a plugged-in coffee machine, and cups/condiments, etc., at counter height;
  • an in-room safe in a closet or armoire, at eye level and not where guests need to kneel on the floor or stretch uncomfortably (don’t make guests contortionists); and
  • an ergonomic and comfortable work chair, not a dining chair.

Here’s what guests want in the bathroom:

  • ample bathroom counter space (with single vanities preferred over double);
  • great lighting, ideally dimmable, and fog-free mirrors;
  • a shower only in the bathroom, especially when corporate business is at least 60% of your guest mix, with great water pressure and room to move, with a step for ladies to shave legs, if they like;
  • non-slip flooring tiles and grouting that are easy to clean;
  • easily accessible towel storage with a towel hook by the shower;
  • a small space with lockable door and ventilation for the toilet, if possible;
  • decent-sized waste bins in keeping with room design; and
  • great fixtures and fittings. Don’t worry about fancy artwork, but rather use the money on great fixtures and fittings; they’re what people notice and appreciate.

In closing, remember another Steve Jobs quote: “It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want.” That’s your job. Delight, surprise and please them.

Euan McGlashan is cofounder and managing partner of Valor Hospitality Partners, a hotel development and management company based in Atlanta and London that owns and operates properties in the U.S., Europe, and Africa, with an additional 10 sites in various stages of negotiation, development, or construction. Additionally, a related company—PMR Hospitality Partners based in Cape Town—operates several hotels and resorts in Africa.

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. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that might 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.

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