What Do Travelers Want in 2011?
The first step is knowing what you want.
Recently, I read a book called ‘The Amateur Gourmet’ by Adam Roberts, and the passage that struck me most came from the ‘Dining Out’ chapter. This chapter argued that diners have lost their way. That they have lost touch with what they truly want, what will satisfy them, and when enough is enough. In our society of more is more, I think it’s time to ask, what about getting what you want?
Which brought me to thinking about travelers getting in touch with what they want, with their desires, with what will leave them satisfied and rejuvenated. Specifically in regards to hotels. What features make us feel most at home? What services are the most memorable, or the most forgettable? What are we willing to pay more for, and what do we wish we could opt out of to save money? The New Year is a great time to bring up these questions, and provide some examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to customer service from hotels.
To get this post rolling, I’ll outline a few things that I want from hotels in the upcoming year.
Treat Every Guest Like a Return Guest
If I’m made to feel at home at a hotel, if I feel like my business is appreciated, I am likely to develop an affiliation. This means that in a destination with a long list of attractive hotels in the perfect location, I will choose one based on service, on a friendly face, on trust of experience past. This personal affiliation is what will rise above the appeal of a shiny, new hotel option.
Take the Trump Soho in New York City, who helped a friend of mine plan his engagement recently. Although this was the couple’s first stay at the hotel, the staff couldn’t have been more helpful in ensuring every detail was correct. After the proposal, they sent up a bottle of champagne in congratulations as well. Besides the fact that my friends got engaged in this hotel, the Trump Soho managed to earn a repeat customer simply by providing excellent customer service. Succeeding where others fail will set a hotel apart from the masses.
Get to Know Each Customer and Keep Profiles
Luxury hotels can excel at getting to know each individual customer and what they want. It’s time all hotels start embracing technology and follow the lead of 5-star options. An e-mail address is almost always required for confirmation (and many hotels are booked online), so why not send out a short survey about what type of water to stock the room with, whether electric adaptors are needed, or choices for a welcome beverage or snack. These details can only increase anticipation for arriving at a hotel, making a deeper impression on the customer. And this is the idea, isn’t it?
Take Blantyre for example, a country house hotel I visited in November. Before my arrival, I was sent an e-mail asking what type of wine I’d prefer on arrival. On a chilly winter afternoon I checked into Blantyre and a small bottle of red wine was waiting for me along with some cheese, crackers, and fruit when I entered my room. As a result of a simple e-mail, my vacation began the moment I entered the room.
Let Me Connect to the Internet Easily, and for Free.
There are few things that remove the relaxing atmosphere of a hotel room than frustration over connecting to the Internet. I’ve had countless front desk staff members tell me, ‘I’m not sure if MacBooks are different..’ …. ‘are you typing the password correctly?’ … or ‘the service can sometimes be tricky on that floor.’ In this day and age, wireless Internet should be everywhere, and if there must be a password, it should be something simple and easy to remember.
Take Sheen Falls Lodge, a country lodge hotel in the west of Ireland. When the spectacular, rocky coastline of the Ring of Kerry is beyond the door, the last thing I wanted to do was struggle with the Internet. At Sheen Falls, high speed wireless Internet is available everywhere, and there are no passwords. Simple connection, simple e-mail check, and out the door. If a country lodge in the west of Ireland can master this amenity – other hotels should too.
Provide Me With Information Before I Arrive
Planning a trip is definitely part of the fun, and only increases anticipation for breaking out of a regular routine. But what if sometimes, you are too busy to do all your research? Sometimes this results in missing important or interesting attractions, and if you’re traveling somewhere you won’t return to soon, this is a serious shame. Hotels can help maximize the experience of their guests by providing the highlights of local information. History, restaurants, attractions, weather, directions – all in one place will definitely come in handy.
Take La Moresca, a boutique hotel in Sicily. I wrote a welcome brochure for them, that introduces travelers to the Ragusa province of Sicily, and lets people know what to expect from the hotel, the region, the cuisine, and more. This welcome booklet serves to whet the appetite of visitors, to not only help them plan, but also to increase their anticipation for visiting. Knowing the background story of this historic hotel also allows visitors to connect more with what they see. An easy downloadable PDF format means you can read it on your iPad during the flight.
The common thread between all of these points is connection. In 2011, let’s tell hotels that in order for them to earn our business (for the first time or the 20th time) they need to connect with us. They need to excel at customer service, to know our preferences, to provide reliable amenities like wireless Internet, and to help us maximize our trips.
If they succeed – I’ll be back.
Readers – what do you want from hotels in 2011? Disagree with my suggestions? Have more to add? Weigh in below in the comments section.
[For more information on my downloadable PDF welcome brochures for hotels, please email firstname.lastname@example.org]
Photo credit: Trump Soho by HLIT on Flickr