Things I Wish Hotels Would Do
Posted on 10/10/2017
Being raised by parents with incurable wanderlust, my first hotel experience occurred long before my first birthday. I quickly became a devoted hotel fan and have never really lost my fascination with the hospitality industry.
To paraphrase my friend and fellow travel writer Annie Fitzsimmons—who is one the biggest hotel fans I know—staying in a hotel allows me to change my personality with every check-in. Whether I want to be a princess, an international woman of mystery, an icy Fortune 500 executive or a kick-ass adventuress, every time I check into a new property, I can don and shed new personalities at will.
In my half-century of roaming, I’ve stayed in so many hotels, I’m sure I’ve forgotten most of them. But others, even decades after just one stay, linger in my memory with great fondness.
I’ve seen plenty of hotel trends come and go through the years. Some I’ve watched with dismay—please Marriott, don’t touch my hotel desk. Others have me curious: Do people really want a VR experience when traveling? The first five seconds of it are cool, but then I’d much rather be experiencing actual reality.
I possibly feel the same way about robot butlers, although I’ve never met one in person, so my perspective on that could change.
But to me, other trends are—or at least should be—universal. Here are ten things I wish all hotels would do on a regular and consistent basis.
Inclusive breakfast is a given in so many countries, but not yet in the U.S.
There’s nothing that cements my hotel experience like being able to pop down for a quick meal before starting my day. Usually, a buffet will suffice, but a pastry and some coffee in the lobby café are equally acceptable.
It is true that when booking a hotel in a region I’ve never been, I tend to check Embassy Suites first because I know the breakfast will be included.
Yes, I realize there’s a hard cost to hoteliers offering this service. But how much could a per person breakfast really add to the bottom line? Factor it in, already. Heck, offer two price points in your GDS, one with breakfast, one without. I’d happily pay the extra $10 or $15 per night for the convenience of being able to grab my coffee, fruit and a Danish before getting underway.
Why minibars even still exist is a puzzle to me. Sure, they provide hoteliers an ancillary fee, but I have to imagine there’s also a write off over people who consume items but claim it was a mistake. What’s more, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been charged for food or drink I didn’t consume. So the record keeping on this service is at best, minimal.
What would be a cool service, however, is if hotels took a page out of the all-inclusive resort concept and offered guests a checklist when they arrive. Have the guest check off what items they want delivered to their room every day and when. (Of course, I’d be more likely to order these items if they don’t come with a 500 percent mark up.)
Yes, this isn’t that different from room service, and many hotels do some version of this with their in-room breakfast offerings. But why not expand that to drinks and snacks?
I’d be far more likely to mark two bottles of water and a donut on a checklist than I would to call room service and ask them to bring me one can of Sprite. The really savvy hotel could even skip the tired Pringles and airline-style peanuts and have the checklist include local items, chef’s specialities and other treats. How about fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies or pastries or possibly fresh fruit?
Add iced lattes to the checklist, delivered daily at exactly 7:30 a.m. from the lobby coffee shop, and I’ll be a regular for life.
Oh, Park Hyatt Tokyo. While so many people muse about this property as the setting for the Bill Murray movie “Lost in Translation,” my love affair with the hotel is based on its massive lending library/book collection.
Same goes for the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. Or the Hacienda Hot Springs Hotel in greater Palm Springs, where every one of the six rooms has a bookshelf packed full of vintage books and magazines.
Clearly, literary offerings augment my travel experience. While the three mentioned properties keep and maintain their own book collections, I’m perfectly happy with even a small book exchange shelf where people around the world can share their favorite reads. One property I stayed at put bookplate stickers in all the donated books, so people could sign their names and write where they were traveling from.
What a great way to share a passion with fellow travelers!
Plugs/Power Strips/Global Outlets
Any hotelier in this day and age that doesn’t offer extra outlets by the bed and in the desk zone (if you have one) is just tone deaf. How little do you understand your guests that you don’t realize (or care) that we are always going to carry a bag of technology which, at the very minimum, includes cell phones, tablets and laptops?
If you want to go above and beyond, do like the Grand Hyatt Incheon in Korea and offer universal outlets where you can plug in plugs from anywhere in the world—no adapters necessary. Now that was a cool feature.
Individual WiFi Routers
Speaking of deskside amenities, wouldn’t it be great if hotels would start loaning guests individual WiFi routers? How many of us would appreciate the ability to skip the general hotel WiFi system, thereby reducing the worry over the possibility of losing our identity to cyber hackers?
Note to hoteliers: Yes, this might also incur an added expense, but my guess is it couldn’t be too much more than what you spend furnishing rooms with those alarm clocks that never seem to be set to the right time.
What’s more, loaning individual routers could also help with keeping your guests far away from your internal reservations and accounting systems. Think it doesn’t happen? I can’t tell you how many times a little “exploring” has placed me in a folder where I had no business being.
A Personalized Touch
Speaking of technology, you already have all my information and then some, which begs the question as to why I still need to manually fill out my data on the paper registration forms. That aside, how appreciated do you think I’ll feel if I received a pre-arrival welcome email and a thank you for your stay email after my departure? Why don’t more hoteliers offer this?
The welcome letter gives them a chance to introduce their concierge, guest services and amenities while providing me with an easy way to get in touch just in case I have any questions or challenges before my trip. The thank you letter is just nice, and it allows the hotel to remind me to fill out my TripAdvisor/Yelp reviews they might want me to complete.
An Even More Personalized Touch
A homey touch or two that incorporates or celebrates the local community always makes a lasting impression. Plus, it can help hoteliers stand out, both on social media and as a way for guests to talk about your property.
One of my favorite hotel programs ever was at the now-closed Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. Through a partnership with the Los Angeles Flower Market, the property offered a variety of single stem flowers in vases at the front desk while encouraging guests to create their own flower arrangements after checking in. Seriously cool!
Even upping the local offerings in your gift shop or on my beloved minibar checklist would be great.
One reason I love the Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Greater Palm Springs is that they offer Brandini Toffee, a local product I’ve become seriously addicted to. Now even when I’m short on time, I can still grab my favorite treat for the drive back to Los Angeles.
Easy to Understand Climate Control/Lighting
While I do love technology, there’s only so much I need to operate the lighting and climate control in my room. It really shouldn’t require an advanced degree in engineering just to turn off my lights.
When it gets to the point that I need to pull out the plug of my lamp because I have no idea how to turn it off, you’ve gone too far. Anything beyond an up button for a warmer room and a down button for a cooler one, plus four or five buttons for lighting by room zone, is more than I want to deal with.
Larger Fonts on Bathroom Amenities
Reading a recent post in Hotels Magazine by Guy Rigby, the president and founder of food service company Octopus, was like finding a long-lost friend.
“I know I’m just a dumb F&B guy,” wrote Rigby. “But when will manufacturers of those little bottles of shampoo and bath gel that you find in most hotel bathrooms wake up to the fact that we can’t read your labels!”
Rigby also chronicled the dilemma of what to do when you’re already in the shower, without your glasses, and you suddenly realize you don’t know which bottle is which: Throw caution to the wind and guess? Really, who determined that tiny fonts are sexy fonts?
A Suitcase Stand/Space
Lately, I’ve seen an increasing number of instances where there’s just no place for me to put my suitcase. I know space is at a premium but I’m not really a fan of having to kneel on the floor when I’m rooting around to find my unmentionables.
There’s always the bed, I guess, but I always find myself reluctant to dirty up my bed linens with my airline-abused, travel-worn suitcase.
Plus, nowadays most pest control specialists recommend not putting a suitcase on an upholstered surface as a way to avoid bringing home bed bugs. While I’m not that concerned about bed bugs, many travelers are, so encouraging them to place their luggage on the bedding seems like a bad move on the part of the hotelier.
None of the above items are deal breakers for me, although not having enough plugs near my bed is pretty close. But in an era when guests are abandoning loyalty programs—or at least basing less of their purchasing decisions strictly on rewards—perhaps the best way to engender loyalty is to actually give customers what they want.
I understand that hotels must adapt or die, and I’m all for trying new things even when they fail. So, bring on your robot butlers and your virtual reality concierges. For me, however, a small thing like free breakfast will ultimately engender far more loyalty than knowing my hotel is pursuing the latest “what the cool kids are doing” trend.
How about you readers? What would you like to see your hotels offer on a regular basis? Please take a moment to comment below.
PHOTO: Some hotel services should be universal. (photo via Pixabay/StockSnap)