The hotel market is thriving, with an expected global growth rate of just under 10% by 2029 and a UK growth of 20% in 2023 alone (Ibis World 2023).
Whilst this is great news to see the market gain momentum after a few difficult years for travel and tourism, with new hotels opening and new brands entering the market the challenge we face is – what can operators do to ensure they stand out, maximise on revenue during a guests visit, and turn one-time-visitors into loyal returning guests?
We believe that the small stuff matters when it comes to hotels and overnight stays. While a comfortable bed and spacious room are certainly important, it's the small and customer-focused touches that truly make a guest feel like the hotel hasn’t just provided them with a nice place to rest their head but considered what it means to truly live there for the duration of their stay.
As guests' needs and desires become more diverse, hotel operators must move away from a focus solely on the bigger picture and begin to pay more attention to the little things. It’s these smaller, meaningful additions to the stay that go above and beyond the guests’ expectations, stand out from other available hotel experiences and result in a memorable stay.
Personalised hotel room notes have been a nice touch delivered for decades, especially from more luxury operators, but other than the initial joy felt in seeing their name on a note, what long term impact does this have on the guests’ experience? By getting to know your guests and understanding what really matters to them, operators can provide more meaningful moments of joy and experiences that impact the customer journey beyond a short-lived smile.
Looking at rental holiday home providers such as Airbnb, Kip Hideaways and Canopy & Stars are a good reference point for those small touches that can make a big difference. The owners and operators of these holidays homes often do a great job of thinking what will make a stay truly memorable, from locally sourced produce on the kitchen table when you arrive to a bottle of Prosecco in the fridge if you told them it was a special occasion. It’s these experiences many guests have now had outside of a hotel that not only heightens their expectations but also can tempt them to booking in more holiday rentals than hotels in the future.
Some of my personal favourite examples of hotels doing this well has been:
- The Hoxton Hotels providing local guides recommending where to go in your local area and their Tiny Hox packs for young guests that make your stay that little bit easier.
- Locke Hotels, who have aparthotels across UK, Ireland and Germany also do well by going above and beyond with their fully equip kitchens – even including cocktail shakers to make your stay extra special.
- The Cow Hallow in Manchester who provide complementary milk and cookies delivered to your room and breakfast in bed as standard is included in your stay.
- The Pilgrm in London provides guests with a refillable water station in the lobby, shopping totes bags in your room and a communal newsstand to grab something to read during your stay.
During a stay at The Pilgrm, we were also offered a free coffee on arrival from their artisanal coffee bar in their lobby and a free drink to enjoy in their hotel lounge during our stay. These two small things not only elevated our visit but also encouraged us to visit the lounge and try a coffee at their own coffee shop versus going elsewhere. Both encouraged us to spend more with them – turning one free drink into a few more that we paid for, as well as a coffee purchase the next day as we were leaving. For hotels with F&B offerings, providing a small token such as these can encourage your guests to spend more with you that they would otherwise spend elsewhere.
Each of these examples are unique to the hotel operator, the type of guests they have and what matters to them most. It’s this consideration that makes them more meaningful to the guest and start to build a preference of one hotel operator over another. They would rather stay somewhere that ‘gets them’ and know just the thing that will make their stay nicer, easier or feel like a special treat.
It's important for hotel operators to remember that the small stuff doesn't have to be expensive or complicated. What is interesting about both The Hoxton and Locke Hotel examples are that both are initial investments but that benefit all future guests. As permanent items within the rooms, they are small touches that elevate the experience but require little or no extra cost or service per visit.
As part of our Experience Visioning, we outline opportunities for our clients to add unique and memorable moments to their customers journey with defined service signatures and experience hallmarks that not only delivers against what their brand stands for but what will make the biggest difference to their guests.
Harvard Business found customers who have a good experience spend 140% more. Where most hotel rooms deliver a good, comfortable bed and perfectly fine bathroom, it’s time for operators to stop looking at the big picture and start focusing on the micro moments that can separate them from others and ultimately get their guests spending more with them or coming back for future visits. What small thing can make a stay in your hotel different?