For high-end hotels, amenities make the stay
Amenities used to be “just soap and shampoo,” but for upscale hotels today they can make all the difference
Hotels are on a winning streak: Demand is up, capacity is tight and – unfortunately for T&E budgets – room rates are rising. Hoteliers who recall those gloomy skies that overhung the world’s economy in 2009 are, as the saying goes, making hay while the sun shines.
However, all this activity is producing some exciting news for the business traveler. New openings are announced every week and thousands of new properties are in the pipeline and already under construction.
Beyond that, entirely new brands are coming to the market. As more hotels are entering this already crowded fray, hospitality brands are all looking for ways to set themselves apart. And the right amenities can make all the difference.
Confronted with hotels choices aplenty, what many road-weary business travelers are looking for goes beyond just a cookie cutter bed-in-a-box. They want that something extra – pampering, perks and those fringe benefits which make life on the road more livable.
That’s why of late the focus of most hotel brands, especially at the high-end of the scale, has turned to amenities, and on creative and unique ways to offer those extra touches to their guests.
“It used to be just soap and shampoo, but today there’s just a different definition about what an amenity means,”according to Hyatt Times Square’s general manager Richard Morgan.“For example, it’s raining today, so everyone in the hotel is going to find an umbrella waiting for them in the lobby, something they really need. We no
longer look at it as having what we think a guest wants, but will look at it as whatever the guest wants, we will have it.”
Better Than Home
As much as amenities can differentiate hotel brands, hoteliers also use their brands’identities to shape what amenities they offer and how they offer them. For example, Hyatt rooms display an amenity card listing everything a business traveler could need – 32 items ranging from deodorant to a wine opener to slippers – all ready to be delivered in five minutes. There are also items like a humidifier, a lighted make-up mirror, a yoga mat, free weights and computer chargers.
“We don’t want to flood the room with stuff they don’t need, but ask and we will get it,”Morgan says.“Our customers would like us to be like home as much as possible, or better than home.”
Business travelers have high expectations
convenience, technology capabilities and unique offerings. At IHG’s new EVEN Hotels brand, amenities are selected based on their appeal to wellness-minded travelers, which is why it offers an in-room
“Today there’s just a different definition about what an amenity means.” Blu pampers guests with special amenities designed to accommodate the intrepid traveler, such as gourmet coffee from the in-room Nespresso machine.
Meanwhile Four Seasons is focused on the sleep experience. Guests can choose a mattress system – combining specialty toppers, gel-foam technology and different levels of firmness – from a line created specifically for the brand by Simmons. The brand also offers specialty pillows, noise machines and bedside amenities.
The requirements of business travelers are often unique – and challenging. It’s also an opportunity for a hotel to set itself apart. So whether the business guest needs a suit at the last minute, an immunity boost from being jet-lagged or run-down, or something special to wow during a meeting, the St. Regis Atlanta has developed amenities and meetings/ packages programs that specifically cater to these expectations.
The St. Regis offers amenities to business traveler that include an“on-the-go” Georgia Power Bar crafted by the hotel’s pastry chef; a business-centric room service menu, that comes complete with phone chargers; tailored Sid Mashburn suits for the next day’s meeting or next business
immune system; and tech’d out cabanas at Bluetooth connection.
“Our staff is accustomed to the executive traveler, and our team understands that they expect the over and above little details, not just impeccable service,”says Dawn Truemper, area director of sales and marketing for St. Regis Atlanta.“Therefore, selecting a luxury brand hotel for your travel program ensures travel managers a certain level of upscale quality that is invaluable to offer as an option for your senior executives.”
The St. Regis Atlanta’s signature butler service is also available to business travelers staying in its suites. This includes complimentary shoe shine, garment pressing and in-room beverage service.
Amenities are vital to a guest’s experience, both in terms of providing a level of comfort as well as serving as a reflection of the hotel’s image and brand identity.
“ShangriLa offers complimentary WiFi to all guests and we are now offering digital access to over 2,000 local, regional and international publications from 100 countries in 60 languages via our PressReader service,” says Johnson Wong, group director of rooms with Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, headquartered in Hong Kong.
“Within our brands, our Golden Circle loyalty program members are invited to select complimentary welcome amenities,” he notes.“For Jade and Diamond members, they can select from mineral water, fresh milk, chocolate, cookies, beer and instant noodles. Diamond members also have a choice of red or white wine.”
Shangri-La will soon be launching a new Ladies Pouch bathroom amenity, which will include a variety of cosmetic, skin and nail care items, to better cater to its female business travelers.
“We are currently seeing a move towards paraben free and environmentally friendly packaging for bathroom amenities,”Wong says.“Shangri-La amenities are paraben free and biodegradable packaging. For amenities such as the toothbrush and comb, we no longer uses plastic but instead use products that are corn starch based and biodegradable.”
Having a high-quality brand of bathroom and kitchen amenities in the hotel makes a positive impression on the guest and enhances the overall experience, according to Kurt Smith, vice president of
product, quality and innovation for Hilton Worldwide’s focused service brands.
“When you think about in-room amenities, such as bathroom items or coffee makers, they are important and play a key role in the stay,”Smith says.“If you do them really well, guests will kind of notice it, but if you mess it up, they will really notice it.”
The Hilton Garden brand has just launched Keurig brewers in all its rooms, as coffee continues to be an amenity that is much in-demand by guests. Hilton has also seen a trend of people wanting
a local snack indigenous to the area or created to give it some additional flare.
Some newer marques are looking to leverage the guest experience even further. Chelsea Hotels is a collection of boutique properties in NewYork which was formerly known as King & Grove.
each of its hotels, to suit the hotel and its clientele. For instance, Chelsea has recently added poolside yoga at the McCarren and a Saturday Boot Camp workout at its Montauk property.
“As a new brand and an unknown to many consumers, it is important to establish a certain level of quality to help build credibility. Certain amenities are expected,”says Jim Zito, Chelsea’s executive vice president. “Some to help acquire new guests and others to maintain existing customers. That’s why you continue to see some great partnerships with fitness, retail and dining.”
Among the amenities business travelers crave most, free WiFi is at the top of the list, and needless to say, nearly every brand is
expectation. But beyond merely free WiFi some brands are reaching out to techies with amenities especially designed with them in mind.
Epiphany Hotel in Palo Alto, CA, says the brand places a great deal of importance on providing guests with an array of friendly, intuitive services and smart amenities that ensure seamless and comfortable stays.
“As a Joie de Vivre property,”Maurer says,“we are inspired by the surrounding
provide our guests with the amenities they need to unwind and relax while easily staying connected.”
Geared to meet the needs of guests to the Valley, each room comes equipped with complimentary high-speed Internet, a G-Link dock for streaming movies and games from any mobile device to a largescreen Samsung TV and an ergonomic desk chair. The hotel also offers a signature Technology Concierge, where guests
have access to a wide
If amenities are done well, “guests will kind of notice it. But if you mess it up, they will really notice it”
variety of on-hand cables and connectors. Additionally, throughout the lobby, common areas and workspaces, there are uniquely positioned charging stations.
“I believe that offering a well-curated range of products and thoughtful services provides guests a home away from home and is not only what attracts them to hotels but also keeps them coming back,”Maurer says.“I see a trend towards‘real coffee’ in guestrooms, and at The Epiphany Illy espresso makers are in every room.”
Today’s business travelers bring their own media and want to experience it in their own time. Morgan says that no longer can you provide just Internet, but you must offer a powerful enough service for customers to download and watch movies on their iPads.
“For every single room, you need to give the Internet as many as six times –laptops, iPads, cell phones, all connected, so you need to offer enough band width for all,” he says.“It’s one of the most important things for business travelers.”
Some hotels have already started experimenting with offering iPads to guests, which allows the tech-savvy visitor to easily control the room’s environment, read a complimentary newspaper and make dinner reservations. Still, others offer virtual golf courses and bowling alleys in selected suites, and 3D TVs and game consoles.
With the hotel industry showing no signs of slowing down, business travelers are blessed with a wealth of amenities – creative and unique extras tailored to better suit the traveler’s mission on the road, and their lifestyle.
“The experience plays a larger role in the decision making process,”says Chelsea Hotels’Jim Zito.“Combining the room/ rate with ancillary products and services can create an experience that meets and exceeds the expectation of the guest.”
And that, he says,“gives us what we all want – a happy customer.” BT
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