Our jobs as hospitality professionals may be complex, but our mandate is simple. Make guests feel at home. Strive to give them more of what they want. Build a reputation to keep them coming back. Sometimes we do a great job of this. Innovations have been fast and furious in recent years, and many of them are exciting. Allowing guests to do more with their mobile devices (checking in, ordering room service, even controlling amenities in the room) is here to stay. Greater attention to food and beverage quality, and more appealing common spaces — these too are significant upgrades, indicative of the future.
But a few bad trends have appeared and persisted within our industry, and they aren’t doing us any favours. Why? Because they go against our mandate. They incite distaste and frustration in guests, and therefore have a corrosive effect on the brands we’re trying to cultivate. Here are three examples.
1. Motion-sensing minibars
Why is it that over time, the hotel minibar has been transformed from a beloved convenience into a symbol of people assuming the worst about each other? There is, of course, no way to offer a stocked minibar without some measure of surveillance. The honour system has always played a part, and most hotels send an employee to check the minibar after the guest leaves.
As technology improved, hotels had motion detectors and built-in scales at their disposal. Suddenly the minibar was less like a fridge and more like a telescreen from George Orwell’s 1984. One of the most startling things about this is that some hotels (especially in places like Las Vegas) are leveling exorbitant “re-stocking” fees when guests place their own items inside the fridge.
If we look at the other trends shaping our industry today, it’s amazing that that minibar surveillance continues to be an alienating experience and far more trouble than it’s worth. Better to provide the guest with an empty minibar, or stock it with a few complimentary items, and stop counting chocolate bars altogether.
2. Transparent and open-plan bathrooms
Let’s be honest. Unless you are a narcissist, no-one likes to be watched in the bathroom. So why has this trend taken off?
We can start with arguments in favour of this trend (which usually come from hotel designers rather than guests), since many people find it hard to imagine what those arguments could be. Proponents of transparent bathroom walls — or open plan bathrooms, in which there are no walls — say it makes rooms feel larger at a time when hotel rooms are getting smaller. They also say it maximizes natural light throughout the room, and creates a modern feel.
Well, the spaciousness argument may hold true in some way. But for two or more people sharing a room, the opposite effect (not enough space) is observed. As for natural light, the majority of your guests will probably agree that bathrooms are one place the sun simply should not shine, unless there’s a frosted window or skylight. There are some things that refuse to change, no matter what’s trendy. Being able to freshen up in private is one of them.
3. Excessive bedspreads
A spacious and attractive headboard is a nice thing. It’s practical and aesthetically pleasing, and holds the room together from a design standpoint. A few extra pillows are nice too. They make it easy to sit up in bed, provide guests with a feeling of luxury, and add to the room’s aesthetic appeal.
But maybe — and this is just a suggestion — these trends have gone too far. Who hasn’t walked into a room and been amazed by the girth of the headboard? Who hasn’t cleared a pile of superfluous pillows off the bed more times than they can count, only to find them dutifully replaced by housekeeping the following day? When extra covers and throws are added to the mix, getting at the bed can be much more of adventure than guests want it to be. And it appears to me that pillows are getting longer, perhaps to stretch to the wider beds that we seem to be getting as well!
Striking the right balance between luxury and practicality is always a work in progress. Depending on your brand and star rating, that balance will shift. But when luxury turns cumbersome, or becomes annoying, it’s fair to say we’re on the wrong track.
Keeping trends in check
Hoteliers have an awful lot of information to consider. New ideas and innovations are happening every day in Australia and across the globe. What’s the right way to address this onslaught of hotel trends? We shouldn’t be dismissive, but we shouldn’t be easily beguiled either. What we should do is critically question which of these trends are relevant to our brand, our vision, and our guests. When we ask ourselves what effect a given trend actually has on the guest experience, we uncover valuable new perspective on what makes a hotel great. That’s something that never goes out of style.
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