I love hotels, from the moment I check in at the start of a new adventure, to wandering about the property and owning a piece of a dream for at least a few days. Given the difficulty of finding reputable hotels when traveling, I have become fairly dependent on the large, international brands. This comes with its own unique pros and cons, but even the large chains are not all made the same. The recurring theme I have found at every hotel where I have stayed, from five star properties to urban shacks, is that no matter the perks involved, what matters most are the people.
1. Small perks = big rewards – The modern traveler is used to near constant abuse and swindling at every corner. Not from thieves or street thugs, but from the travel companies themselves. Airlines present the passenger with a menu of fee-based services, and getting from Point A to Point B has never been more chaotic or uncomfortable than it is today. That’s why even the smallest of gestures can mean a lot to an exhausted traveler.
I’ve written about Omni Hotels and their fantastic loyalty program, well what makes it so great is their understanding of this simple concept. Immediately upon joining, there are perks for the guest, which most other hotels don’t offer. They perks aren’t huge, but they are small details that make me happy and create a sense of hospitality – imagine that.
These perks though are also dependent on the people who implement them. I stayed at an Omni a few months ago, and had forgotten to let them know which complimentary beverage I wanted in the morning. The front desk manager very kindly got in touch and wanted to make sure I took advantage of this perk. She didn’t have to do that, it would have been easier to leave it alone and I never would have thought about it. But that very simple act of kindness resonated with me and created a sense of welcome that seems missing in so many properties.
2. Hotel employees have to be perfect – It may not be fair, but given their integral role in the travel and tourism industry and in the experience of the average tourist, hotel employees have to be nearly perfect in order to just satisfy their guests.
That’s not to say that the hotels themselves have to be perfect, very few people actually expect that. We all anticipate some hiccups, be it bad water pressure, weak air conditioning or housekeeping staff that thinks cleaning the room at 5:00 PM is appropriate. The great unforgivables though are rudeness or incompetence by hotel employees, usually the front of house staff.
These employees with their stations of power and influence behind the registration desks are the primary point of contact for each and every guest who passes through the hotel. One misstep, and the traveler’s impression of the hotel may be irreparably damaged, and even the trip may suffer.
I recently stayed at the Marriott Petra, one of three Marriott properties in Jordan. The hotel itself was fine, a little dated, but clean, quiet and otherwise nice. It wasn’t the best Marriott in which I had ever stayed, but it was perfectly acceptable. Whatever good feelings I had towards this particular hotel though were ruined when I tried to check out.
There were some minor hassles as I attempted to pay the bill, so I was already annoyed when the manager received a call. He looked up at me and informed me that I had consumed a water from the mini-bar. I’m strongly against hotel mini-bars, I never even open them, so I knew it wasn’t a possibility and let him know as much. Then he began to argue with me and essentially called me a liar. I refused to pay, and he eventually let it go, but the damage had been done. I love Marriott, so their image wasn’t damaged in my estimation, but that particular hotel is forever on my black list. No matter the experience I had during my stay, those few moments of interaction with the front desk manager made me vow to never, ever stay there again and to convince as many people as possible to stay far away.
3. People are the brand – As I said, I love hotel brands and I particularly enjoy being loyal to them. The perks can be great, depending on just how loyal you are. Even though they all maintain a certain level of service and quality around the world, it’s not a logo or slogan that I’m dealing with, it’s real people. If the employees at these hotels don’t live up to the expectations of the guest, then redesigned lobbies and fancy pools mean nothing. My hotel experience is almost completely dependent on the employees and what they do, or don’t do, to make my stay enjoyable.
Billions of dollars are spent by hotels every year on consumer research, refurbishment and general improvements – all of which are greatly appreciated by the guest. However, all of this work is completely wasted if the in-hotel employees don’t follow the same spirit that made these hotels great in the first place.
What do you think? Are people really the most important part of the hotel experience, or is it something else?