Say goodbye to traditional front desks, room keys, bland banquet fare, generic design and bare-bones workout facilities. Say hello to digital check-in, keyless guest room entry, expansive fitness centers, socially oriented public spaces and an emphasis on the unique and local in everything from break snacks to hallway art and shampoo.
At many hotels, the guest experience is undergoing transformation. Here are a few of the ways.
Health and Wellness
Going beyond including a yoga mat in the room, hotels are digging deep to address the health and wellness concerns of guests these days, according to analyst Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at NYU’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.
"The concern with wellness is being seen even in how hotels are built and designed, including a trend toward natural fibers in the guest rooms and consideration of the chemicals in cleaning products and carpeting,” he said. “Meeting planners are asking more questions about air purification and water treatment systems these days and hotels are taking steps to avoid disease outbreaks."
Hotel rooms that promote quality sleep and relaxation after a busy travel day are another trend. Among examples are the Wellness Rooms currently undergoing beta testing at Wyndham Hotel Group.
“We’re looking at details such as color, mattress firmness and ways to change the lighting throughout the day, starting with brightness in the morning and then dimming and growing more soothing by evening,” said Carol Lynch, global vice president of sales for Wyndham Hotel Group. “We’re also looking at scented humidifiers that provide an almost spa-like experience.”
Hotel experts also note that hotel fitness centers are growing more extensive.
“Hotel fitness centers used to be a perfunctory afterthought—a converted guest room with minimal equipment and ambience,” said consultant Robert Mandelbaum, director of research information for CRBE Hotels. “Now it’s much larger and elaborate. People expect to be able to work out on the road and they want to replicate what they can get at home.”
At a growing number of hotels, guests don’t even have to leave their rooms to get a workout. Among examples is Five Feet to Fitness, a wellness concept available at Hilton hotels in major cities, where selected rooms offer Fitness Kiosks with touch-screen displays of workout tutorials, indoor bikes and a Gym Rax functional training station.
Meanwhile, MGM Resorts International was one of the first hotel companies to strategically incorporate a wellness experience for guests and attendees with the launch of its Stay Well Rooms and Stay Well Meetings at MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
The 250,000-square-foot expansion of the MGM Grand Conference Center, currently underway and set for completion by the end of 2018, will extend the Stay Well Meetings footprint by 22,000 square feet and encompass the conference center’s entire second floor.
The program, a partnership with Delos, the pioneer of Wellness Real Estate, is designed to provide environments for high-performance meetings, with function rooms and spaces designed to optimize the health and well-being of attendees while complementing the Stay Well room and suite experience.
The Stay Well program will also be part of Park MGM, another upcoming MGM Resorts development that is transforming Monte Carlo Resort and Casino into a property well suited to small groups seeking innovative spaces and experiences.
While hotel companies once prided themselves on presenting a uniform experience at each property, the desire for authentic, local experiences among travelers has prompted many to launch brands where no two properties are anything alike. Examples include Marriott’s Autograph Collection and the new Curio Collection by Hilton comprised of four- and five-star properties in global locations.
“The Curio Collection was launched to meet travelers’ desire for local discovery,” said David Marr, senior vice president and global head of full-service brands for Hilton Hotels. “We encourage their individuality as an integral part of their destination.”
While independent hotels have long celebrated their locality, many are exploring new ways to do so. At Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), which represents 250 independent hotels, a sense of place is a reflected in almost every aspect of the guest experience, according to Mark Sergot, chief sales officer.
“Locally sourced doesn’t just apply to the food served in the hotel restaurant but is evident throughout, whether it’s the snacks in the minibar or the bathroom amenities,” he said. “Hotels are going to creative lengths to celebrate their surroundings.”
As an example, Sergot points to the Salamander Resort and Spa in Middleburg, Va., where the owner’s personal art collection, some of it inspired by the surrounding horse farm country, gives the property a sense of place and individual flare.
Hotels are also getting creative in the recreational and cultural options offered to guests, both on and off the property, noted Andy Finn, vice president of group sales for Benchmark Hospitality. The hotel company’s Wanderlust program offers destination information and arrangements for guests, including meeting groups.
“We’re partnering more with area attractions to provide unique experiences for groups,” Finn said. “At The Chattanoogan in Tennessee we do events with a local whisky maker. At Eaglewood Resort and Spa near Chicago we take people to an indoor go-kart racing track that is really fun for teambuilding or we can do interesting things at the resort itself, including night golf with neon lighting.”