Finding in-room amenities everyone can enjoy
Picture yourself walking into a standard guest room at your property. Now, apart from the bed, the lamps, the requisite chair and desk set, what do you see? More importantly, what does your guest see?
The business of in-room amenities is as varied as hotel properties themselves. At the top end, the products in the bathroom are spa-inspired, the TVs are huge high-tech set-ups and the linens luxe. Business travellers and those staying in more modest digs likely won’t see the spa gear, but then again, they aren’t necessarily looking for it. Fail to provide the proper wireless access, the right cable package or have some environmentally unsustainable practices and you might just lose a vacationer or a lucrative corporate client.
At the highest end of the Canadian hospitality scene, the Shangri-La Vancouver boasts a lengthy list of in-room amenities, like heated bathroom floors, towel warmers, single-serve espresso makers and bedside controls for the windows and drapery. While all of those features may be absolutely vital, hotel veterans say it’s all about knowing your customer and providing them with the luxuries found in their own homes.
Regardless of location, the luxury market is unabashedly about pampering its guests, particularly when there are expectations to be met. “The amenities our guests find in their rooms should be equal to, or better than what they have in their homes,” says Andrew Gajary, general manager of the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville. “On the luxury side, you have to have amenities that evoke a sense of a special experience.” As a result, guests expect perks like high-end bath products, Turkish-style robes and opulent linens.
Gajary believes the basic principle of ‘at-home-or-better’ should filter through every amenity decision a hotelier makes, from bath products to entertainment. “It’s imperative in today’s luxury hotels that guests have the ability to listen to their own music, and up to 80 per cent of our guests are regularly travelling with an iPod,” he says. So, while this obviously necessitates a compatible, iPod-docking alarm clock, which the brand is implementing, Gajary says there are also lower-tech entertainment items that are critical to a luxury guest’s enjoyment of his or her stay. “We always ensure there’s interesting and local reading material on hand in the room, which usually consists of three magazines,” he says. “There will be a business magazine, a lifestyle magazine and then something of local interest. Many of our guests are looking for a genuine experience, and not something homogenous,” he says.
While mid-scale properties used to be the definition of homogenous, today they aspire to be as varied and unique as their upscale cousins, and they’re cribbing the amenity package playbook, too. “A significant trend has emerged over the last few years when it comes to the bathroom products offered,” says Mark Young, brand senior vice-president, Ramada Worldwide. “A decade ago, everything in the bathroom would have the hotel’s branding on it. But recently we commissioned a survey which looked at 14 of our competitors, and 10 of them were using a consumer-branded bath product,” he says, adding that higher-end, recognizable products can elevate your hotel’s bathroom experience in the minds of fickle, brand-conscious consumers.
In the extended-stay segment, the rules of the game change slightly, mainly because the average guest’s needs are significantly different for a week or month-long stay than they would be during a weekend getaway. Brad Carmony, brand communications director for Homewood Suites by Hilton, says guests get everything they need, but there’s a focus on eliminating the superfluous perks.
Starting in the bathroom, Carmony says extended-stay guests seek the familiarity of home, which means consumer brands, but not necessarily spa-level treatment. “We use Neutrogena products in more contemporary/retail packaging,” he says. “‘Spa-like’ isn’t as big of a driver in extended stay. The brand name and retail packaging that is equivalent to home is more relevant to our guests.”
In the extended-stay game, the mantra remains ‘there’s no place like home’. According to Carmony, the execution of that ideal is essential, and it certainly involves the in-room entertainment options provided. “Guests want the comforts of being at home, including entertainment equipment,” he says. “The more we can emulate the products they use at home, the better.” As a result, a broader cable package as well as high-definition cable content is standard across the board, but so are connectivity requirements.
Ramada’s Young agrees. “People want to stay in a room with the creature comforts of home, and today that includes at least a 32-inch flat-panel TV and high-speed Internet. We’re also looking into electric panels that allow guests to do more with their TV screen.” It’s an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink attitude.
Extended-stay hotels include that sink, and Carmony notes there are several important factors to consider when designing in-room kitchens. “We took into account what foods or meals our guests are more likely to prepare on the road and what it takes to accomplish that,” he says. “In most cases, when cooking for just one, there’s not a lot of fuss desired by the person cooking. Being able to make coffee easily and heat something on a cook-top or microwave is more relevant.” Carmony says guests are more apt to use a convenient frozen, refrigerated, or dried product when creating a meal in their suite, “Although we do offer a cutting board and knives if they’re looking to use fresh vegetables.”
Whether the hotel is putting up a guest for the night, or for a longer stay, the focus on ‘green’ is absolutely essential when it comes to your amenities program. In fact, given the amount of contact guests have with items like bathroom products, towels, linens, et cetera, it’s an area where green messaging should be at the forefront.
Despite a spotlight on lavishness, high-end properties are part of the green shift, and are taking their roles seriously. “Our line of bathroom products in particular is fresh, modern and environmentally conscious,” says Gajary, adding, “We’re a very eco-conscious hotel.” Initiatives at the property, apart from ensuring an environmentally responsible product inside the bathroom product bottles, also include a reduction in the overall size of the bottle by 33 per cent. “If you have, on average, a five-ounce bottle, your typical guest of a-day-and-a-half is probably only going to use one or two ounces of that, and then you’re left with a lot of waste,” he says. Although, it should be noted that any extra product is donated by the hotel to a local shelter for battered women.
At extended-stay properties, Carmony says that greening is an ongoing process. “More and more green-friendly initiatives/products are being worked into the guest stay,” he says. “For example, our shampoo/lotion bottles are made of recycled plastics, and our laundry bag soon will be as well. In-suite (and lodge) coffee cups are made of recycled paper and are biodegradable. He also says visitors look to have the same environmentally conscious programs they use in their homes. “Guests want to do what they do at home, including recycle any aluminum, plastic and paper.”