Bathroom amenities may be considered a necessary evil when it comes to budgeting, but hoteliers know a carefully cultivated collection of soaps, shampoos, lotions and more play an important role in shaping a brand’s image in the eyes of guests. Depending on the operation and clientele it serves, amenity kits can run from below $1 for three basic products (e.g. shampoo, soap and lotion) to upwards of US$10 per guestroom. Whatever the choice, the key is keeping up with ongoing consumer trends.
“There’s a tremendous amount of effort and thought put into it,” says Trevor Long, GM at The Rimrock Resort Hotel in Banff. “We’re considered a luxury hotel, so our amenities have to reflect that.” Recently, the team at the independent property began sourcing a line of Paul Mitchell products exclusively designed for the hotel sector. “It’s the perfect fit because it’s a high-end product that isn’t accessible to everyone in the retail world except salons,” Long explains.
The Rimrock has gone through several product changes over the years, Long adds. “Often a decision can be based on changes in container design, price or availability.” Beyond the brand, the team considers whether containers open and dispense product easily. “These may seem like simple things, but they do come into play.”
Bath amenities must meet stringent environmental guidelines, so in addition to featuring ginger grown on a solar-powered farm in Hawaii, the Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger line is 100-per-cent sulfate-free and packaged in 100-per-cent recyclable containers.
When it comes to sourcing a brand, the decision-making process is never taken lightly. Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ most recent amenity switch-over took more than a year of research and focus groups to ensure the products would meet guest expectations, says Mubashar Shahab, executive director and head of Global Procurement for FRHI Hotels & Resorts in Dubai.
Purchasing decisions are also viewed in light of the company’s leadership in sustainability and green practices, he adds. “The products we choose are almost all organic and as mild as possible. We stay away from colours and stabilizers such as gels.” Another key area of focus is how the bottles are produced. “We ended up going with a special kind of plastic that has bio additives to help the material compost faster than regular PVC plastics.”
The latest selection for Fairmont is a proprietary blend produced by Le Labo Fragrances, a New York-based perfume house known for its collection of hand-made perfumes and home scents only available in a limited number of stores around the world.
The proprietary fragrance is a key selling point, Shahab says. “You can buy Le Labo from a retail shop, but we had them develop a fragrance called Rose 31 that would differentiate us in the market. Also, having a known brand is a way to show value to our guests.”
A significant challenge when sourcing products is dealing with the distribution and licensing requirements, which can create significant challenges for international companies such as Fairmont. “Aesthetic products have very rigid rules around production and distribution, and shipping costs can be high. In some cases, imported products can be held up for months,” Shahab says. To that end, the team has commissioned several manufacturers to produce the Le Labo line locally. “Right now our Burlington, [Ont.] provider serves our North American market; while our manufacturing base for Europe is in Holland. We also manufacture in Malaysia, China and Egypt. Throughout manufacturing sites, we do everything we can to ensure they are producing items according to the Le Labo quality standards,” he adds.
In the true spirit of environmental leadership, Fairmont also works with global partners to recycle leftover shampoos and soaps for distribution to charitable organizations. “We have special programs for sending liquids in bulk or melting soaps to make new bars that can be sold into local markets in Africa,” Shahab says.
Other hotel companies, such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts, must ensure bathroom amenities meet the brands’ distinct demographics. “When it comes to choosing our shampoos, conditioners and hand lotions, we handle it on a case-by-case basis to ensure each product is representative of each brand,” says Paige Francis, VP of Global Brand Management for Starwood’s Specialty Select Brands, who says product viscosity, fragrance and overall quality are key considerations. At Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton, plastic bottles are replaced by dispensers built into showers. “A lot of research went into making this decision and, really, the big question was, are guests open to using a dispenser for their bath products? Through trials, we found that they’re very amenable to it — particularly guests of Element, who are passionate about the planet and staying sustainable on the road.”
Once an amenities program is in place, operators should be reviewing it on an ongoing basis, The Rimrock’s Long advises. “There can be significant costs when it comes to amenities, so you have to consider that when you budget. If a certain item is not being consumed, you may choose to eliminate it or switch to another product. That’s why every year we review feedback on our products. Sure, there’s a cost to having a premium product, but guests are paying a premium so amenities should be a part of that.”
Volume 28, Number 2
Written By: Denise Deveau