When it comes to catering to today’s guests, it’s all about customization

In today’s über competitive hotel industry the adage ‘home away from home’ rings truer than ever before. Not surprisingly, in an effort to appeal to guests, the number of comforts and amenities available is longer than the list of TV channels, entertainment choices and hotel services accessible through your smartphone. Working within this new reality, today’s hoteliers are vying for attention and earning patronage from a demanding public who crave the latest creature comforts and luxury perks. These days, on the amenities front, it’s all about personalizing the guest’s hotel experience.

Andrea Torrance, VP of Rooms, at Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, recently found out what guests really want. After researching amenities preferences on four continents, she learned guests like “a good product in the bottle. It’s got to be excellent quality, almost without compromise,” she says. “The guest is looking for things they’ve heard about in the media.” They want it to be petroleum- free with no parabens; it can’t be tested on animals or contain sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), informs

The amenity industry has certainly changed. Traditional items — soap, hand cream or shampoo — are now standard offerings. However, numerous programs, gadgets and even hands-on pampering services prove the scope of amenities widens over time.

“We’re venturing into amenities, which are customized to the individual needs,” explains Andreas Augustin of the Vienna, Austria-based, FamousHotels.org, a journalist, author and expert on hotel history around the world.

Creating an unforgettable guest experience is big business with hoteliers now offering everything from complimentary Adidas running gear at select Fairmont properties to babysitting services, helicopter rides, butler services, BMW bicycles and even a chauffeured classic saloon car.

Whether providing creams or copters, amenity suppliers have to be mindful of planet Earth. “[They] need to look fantastic and sexy and smell beautiful. They need to fit beautifully into the decor,” says Michael Matulick, CEO of Australia’s Concept Amenities, which has supplied amenities for 25 years. In terms of the future. “It’s very much about delivering an environmental solution. Hotels are trying to tap into a new sense, not just the five traditional senses,” Matulick says.

The Australian company’s innovation has produced many firsts, including nourishing shampoo, sachet wrap soaps and Australian-made pleat-wrapped soaps. Tapping into the new reality, Concept Amenities went green by introducing environmentally responsible products (ERP). “What’s interesting is the aspect of [being] in sync with additional senses, where guests are using our products and feeling like they’re contributing to solving the problems we’ve got on the planet,” says Matulick.

Fairmont’s Torrance echoes Matulick’s sentiments. “Guests want to feel they’re giving back to the environment, so they want biodegradable formulas,” she says. “We went to great lengths to find bottles and in particular caps that can degenerate on the way to the landfill.”

If you think the answer to reducing plastic in landfills is wall-mounted lotion dispensers, think again. Fairmont research proved otherwise. “I expected at certain locations guests would feel it was appropriate to proceed with dispensers. But we we’re building a LEED-certified hotel in Pittsburgh,” she continues, “and the research was unbelievably the opposite. Do not even think about it.” She says adamantly. Torrance discovered guests like bottled amenities because it allows them to take a memory home.

Around the world, sustainability is becoming increasingly important. “Sustainability is part of our culture and being Swiss; respect for nature is highly regarded,” says Marion Schumacher, vice-president, Public Relations and Communications, at Zurich based Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts. “In Europe, we’ve rolled out several amenities, including an organic line and paraben- and preservative-free products. It’s something we’re proud of,” says Schumacher. Conscious some amenities are harmful to the planet, Mövenpick now provides “biodegradable pens comprised of 90-per-cent cellulose.” And plastic key cards have been replaced with wooden ones produced from a sustainable forest in Scandinavia.

Elizabeth Hueston, director, Sales and Marketing, Sysco Guest Supply Canada, also supports greening. “Sustainable sourcing is constantly under review,” she says. “We only use recyclable material in our packaging and natural ingredients in our formulations. Personal care amenity bottles are treated with a blend of nontoxic organic compound to enhance biodegradability.” Sysco’s textiles are Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Certified, a process introduced in the early 1990s to ensure the general public isn’t exposed to unhealthy textiles.

One of the most interesting twists on the environmental front comes from the Four Seasons Nevis, West Indies. Hotel guests can contribute to conservation efforts by adopting a sea turtle. Once the reptile’s been tagged the foster parents follow its migration on the Internet.

Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotels and Resorts is now pampering guests with perfume. Nineteen of its properties now have a ‘fragrance concierge.’ Travelling with your own scents is a challenge with today’s regulations, so the chain now has a selection of perfume for guests to use. “We feature fragrances our guests appreciate. The program is complimentary,” explains Heather Crosby, chef concierge, Rosewood Hotels.

Hotels once turned away patrons with children and pets but not today. The Bonham Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland sees a walk and a tummy rub as good business. “The doggy-dreams package helps us as it brings in business, and it benefits our guests, because dog lovers now have a place to stay,” says Johanne Falconer, the hotel’s GM. “The cost is based on best available rate. For a standard double it would be £130 plus a £30 cleaning charge to completely clean the room for the next guest.”

Another treat that can’t be bottled, is interactivity. Device-docking stations, mobile phone chargers and computer tablets have quickly become standard at hotels. LodgeNet, a Sioux Falls, N.D.-based company has further personalized the guest experience. Its Mobile App was created in response to “consumer demand for more interactive and intuitive offerings.”

The app unites guest entertainment, hotel services and local area information. Available in more than half a million rooms in the U.S. and Canada, Derek White, president, LodgeNet says, “guests can now control their inroom TV using their iPhone, iPad or Android.” Hoteliers enjoy its benefits, too, permitting them to communicate marketing messages to guests. “Accessing more than 200-million travelling consumers and the opportunity to impact their bottom line,” says White.

High-tech gadgetry aside, a return to basic comforts also reaps positive results. Mövenpick Hotels’ yellow rubber ducky in every guest bathroom is a winner. “Guests just love it,” laughs Schumacher. “People write to tell us they really enjoyed the gesture of the little rubber ducky in the bathroom.”

In the future, look for increased personal customization of the guest’s needs. “A smart room is the future of amenities,” says Augustin on his mobile from Vienna. “Your amenities might become lights or music or your personal desire for a painting that reminds you of home.” He predicts that the personalized items on a smartphone will be able to be sent to a smart room. A room perhaps, with Jeeves standing at the ready with a succulent steak dinner for the dog, the keys to a Bentley and a portal to watch a turtle’s long and winding migration.

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