Saturday, October 21, 2017

Do the little things matter?

Luxury is a term that is bandied about the industry far too often, with accommodation providers self-appointing their offerings as ‘luxury’ or self-rating themselves as ‘five-star’ when they would likely only get an official rating of three.

The Cambridge Dictionary Online defines luxury as “great comfort, especially as provided by expensive and beautiful things” also “something expensive that is pleasant to have but is not necessary” and “something that gives you much pleasure but cannot be done often”.

A few decades ago, if you entered a property’s opulent chandelier-lit foyer, checked in at the marble front desk and a well-dressed bellman with faultless manners showed you to your lavish suite, sumptuous bed, and extravagant amenities you would have immediately recognised pure, unadulterated luxury.

But today, travellers expect so much more. When a traveller spends their hard-earned cash to stay in luxury accommodation these days, they demand more than what they have at home and so even the most basic accommodations have higher expectations placed upon them.

The level of expectation from guests poses a conundrum for all accommodation providers. Modern guests regularly demand free wifi, super-efficient service, upgraded amenities, high-definition IPTV and lush spas but they don’t consider these amenities ‘luxury’. This is because they can commonly be found at home and have consequently become standard. Now, when they seek out “luxury” they are looking for something more; a pleasurable non-necessity.

In the strict sense of the word, what does the addition of luxury in today’s guest experience mean? To redefine your accommodation as luxury you must add unique personal touches and seek out little gems that leave your guests with an unmistakable and everlasting impression they have been amply pampered.

Moreover, luxury and top quality is synonymous with size and thread count! Believe it or not, guests judge the quality of an establishment by the size and feel of their towels – it’s true!  Towels matter, because the more luxurious and classy the accommodation experience; the bigger, thicker and more sumptuous the towel. Guests love a pristine, fresh smelling, gleaming white towel, one that is big enough to wrap around and with plenty of material to spare.

The importance of quality towels was also confirmed in a recent online consumer survey by Xeros, a UK specialist in laundry systems. It stated: “Towels play a critical role in hotel selection, guest satisfaction, and brand loyalty.” The study found that 94 percent of all respondents believe that towel quality is important for overall customer satisfaction and 73 percent believe that towel quality would influence their decision to return.

“The results of this study illustrate that travellers care quite a bit about the towels they use during hotel visits,” said Jonathan Benjamin, global president, laundry at Xeros. “Savvy hoteliers should consider rethinking the role of towels in their overall brand story. Towels are a relatively unexplored branding touch point in the customer journey and has the potential to be an emotional tipping point turning a visitor into a loyal customer,” added Benjamin. The 2016 study was based on responses from 1160 business and vacation travellers in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Another tip in the art of luxury guest seduction is to provide bath robes and free slippers as amenities – why? Because history indicates that your luxury guest wantonly expects to find a luxurious robe and comfortable slippers as part of their luxury experience.

Remember, a luxury experience can be provided in any accommodation, not just traditional luxury establishments. Distinctive amenities can be offered in any accommodation, items that delight your guests and add luxury points of difference to your property.

Smaller boutique properties may find it hard to compete with the over-the-top opulent services, facilities and amenities offered by larger hotels. But every accommodation can enhance their guest experience by providing a unique environment a personal service, amenities that guests love and quality guest room towels, slippers, and robes.

The worldwide tourism industry has identified a rapidly growing super-rich female population, fastest of all in Asia. The number of wealthy solo female travellers grew by an average of 5.3 percent between 2010 and 2014 in countries with large populations of the very rich, per data provider WealthInsight.

It would be wise to cater to this market by making sure you do not skimp on the quality of your towels and offer smaller sized robes and slippers along with other amenities that these mega-rich female travellers would appreciate. Always provide guest robes and slippers that sing luxury and comfort, the kind of luxury that guests didn’t realise they desired.

As a personal sidenote, I believe the offer of disposable slippers is always a great idea, even for a one-night motel stay. Not only do I appreciate not walking barefoot on carpet because I can’t avoid thinking about how many other people have walked on them, but slippers also protect the carpet/flooring from shoes.

Star Ratings Australia operations manager Janet O’Brien shares her viewpoint

Ms O’ Brien told us: “Historically, it was common to find the same quality and size towel at all levels of Star Ratings. The quality of towelling items has improved greatly in recent years and the introduction of quality as part of our review has played a part in this change. A Star Rating Review considers approximately 200 criteria, including size, quality, condition and number of towelling items per guest. A five-star luxury hotel might supply a large bath mat with a 1200 gsm (grams per square metre) pure luxury to step onto from a bath or shower!  Also, a five-star property is likely to have their own specially designed towelling items.

“The criteria that Star Ratings Australia uses to achieve star ratings is based on research that considers what consumers have said is important to them. It found that, particularly in regard to 4.5 and five-star accommodation guests, amenities like robes and slippers are very important. The type and quality of robes and slippers has also evolved to suit the type of property. For example, in a resort-style property, the robes may be in a thick luxurious towelling guests might choose to wear to the pool or a day spa and the slippers provided are commonly those with a non-slip sole. Meanwhile, in a luxury boutique-style property, guests may remain in their suite and the robe and slippers may be more appropriate for lounging.”

About Mandy Clarke

Mandy Clarke
Mandy is one of our most popular industry reporters. Make sure you never miss out on her monthly property profiles by subscribing to Resort News!

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