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Wooing guests with aromas worth remembering

A recent visit to Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort in Abu Dhabi reminded me just how opulent and on point guest amenities can be.  The smallest of details can delight a details-focussed guest like myself. Gazing around my oasis chamber, I caught sight of my ‘soap menu’. The height of thoughtfulness, I thought, and what was truly revolutionary for me was choice.

While a ‘soap menu’ might be going further than most establishments need to achieve guest satisfaction, some influence over the perfumes that would underpin my stay was welcome. Going natural is now a well-worn path, but as hay fever sufferers will be excruciatingly aware, natural does not always mean harmless.

From my menu, I selected a few soap recipes, carefully skirting strong perfumes like patchouli and lavender, and lingering in the safe zones of citrus and mint. Citrus for sinus clearing and mint for that invigoration that might just have your guest remembering a slight zing in their step when they reflect on (and even better; talk about) their stay with you.

I’m not sure if there’s any science to it but millions of aromatherapists, massage therapists and health spa managers will swear blind that a touch of aroma manipulation goes a long way towards enhancing a sense of wellbeing and an upbeat, relaxed or blissful mood.

With any odour, however, the key is choice; one guest’s sensory heaven is another’s respiratory Armageddon. If you do sashay confidently into offering aroma-adventures in your suites and rooms, it might be wise to offer options. Catering to a respiratory system can be a fine line.

Can you offer a few choices at check-in? Or to avoid option overwhelm, leave a little missive. “Dear valued guest, if the shampoo doesn’t float your boat, you can trade it in for something different or less/more fragrant at reception.” It’s a thoughtful extra that could propel itself straight onto TripAdvisor and let’s face it, it’s a bit of fun.

So, what’s out there?

Luxury amenities have certainly gone green, and amenities can be eco-friendly as well as luxurious without costing the earth. This focus on natural ingredients and sustainable production has also become a major selling point with hotels, catering to an increasingly eco-conscious consumer base.

Aligning with celebrities has become commonplace, just as celebrities increasingly align themselves with environmental campaigns, and the overarching mood of popular culture moves towards a focus on a sustainable future.

A report on millennial travel habits released by World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) indicated that gen Y travellers already account for a hefty portion of hotel guests, and it’s on the up.

Tanya Mohn stated in a 2014 Forbes article titled ‘The Rising Wave Of Millennial Travelers’ that “by 2020, 320 million international trips are expected to be made by youth travellers each year, a staggering 47 percent increase from 217 million in 2013”. Members of this generation are aware that they shall inherit the earth and many of these customers want low impact, and natural.

They also love a bit of eye-candy. The popularity of Apple products is a great indictor of their love of cute and chic. Presentation is key for any generation of guests; neat arrangements in a fit-for-purpose consolidation tray keeps the clean lines of a hotel washstand minimalist and light. Guests will appreciate the energy you invest in selecting stylish packaging for your carefully selected elixirs.

Some accommodation providers are going for wall mounted all-purpose gel dispensers, with considerable benefit to the environment. Vice president operations and franchise H-Hotels, Frank Oettinger told Hospitality Inside that “these can be refilled again and again without harming the environment… in this way, we save about 200,000 small cosmetic bottles per year at 70 percent occupancy”.

The numbers make a good case, but do not consider that the purpose of the individual bottle was never merely to encapsulate a liquid body wash. It is so much more.

“If you take it, you must have liked it,” commented Scott Mitchell, director of design and development for Marriott International in the Forbes article, ‘Hotel Science: How Marriott & Starwood Hotels Choose Your Room Amenities’.

Indeed, theft is good. In fact, it’s not really theft, is it? It’s widely understood that guests are entitled to pocket as many of these little gems as they like, and many do. This is why packaging is vital.

Global brand leader for Starwood’s Sheraton Hotel and Resorts Group, Hoyt Harper was quoted in the same Forbes article saying that travellers have changed their ways over the last few years. “For instance, the airline ban on liquids larger than three ounces has increased the importance of hotel room toiletries.” While not relevant for your drive and stay travellers, it might create something of a habit for those who use air travel frequently.

When the guest returns home with their little bottles, they will sit there looking at them in the bathroom, they might peek out at them every time they open their top bathroom drawer, and they are reminding them of their stay with you.

What do your toiletries say about your hotel?

This is where branding is important. What do you want to evoke with your little bottle of memories? Is it a cool ‘beachside chic’ aquamarine-toned bottle with a shell inscribed? Is it memories of your unique location or region you would like to arouse?

Identity through alignment

Using a local provider, or a national characteristic has been done in Australia, with an Indigenous inspired brand using bush ingredients, while in New Zealand traditional Maori craftwork has inspired a flax ‘kete’ box for display within a wooden slat tray. This can be a terrific way to inject your national identity into your keepsake.

What is clear is that guest toiletries or amenities are a pretty big deal. It’s often mentioned on TripAdvisor, and is even a subject of many an eccentric collector’s trove.

What you put in those little bottles, whether the lids flip, and how they present, is of more import than their meagre real estate would intimate.  Jeff David, managing director of Knickerbocker, a historic Times Square building that re-opened as a hotel in February 2015 concurred. He issued USA Today with this chilling edict: “It’s a big deal if your bathroom amenity is bad. It’s almost like buying a Mercedes and the stereo is bad.”

Mr David also advised that “choosing the right bathroom toiletries was just as important as choosing the right bedding”. So, what is the right amenities line for you? Luckily, distributors have come to the table with options to suit any budget and brand profile, and there really is something for every hotel, from luxury accommodation to your comfortable well serviced holiday park.

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