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Creating a Memorable Sensory Experience for Hotel Guests

The difference between a blah stay at a hotel and an experience that will be remembered happens when a total sensory experience is created for guests. A sensory experience is more than just the service of a clean room, a decent meal and polite staff. Those are merely addressing a need and relatively easy to achieve. A memorable stay takes more forethought and planning, but will be sure to touch the guests on all sensory levels: visual, taste, smell, sound and touch.

The Visual Experience
Creating a visual experience at a hotel property starts from when they pull up to the entry. Guests are consciously and subconsciously scanning the area to reassure themselves that they’ve made the right hotel selection. When they enter via a crystal clear sliding door, they will see colors that reflect the surrounding area. Bright “beachy” colors or deep, somber elegance all work to create the visual experience of the property. The goal is to make them feel as if they’ve entered another world. Ensure that the staff is smartly coiffed and dressed in clean, crisp attire. They are the front lines for a property and always give the first impression.  After the rush of check-in, guests are usually ready to explore their surroundings. Hotel lobbies and other public spaces should provide comfortable seating to rest in while waiting on others in their party, areas of quiet retreat and cozy corners for quiet conversation.


The impression of the room is made long before they actually enter it. The downstairs hallway, foyer, elevators and room floor hallways all contribute to the overall feeling that they will get when they open the door to their room. Immaculate carpet, crisply made beds, an abundance of pillows, spotless bathrooms, and plenty of fluffy towels. With nothing out of place, all of these elements will contribute to the visual experience of the guest room. The little touches like flat panel televisions, easily accessed wi-fi, and remotes within easy reach, comfortable beds, and chairs to relax or work in – these details are quickly assessed and all contribute to the initial impression of the property.


A Tasteful Experience
Can you remember the first bite of an amazing dessert you enjoyed? The last juicy filet mignon you cut into? Or the rich goodness of smooth, buttery, melt in your mouth mashed potatoes?  What about the warm sweetness of a freshly baked cookie? All of these are examples of a tasteful experience at a thriving hotel property. When your sense of taste is tied to a memory, you’ll be taken back to the place in time when you experienced it again. The conversations will revolve around, “Do you remember that to-die-for cheesecake we had in Ames? We need to go back there!”


Follow the Scent
Our sense of smell is one of our strongest triggers. A scent with great memories can create a feeling of well being, bringing to mind a visit or a fond memory of a time long ago. The first scent a hotel guest should encounter is one of cleanliness – without being overwhelming. The right balance of clean and fresh will reinforce the fastidiousness of the property. Some hotels even have a signature scent that they use as room fresheners. Guests have complimented them so much that they are available in the gift stores.

When hotel guests enter a property’s public spaces, the smells should contribute to the overall experience.  When they first rise, coming downstairs to the tempting aroma freshly brewed coffee, waffles and bacon will get their mouths watering and have them making a bee-line for the restaurant. When they return from a long day of vacation adventures or business meetings, the smell of dinner ready is welcoming and comforting. No stress about where to go “find food” when they know that they can follow their nose to wonderful selections right in their hotel.


Soothing Sounds
Quiet, relaxing background music is a must at any hotel. Light, airy, strains of new age, soft rock, light country, jazz or classical music will automatically create an atmosphere reflective of the area. In Dallas or Nashville? Country music is a must. In Detroit or Boston? Light rock will reinforce the persona of the city. In LA or Miami?  Create the persona of the hotel using current hip top charting sounds. When in doubt, a soothing jazz track or light classical music will lend elegance to the memories of the hotel guests. If there are local artists that have been popular in the lounge, feature them so that staff can share with guests all about the homegrown talent.


The Perfect Touch
Greeting hotel guests with a gentle breeze (warm or cool depending upon the weather) as they enter is the first touch they receive from the property.  When resting in the lobby, a balance must be found for the upholstery of the chairs and couches. Strike a balance between serviceable and resilient - comfortable to sit in and pleasant to the touch for seating areas that draw a crowd. In the lounge a mix of high and low seating areas will satisfy all the crowds. In guest rooms, take it to the next level. If the brand recommends a certain thread count for sheets and towels, go one better. You’d much rather be known as the hotel with the “remarkable towels” than the one that has the cheap, thin ones.


Catering to the senses for hotel guests is all about creating a memory versus addressing a need. When you take the time and make the effort to do the little things right it goes a long way toward creating a memory for hotel guests. But don’t just do one and forget the others, or just a couple. Make creating a sensory experience a priority for the property and you will see the results in your return guests and online evaluation scores. Creating a sensory environment is a priority for any property managed by PHD Hospitality. May I assist you in creating an atmosphere that will astound all of the senses in your hotel property? Call me at 602-714-2442. 
What is your strongest travel memory?
1 Response to Creating a Memorable Sensory Experience for Hotel Guests
Vivian Wright Says: I love hotels, and I love beautiful hotel gardens and environments, especially those that reference the wonderful hotels and gardens of Provence and the Italian countryside: the fountains, the citrus trees in terra cotta planters, and the casual formality of the environments. I am always looking for ways to bring a bit of that magic into my own garden. Well, I recently found an incredible store and online presence: Authentic Provence (http://authenticprovence.com) in West Palm Beach. The finest collection of European garden antiques I have seen in the US: statues, fountains, planters (note especially the classic Caisse de Versailles in every color, and Anduze pottery), terra cotta shields, stone animals, copper pots, garden spouts, etc. They also have beautiful stone fireplaces, re-purposed tiles, and many other specialty items. I felt transported to a unique environment reminiscent of the wonderful hotels and gardens of Europe.
May 28, 2014

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