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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.