Colin Nagy, head of strategy at Fred & Farid, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality, innovation, and business travel. "On Experience" dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across hospitality, aviation, and beyond. You can read all of his columns here.
This columnist spends a lot of time on the road observing the a lot of the great, some of the good, and a few bits of bad and ugly in modern hospitality. For all of the trends and innovations going on in the space, there are some very simple basics that are frequently missed and can make the difference in making a stay great. Here are some of the commandments (er, friendly suggestions) that shouldn’t be overlooked:
Beware too much worshipping at the false idolatry of a social platform. Designing a space for the purposes of digital validation is going to look silly in a few years time.
There’s nothing sadder than a coffee robot when a barista could do. Also, every hotel needs to have a plan for early risers. Complimentary coffee in the lobby, before the breakfast service opens, is a nice touch as there’s nothing worse than the 5 a.m. search for a warm cup.
Minimalism Versus Austerity
Minimalism should not equal austerity. Even the most artfully reduced environment should still be hospitable and have elements of warmth and comfort. Some places take this too far.
Retail in hotels is a good trend and can introduce the worldview of a brand to a guest. However, this should be metered and not take over the entire experience like an overgrown vine. There is a good balance to be struck and when every space feels like it is being monetized, including the room, it isn’t a good look. This means making sure that your minibar, snacks, etc., are nicely tucked away, and the room isn’t looking like a grocery store.
The Need For Paper
I’ve long argued that paper needs to be a staple for guests that want it. This means memo pads in the room, proper postcards to be mailed, as well as print copies of essential dailies. Every hotel is trying to get people to download a press reader app, but many still like a crisp paper in the lobby in the early morning.
Some hotels double as vibrant nightspots. However, there needs to be a plan if the kick drum keeps resonating late into the evening. A guest shouldn’t need to ask for earplugs, particularly if there are renovations going on.
Friction Free Requests
A very simple email address like frontdesk@XYZ, made available for guests is a simple way to make easy requests for a printed itinerary. Also, based on the location, a simple way to do the same via the local messenger service (WeChat, Line, etc). is also a guest-friendly option.
Running and Local
A morning running map, as well as a printed local map, is a great guide for guests to get oriented. Also, a station welcoming back early morning runners with ice cold water and towels is a very elegant touch.
Beware the switch to LED lighting, as some bulbs can cast a cold, sterile glow. Agree with the Monocle team’s call to arms for warm, natural lighting at all costs.
A Unique Turndown Touch
For a turndown, some sort of small signature touch is still welcome, whether it is a lavender sachet, or an interesting radio station, dialed perfectly in the background. It creates a calm and harmony that is magic.
A Trusted Voice
I’ve long argued that the concierge can still add a lot of value. But they need to be working to maintain their social capital and connections around town and not be on the affiliate marking take from local businesses. The human touch is still vitally important to a hotel.
Hitting The Right Notes
The right music programming, day to night, is essential and can add a really inspiring texture to a hotel. However, setting a foot wrong aesthetically can have 10 times the negative of the desired effect.
The bare necessities when things go slightly wrong on the road should be close at hand, whether it is a simple asprin, a mending kit, or something for an upset stomach. No one is going to sue you for an aspirin, and the trudge to a local store late at night is quite a pain.
Analog still counts for a lot, and hotels that have a small, curated lending library of DVDs and CDs lend an old school touch.