Over the past year, I’ve stayed in 40 hotels and many fine properties have upgraded me to their suite products. With a nod to all those hoteliers who have graciously provided this bonus, I say thank you. Attempting to learn from these experiences, I ask: what makes a suite special? And, if properly differentiated, how can you fashion your suites as a truly differentiated product set?
First, let’s define a suite. Whereas many hoteliers may consider it as just a larger guestroom, a true suite has a door that physically separates the sleeping quarters from the living/dining area. Note, many hoteliers try to define a larger room as a mini-suite, but without the true separation this does not meet the actual criteria.
In effect, a suite provides the guest with both private and public spaces, making it ideal for many lodging circumstances where a standard room would be awkward, informal or undesirable. Many of the larger suites or multi-bedroom units may also have an additional powder room and mini-kitchen.
Furthermore, some hotels are suite-only such as the Embassy Suites brand. However, for most properties there is usually a mix of these tiers. I have rarely heard of a hotelier who is happy with this ratio, and in my experience the overall demand for suites is outstripping that of regular rooms, although this may differ depending upon local and competitive circumstances.
The reasons why suites are gaining in demand are numerous. Here are a few:
• Rising affluence: Those who can afford it are opting for more space and a suite delivers a loftier guestroom experience.
• Families traveling with a child: No need for two adjoining rooms; the child can sleep on the comfortable sofa bed in the living room.
• Older guests: Those of retirement age spend more time in their guestrooms, especially with the draw of being able to enjoy in-room meals.
• One of the couple snores: Don't laugh! A serious snoring problem by one half of the couple makes life miserable for the other—you need a getaway!
• Conducting business in the hotel: As an example, you can't really conduct a professional interview while sitting at the side of a bed.
It’s more than just physical size and rate, though. There are many opportunities for you to improve your guests’ suite experience. Setting aside capital cost items such as larger TVs, improved drapes/carpeting, polished floors and enhanced lighting. Here are some more ideas for consideration:
• Free WiFi or free access to the higher tier of Internet bandwidth
• Upgraded bathroom amenities such as better name brand toiletries
• Extended amenity kit to include razor, shaving cream, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, mouthwash and so on
• Thicker bathrobes, perhaps with a different monogram
• Fresh flowers in the bathroom and at bedside
• Complimentary bottled water
• Turndown service
• Additional channels on the in-room TV service
• Extended check-in and check-out hours
• Priority seating in the dining room or priority room service
• Additional newspapers
• Complimentary city magazines
• Upgraded beds, linens and pillows
• Restaurant and spa discounts
• Free use of fitness facilities and perhaps the use of a fitness trainer
• Preferred golf tee times
• Limousine airport pick up and return
• In-room refrigerator
• Concierge services
• Personal welcome letter and welcome amenities
Once you have built your suite product, promote its unique points of difference. First, sell your staff, in particular your reservations team. Make mention of your suites in social media. Create a persona to make it special by, for instance, giving each suite a unique name. Ensure the suites lead your accommodations listing on your website to differentiate your property from those who typically start with their ‘basic’ offerings. Extensive use of photography will add to the ‘reasons why’ to buy. Don’t forget to elaborate on the amenity additions within your online booking engine.
Pricing your suites is a matter of market factors. For a start, look at the square footage and proportion of the suite to a standard room. There are no set rules here. Many other factors may indicate even higher premiums, such as oceanfront settings. Simply put: instead of giving away your suites each night as complimentary upgrades, learn how to sell your best product.