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Finding The Right Comfort Level

Hotels Need To Make Frequent Updates To Keep Up With Guest Demand

Thursday, March 14, 2019
Steve Pike
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The days of a hotel guest room being “just a room,” with a comfortable bed, TV and desk are gone. Just as today’s business and leisure travelers are more savvy about prices and amenities, they are equally as savvy when it comes to their guest rooms.

Today’s hotel and resort guests demand more of their guest rooms from colors to tech to scents. And hotels and resorts, whether they are new-builds, or renovations, are meeting those demands.

“In today’s competitive environment you strive to offer a very comfortable room or suite that is inviting and also includes the solutions to your tech needs,” said Jim Busch, corporate project manager for Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, FL.

Innisbrook later this spring will unveil colorful updates and renovations in approximately 300 of its member-owned guest suites.

“Comfortable, plush bedding and an upgraded mattress are key, as well as extra pillows,” Busch said. “We strive to offer bedding that our guests would actually love to take home with them. This is also true for soft, plush towels.

“Our guests always love the option of making a great cup of coffee in the room, with bottled water if they choose that is readily available in their refrigerator. Most of us also travel with a computer, so having proper desk space is very important, as well as ample outlets for charging electronic devices that are easily accessible and convenient to the bed, desk and counter areas.”

Understanding today’s traveler needs and expectations is key to room designs and renovations, said Matthias Kammerer, managing director at The Biltmore Miami, which recently renovated its 271 guest rooms and suites.

“How do we know what that is? We took a very good look at our guest feedback and focus on the needs and wants of our customer base,” Kammerer said.

“We live in the Information Age and everything related to technology and comfort is important when planning a renovation. We made sure to add lots of USB charging ports along with extra outlets for guests to plug in electronic devices on the desk area as well as on bedside tables. We also upgraded our Wi-Fi access points and bandwidth to address the ever-increasing number of devices that guests travel with as well as ensure a strong connection. Finally, we added additional lighting to ensure that guests can work and live comfortably in their rooms.”

A hotel's design narrative, according to Gregory Polino, general manager of the W Miami, should be understood the moment a guest steps foot into the hotel.

“For our rooms and suites, it's important that these areas are comfortable, stimulating and well-lit,” Polino said. “Because the rooms are one of the first aspects our guests interacts with the design should evoke inspiration and a guest should feel the W Experience as soon as they step into their room.”

That kind of “feel” for a destination experience is a critical component in today’s room designs, particularly at properties that have rich cultures and histories.

“It’s important to ensure that the color palette reflects current trends while maintaining authenticity-- the San Antonio Hill Country in our case,” said Brian Morris, director of sales and marketing at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country, which later this month will complete a “refresh” to each of its 1,002 guest rooms and suites.

The refresh designs, Morris said, are inspired by the Blanco River central wellspring. The refreshed rooms incorporate aspects, such as the rush of water and trademark cliffs found deep within the river to reflect within the suites’ color palette and aesthetic.

Eduardo Fernandez, general manager at the Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach hotels, also believes that being in tune with the evolving needs of guests is key to a successful and well received renovation. The Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, directly across from the beach, recently completed renovation of each of its 240 guest rooms and suites to give them more of an “ocean” vibe.

“Prior to outlining the scope of our changes, we extensively reviewed guest data from the past several years to identify key needs or issues,” Fernandez said. “Thankfully, we didn’t have any major problems with our room package prior to renovation, but the data helped us drive the design for the new restaurant and bar, and also drove our decision to expand the front desk into two separate pods to improve guests’ arrival experience.

“The selection of finishes is also key to ensure that the room maintains a fresh look for years to come. Additionally, the design needs to stand the test of time, despite ‘cool’ trends that don’t last more than a few years,” he noted.

In that regard, Morris said, it’s important to choose goods that are not only aesthetically appealing, but also durable.

“This is something that is often overlooked. The product must be able to withstand at least five to 10 years of durability in today’s economy.”

One “must-have” among hotels when making updates and renovations surprisingly isn’t visible to guests. Scent is a way hotels set a mood and create an emotional connection between the guests and the brand, which contributes to loyalty.

Companies such as Aroma 360 worked with many hotels in the U.S. and internationally on custom scents for guest rooms and common areas.

Can a new room design – or room renovation – create and drive business to a hotel or resort property?

“A renovation alone will not create new business - although it has brought higher guest satisfaction,” Kammerer said. “Our team ensured that we communicated a solid marketing campaign running parallel with our renovations to generate new business.”

“Certainly, a room refresh can bring new business opportunity - or at least push you over the edge if the competition hasn’t been refreshed,” Morris said. “However, in many cases, it’s the price of admission to keep you relevant in an industry that continues to increase supply and is more competitive than ever before.”
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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