Designing to Meet an Owner's Needs and a Guest's Expectations

What to Spend Your Money On

By Pat Miller Managing Principal and Hospitality Practice Leader, LEO A DALY | November 12, 2017

In hospitality, the best hotels are the ones that envelop guests in the fantasy that no expense was spared in providing an authentic, luxurious, and unique guest experience.

Of course, we all know that to be a fantasy. Even the most high-end hotel has a finite budget. Every cost associated with its design and operation has been engineered. Every thread was counted, every view framed, and every piece of designer furniture strategically placed to increase revenue. The true value of a hospitality designer is his or her ability to spend money wisely. There is a science to producing the largest look per dollar spent. Itís something Iíve been studying for thirty years.

Some of the truths Iíve learned over my decades in hospitality design relate to how guests perceive value (which is different than how you and I might). In the following paragraphs, Iíll take you through some real-world examples of how a designer makes subtle shifts in priority to meet the ownerís needs and guest expectations. The lessons contained therein can be instructive on creating unique and memorable guest experiences at every level of service and budget.

How Guests do Not Perceive Value

Iíll start with a quick story. Once, traveling abroad, I stayed in a five-star hotel whose main design feature was a gigantic gold-leaf dome in the atrium. All of the guest rooms looked inward toward this atrium, making it the focal point of the experience. High above the guests, this golden waste of money hung, filling the lobby with strange echoes, and impressing no one. The problem was, it was too high up for the guest to truly experience in detail. Designers often suffer from an urge to make fancy, expensive design statements that may serve the designerís ego or reputation, but fall flat with the most important audience: the guest.

How Guests Really Perceive Value

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.