How to Create a Welcoming Landscape

By Ken Hutcheson President, U.S. Lawns | May 14, 2017

Whether a guest is staying at your hotel for business or pleasure, their first impression can be a lasting one. Even before they walk into your hotel's lobby, they've already started to form their opinion of your hotel – whether that was based on a visit to your website or as they drove up to your hotel. Just as the messaging on your website helps to set expectations and provides your guests with a glimpse into your commitment to making their stay at your hotel an enjoyable one, so does the appearance of your landscape. Every touchpoint the guest has with your hotel impacts his or her customer experience, making it even more critical that those encounters reflect your brand.

As every hotelier knows, guests will notice even the smallest details. Did the overall look of the property match the expectations of the guest? That ties into the hotel's brand. Were there any areas that the guest could envision coming back to use on another visit for a different purpose – like a meeting, event, or even a wedding? That speaks to the overall functionality of the space. Was there an attractive mixture of plants in the beds? Were they pruned and maintained nicely, or did they look like they were dying? That's related to the overall aesthetic of the landscape. Were the parking lots clearly marked? Were the sidewalks free of debris and hazards? Were the walkways lit properly? Those are safety considerations that guests might not automatically look for when they enter a property, but they certainly notice them if there is something missing, wrong, or out of place.

While it is important to install attractive, functional and safe landscapes, it is imperative that they be maintained properly. This not only supports the hotel's brand but it also protects the investment that the hotelier has made on his or her landscape. General managers will often ask their grounds keeper for help with enhancements or improvements to their landscapes. But providing a welcoming landscape goes beyond putting a bow on a tree – it includes staying true to your hotel's brand, offering spaces that have more than one function, adding color to your landscape, and ensuring the safety of your guests. It can be the difference of turning a first-time guest into a repeat guest.

The following is a list of things to consider when making your hotel's landscape more welcoming for your guests.

Keep Your Hotel's Brand in Mind

It is important to align your landscape's design with your hotel's brand. Every hotel has a brand that communicates their standards, mission, and level of service to the public. For example, an inexpensive hotel located off the interstate, isn't likely to have an expansive green turf and colorful flowers at the porte-cochere. Nor will they have Chinese vases in the lobby. It's not who they are and it would send a mixed message to their guests. On the other hand, these are the types of things guests would expect at a more expensive hotel, and if they were missing, they would certainly be noticed. Staying true to your brand involves setting and maintaining your guests' expectations, and delivering a consistent brand experience for them.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.