Beyond Boutique: Reimagining Guest Relationships in an Experiential Age

By Robert Reitknecht Founder, Robert Reitknecht | April 08, 2018

Today's guests have made it clear that "different" is no longer good enough. Once-exclusive perks like free valet and continental breakfast no longer hold their weight compared to the promise of a truly personal touch; one that genuinely resonates with guests based on their individuality. Generic amenities are falling by the wayside as more guests seek elite escapes that transcend the norm.

In today's age of personalization, guests want their hotel experience to rival their wildest Pinterest board fantasies. They want their interactions to be as individualized as their Etsy account. They want to invest their hard-earned dollars into a property that truly reflects who they are as a person (case in point: this survey from travel magazine Afar that helps readers determine which hotel they should stay at based on their personality). This is why a couple craving a traditional New England experience will choose Ocean House in Rhode Island for its croquet lawn and Lilly Pulitzer-inspired beach cabanas, versus a local Double Tree or Hampton Inn.

Evolving guest expectations and behaviors have introduced a new era of hospitality; one that focuses on hyper-personalization (otherwise referred to as boutique hoteling). The idea of delivering everything under the sun is becoming increasingly irrelevant as guests seek special attention from brands that individuate. This is a significant paradigm shift in the industry, as demonstrated by several leading chains like Hyatt (Andaz Hotels), Hilton (Canopy by Hilton), Marriott (Autograph Collection) and more.

But this is more than just a guest experience strategy; it is a belief that drives organizational culture and values. It is about reimagining the role of the hotel in an experiential age where relationships matter more than service. So, how can hotels (or any brand, for that matter) embrace this mentality to competitively differentiate? There are several steps that should be taken on the front-end, back-end and everywhere in-between.

Always Start with Introspection

Boutique hotels have reported some of today's highest occupancy and revenue rates; however, this should not be your main driver for change if you take the long-term view of business. Your efforts should always come from a genuine place of caring for your customers. There should be an authenticity to your actions, and a greater purpose than simply bolstering near-term revenue (customers will always be able to sniff out the difference).

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Coming up in December 2018...

Hotel Law: New Administration - New Policies

In a business as large as a hotel and in a field as broad as the law, there are innumerable legal issues which affect every area of a hotel's operation. For a hotel, the primary legal focus includes their restaurant, bar, meeting, convention and spa areas of their business, as well as employee relations. Hotels are also expected to protect their guests from criminal harm and to ensure the confidentiality of their personal identity information. These are a few of the daily legal matters hotels are concerned with, but on a national scale, there are also a number of pressing issues that the industry at large must address. For example, with a new presidential administration, there could be new policies on minimum wage and overtime rules, and a revised standard for determining joint employer status. There could also be legal issues surrounding new immigration policies like the H-2B guest-worker program (used by some hotels and resorts for seasonal staffing), as well as the uncertain legal status of some employees who fall under the DACA program. There are also major legal implications surrounding the online gaming industry. With the growing popularity of internet gambling and daily fantasy sports betting, more traditional resort casinos are also seeking the legal right to offer online gambling. Finally, the legal status of home-sharing companies like Airbnb continues to make news. Local jurisdictions are still trying to determine how to regulate the short-term apartment rental market, and the outcome will have consequences for the hotel industry. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine these and other critical issues pertaining to hotel law and how some companies are adapting to them.