5 top hotel execs discuss amenity trends from wellness to Wi-Fi
Last week, the?Wall Street Journal?s business travel writer?Scott McCartney moderated an hour-long webcast with senior C-suite executives at five major hotel brands about how hotel amenities are evolving. The event was based on a study conducted by?SmartBrief entitled: ?The Guest Experience: Innovative Trends for Creating a More Personalized Stay.?
The diversity of participants was impressive, ranging from luxury boutique brands to corporate business hotels. Discussion revolved around sustainability, turndown service, meetings/events, food/fitness and tech/media.?The panel consisted of:
- Mike DeFrino, COO,?Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
- Mitzi Gaskins, VP/Global Brand Manager,?JW Marriott Hotels
- J.P. Oliver, Regional VP,?Morgans Hotel Group
- Lisa Potts, Senior VP Sales/Marketing,?Trump Hotel Collection
- Tom Santora, CMO,?Omni Hotels & Resorts
McCartney started the webcast with a poll for hoteliers listening in about which age demographics they targeted. The results: Boomers (11%), Millennials (15%) and Somewhere in Between (53%), with the rest answering none specifically.
Santora represents the majority of responses, saying that Omni Hotels appeals to a broad base of guest demographics with a wide range of hotel product. He did, however, commit that the brand is popular with Boomers due in part to hefty conference business.
?From Omni?s perspective, we do see a lot through that Boomer category, and when you think about that, they?re really the most homogenous of the generations in history, and probably the most traveled?. So when we think about amenities for them, we really want them to have this wide range.?
At that point, it would have been interesting to hear what DeFrino at Kimpton or Oliver at Morgans had to say since their brands are perceived as being especially attentive toward Millennials. Stay tuned for a future Skift story about that.
The Green Question
The SmartBrief paper begins with amenities related to the arrival experience, such as discounted parking for hybrid vehicles. The study reports that 61% of those polled either expect hotels to have green initiatives in place, or it?s a determining factor during the booking process.
McCartney asked DeFrino, ?What?s the business case for discounted parking for hybrid vehicles??
?At Kimpton, we?ve always been committed to being environmentally friendly; we really just think it?s the right thing to do aside from the business case for it,? answered DeFrino. ?Free parking for people who are coming in with hybrid vehicles is just one thing we do to support the environment?. The eco practices and hybrid car discount help build an affinity and alignment with our guests. We think that people who are driving those cars are attracted to other organizations that have that same disposition.?
McCartney then inquired about the motivation behind Kimpton?s popular brandwide bike share program.
DeFrino said, ?That?s not really an eco initiative, however, we really think that our guests who are staying at Kimpton are looking to stay fit and feel good when they?re traveling?. There?s no better way to see a city than from two wheels.?
J.P. Oliver at Morgans supported that, saying he?s also seeing robust demand for bikes available on-property, such as at Delano in Miami Beach.
?The client and customer are really looking for a more socially responsible way of getting around, it helps limit their carbon footprint, and it?s a healthy activity,? he said.
McCartney polled the audience again, asking: ?Do a hotel?s environmental efforts make a difference to guests??
Almost 80% replied that their guests either look for sustainable programs or expect them to be there. Just 20% said factors like room rate are more important.
However, Santora mentioned that Omni loyalty guests are asked about that when they fill out their profile. The questionnaire comes with a box pre-checked stating that the hotel won?t do energy-intensive things like change sheets daily, leave lights on at turndown, etc.
?Almost 80% of people uncheck that box,? said Santora. ?So they say they?re green, they want to be green. But I think when people are traveling, to the point made earlier, it?s kind of a nice perk if you will, to have your beds changed and made on a daily basis.?
In-Room Amenities & Wellness
JW Marriott introduced an upgraded turndown service called Nightly Refresh Program this year, offering aromatherapy oil and a rotation of healthy snacks and traditional chocolates. McCartney asked Gaskins: ?Why do you see turndown as a key part of the guest experience??
She replied, ?In studies we?ve done in the past and more recently, turndown is becoming something [guests] would like upon request, so they?re not necessarily looking at it for it every night, but when they do want it, they want it to be special.?
Gaskins explained that turndown is often the last touchpoint with business travelers who check out remotely. So JW partnered with national nutrition expert Keri Glassman to create health bars with organic ingredients that act as antioxidants. JW also worked with Aromatherapy Associates who created a Revive Oil to help guests sleep better and wake up easier, as well as JW?s bath amenities and signature scent.
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