I have stayed at some of the hotels touted as the world’s best. And I often prefer to stay at hotels you’ll find on nobody else’s favourites list but my own, because they offer a rare commodity that’s more luxurious than any amenity: true hospitality (not to be confused with service, as restaurateur Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business thoughtfully defines). Attention to personal detail and small but true conveniences are the way to earn a transumer’s loyalty and buying power. Here are a few inspirations:
Challenge While the rest of the world moves 24/7, most hotels still cling to a dated 19- or 20-hour day concept with rigid check-in and -out times and nightly rates that penalize the fast-moving transumer.
Spark Top hotels, like GHM’s The Setai in Miami, The Peninsula in Beverly Hills and Raffles hotels have offered the courtesy of flexible in and out times; many more offer late check-out – for a fee. Airport hotels can learn from the “by the minute” practices of long-distance and cellular companies and charge guests for the number of hours they stay. By-the-hour business models like the Yotel capsule accommodations at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and MetroNaps sleep pods at YVR in Vancouver show that the demand exists for something between a full-night hotel stay and snoozing on an airport lounge bench. The Fairmont hotel within YVR in Vancouver also offers short-term nap rates for stays in “Quiet Zone” rooms that offer comfy respite for connecting travellers.
Challenge The frequent business traveller can develop rug burn from crawling under hotel desks in search of enough outlets for charging multiple devices.
Spark Hotels need to start by installing more, and more accessible, power outlets. Rooms geared to business travellers should showcase the latest in docking and charging stations. The devices could be placed in rooms through partnerships (with tech brands like Monster or Belkin, or design-conscious brands like Lessiv or Bedford). They could even become a potential for-sale item (think: the pre-WiFi internet cable) as part of in-room boutique offerings. Better yet, make the device solar (like iSun or Solio models) and make it an integral part of the desk design – but off the hotel’s power grid.
Savings and Loan
Challenge Attempts to travel light can be easily foiled by just one or two tasks that require more than your smartphone or PDA – not to mention what happens when that device doesn’t work well, or economically, overseas.
Spark In-room and loaner iPods are already common at boutique hotels; loaner cell phones should be de rigueur at business hotels (Fifteen Beacon in Boston has them), along with hotel switchboard call-forwarding to your temporary local number. Extend the service to having hotels provide loaner laptops, the way that Air Canada and IBM did on some flights a few years ago. It’s an opportunity to partner with brands that want to expose travellers to their latest and greatest technology.
Challenge An indoor fitness centre, no matter how well appointed, is never as good for you as getting out of the hotel and exploring a new locale.
Spark Hotel programs providing route maps and stylish loaner bicycles (like Jorg & Olif city bikes at Opus Hotel in Vancouver, Bianchi Nyala cycles at Four Seasons Marunouchi in Tokyo and BMW models at Fairmont) prove that this trend has legs. The Wynn Las Vegas has top Callaway loaner clubs for its golfers; Four Seasons Whistler will outfit you in Prada or Spyder ski gear. How long will it be before a savvy retailer opens something like Nike’s innovative Runner’s Lounges in a hotel near Central Park or Hyde Park, along with a retail store specializing in sporting goods for people on the go?
Challenge A hotel room just can’t quite feel like home when canary-coloured shampoo and watery body lotion are the standard amenities.
Spark In a world where travel restrictions on liquids and gels mean bringing your own full grooming kit isn’t possible, more hotels are adopting top-end creature comforts: just witness what in-room placement with Four Seasons has done for L’Occitane en Provence’s Aromachologie Volumizing Shampoo and Repairing Conditioner, now a cult favourite product that L’Occitane sells as part of a popular travel set. Recognizing that scent creates powerful memories, hotel groups from Shangri-La (with its exclusive Essence of Shangri-La scent) to Starwood (which has unique “scent logos” for each of its brands, from Sheraton to St. Regis) are creating custom fragrances. The Intercontinental Montelucia in Scottsdale went local and unique, using the essence of a rare night-blooming cactus for the signature Joyambrosia scent for its spa. But One&Only Palmilla won my heart with the most personal touches of all: local agave-rich suds and a bespoke sewing kit with hand-wound thread to match the colours in my wardrobe.
In the hotel industry “the box” is insider jargon for a typical room. Which makes it especially apropos and exciting for transumers to imagine more hoteliers thinking outside of it.