What do guests really want when they visit a hotel? More importantly, what can you do to ensure these needs are met, so guests can enjoy the most seamless hotel travel experience possible? These are the questions we investigated in our latest research.
We’re open-sourcing our findings so, if you’re a hotelier, you can use them to improve and enhance the experience you offer.
Our research involved video and text questionnaires with 163 respondents, covering topics such as the booking process, check-in, in-room experience, departure, and any imaginative ideas guests had for future enhancements.
Below, I’ve outlined some of the most exciting and most frequently mentioned insights. and we’d love to hear your feedback on the ones you think are the best or most important.
Sterile photography can really put guests off when it comes to booking a hotel stay. Ideally, they’d love to access a virtual tour of the rooms and hotel facilities on offer to give them the best idea of the stay they will have.
Photos can be even more of a problem if guests decide they don’t end up reflect reality they experience.
Photos taken from the wrong angle or that don’t show the full dimensions of a room can be a real annoyance too. So much so that guests won’t just view the photos the hotel has provided, they’ll dig deeper to see what’s available on the internet that can help them get a better idea of what the hotel experience is really like.
Something guests like to find when they’re doing their research is photos taken by previous guests. Instead of the, they prefer to find Instagram-style shots that make them excited about what’s on offer.
Guests’ desire to find out as much as possible about their stay before they book. Which also leads them to wanting to see the specific detail about the room they book.
Something that frustrates guests during the booking process is only accessing the information about a type of room. They want to see the exact room they will book, including photos, facilities, and layouts.
Hotels that are already making this possible include Iberostar, which allows guests to view individual rooms on a floor plan with 3D images, and Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, which also allows guests to pick a room from a floor plan.
Guests want to see the view they will have from their window, and they want to know where their room will be located, including where it is in relation to facilities like the swimming pool. Some guests also like to know about the mattress on the bed and whether it fits their firmness preference.
They also want to know the specific features of the room that might put them off booking. Some guests told us how they get frustrated when their room has locked windows that can’t open or when their bathroom has transparent walls that provide no privacy.
This same detail was wanted from the information about communal facilities too, with guests wanting to know how far the creche is from the restaurant, how long the swimming pool is or the gym’s specific equipment.
Hotels that can cater to unique or minority needs stand out for any guests who require or value special treatment.
For example, guests who use a wheelchair found that many hotels might be technically accessible but still differ markedly in the experience they provide. They want a flat hotel, with no steps or bridges required to access the bar, restaurant or other facilities. A deaf guest mentioned delight at finding out that sign language users work at the hotel and prefer self-service options for check-in, which means they don’t have to use pen and paper.
Also, guests visiting the hotel for a honeymoon or other special occasions didn’t like it when their event wasn’t recognised. They felt that personalised welcome gestures, such as handwritten notes, chocolates, rose petals or welcome drinks, really added to the experience.
Once they’d arrived for their stay, guests loved it when the hotel staff could provide their personal recommendations, especially when it came to food and eating out.
Having to rely solely on online reviews to source their dining options appealed to few, as most guests wouldn’t do this in their city and therefore didn’t think it was the best way to find great restaurants on holiday either. Instead, they wanted to eat like the locals and receive tips on where they should go from the staff that knew the area.
They also appreciated when staff could provide tips around other local services unique to the area, such as whether taxi apps were available and which one was the best to use. If these tips weren’t forthcoming and resulted in an issue, such as guests going hungry because they hadn’t been told the local restaurants needed to be booked, this resulted in a negative experience.
From checking into their room to leaving on their final day and for everything in between, guests wanted the power to do what they wanted or needed to at their fingertips, in the shape of an all-encompassing smart app.
CitizenM has an app for a truly connected stay at all their hotels. It allows guests to book, check-in and pick the type of room they want. They can also control the room with it, closing the shades, changing the colour of the lights, streaming onto the TV and controlling the temperature. YOTEL also does a really great job with its app, allowing users to check-in and check-out, as well as providing an app room key that enables a contactless arrival and departure.
Guests we spoke to wondered whether some sort of simple digital ID could allow them to check in easily, without the need to perform repetitive tasks. For example, guests expect you to already have their credit card details if they were used in the booking, even though you might not have received their payment details in a usable form. Once in their rooms, the app could be used to change anything from the lights to the aircon to the TV or wifi settings.
They could also use it to order food, drinks or amenities to their room, as well as searching for and booking services at their own pace, rather than having to call or walk to reception to see what’s available.
One thing that kept coming up with almost every guest was the need for good coffee!
They wanted quality coffee and tea making facilities in the room, with various guests identifying well-known coffee making gadgets like Nespresso as one of the first things they look for. This is something that Resident Hotels is doing well right now, with their ‘signature in-room mini kitchen’, which always has a Nespresso machine.
Beverages are quite a big deal, with water being another topic that came up a lot. Guests want to have drinking or bottled water available all the time, whether that’s in the room or just easy to order for delivery.
In a world where content is king, connectivity matters to guests too.
They want their hotel room to be something of a hi-tech hub, with a good quality TV. They want to cast from their own devices onto the room’s screen, so they can enjoy the same content they do at home, and easily connect to speakers. When they’re booking, they always want to see details of connectivity in the room too, with information about wifi speeds and easy access to popular streaming channels, such as Netflix and YouTube. Vintry & Mercer in London makes this possible in every room already, with Apple TVs that allow guests to stream their shows from their own devices.
Something that really puts off guests when they first enter their room is a complicated wifi setup. They don’t want to deal with sign-up forms and captive portals, and they just want an easy way to connect.
Guests really don’t like the check-out experience and hotels can do a lot to leave them with a great memory by making some simple changes to the final stage of the hotel experience.
They want to be helped on their way during what can be a stressful part of their trip and they really don’t want to be held up or have to wait around. The things they’re thinking about at the end of their stay are whether they’ve forgotten something in the room and what their immediate travel plans look like. They don’t want to wait in line just to check their bill, which can be especially annoying if they see any incorrect charges.
If they are going to speak to someone, they want it to be about services that can help them, such as luggage storage after they’ve left, discounts and perks for their next visit or the best way to get to the airport. Really though, guests just want to leave asap. If they could check out in their smart app and drop off the key, that’s what many said would suit them best.
Premier Inn let you check-out by dropping your key off when you leave their hotels and advertise this option in every room, so guests are aware. Accor hotels also offer key drop off as a service but guests might not be aware of it. However, with this research showing that guests value it, maybe they should.
We hope you can use this research to enhance your guest experience and we’d love to see which suggestions stand out the most for you. Please share your thoughts and feedback on LinkedIn, so we can continue the conversation.
And here’s to making seamless hotel travel even better in the future!