LM: It’s suggested that experiences are increasingly valued over products because they are more memorable. What’s one of the most memorable hotel experiences you’ve had?
AB: Personally, The Dorchester is my home away from home. I spend many weeks travelling and this hotel is dear to my heart. The team has done many wonderful things for me over the years, but what really makes a difference is when I arrive and they have all the things I need waiting for me – ironing board, extension cords, chargers, adapters, extra hangers (as I travel with minimum of 3 suitcases). This anticipation makes my trip less stressful as I know I can settle in quickly and effortlessly.
When I travel with someone special, like my mom, the experience becomes increasingly valued if the hotel recognizes that she should be the centre of attention. When I recently stayed at Le Meurice, the team recognized my mom by offering her things to do while I was working. She felt important and valued – to me that is simply priceless.
Again, creating an experience for the sake of experience is a meaningless exercise unless we understand the context. Business trips require crafting of effortless situations, while special occasions require understanding and recognizing who is trying to impress whom.
“Business trips require crafting of effortless situations, while special occasions require understanding and recognizing who is trying to impress whom.”
LM: With privacy being of high importance to many travellers, how do you think hotels can maintain respect for privacy while prioritizing guest engagement?
AB: If you read between the lines, luxury travellers are asking us for more – they are seeking environments where they can be present, where they can be here and now. Respect of privacy is a key ingredient, but there is much more to this unspoken need. We are being tasked to lessen the travel anxiety, eliminate stressful situations and provide a place where guests can relax and unwind.
For instance, why not advise a guest ahead of time that the room may not be ready on time? Or that tomorrow’s trip to the airport may take longer than usual due to some roads being closed for construction? Or offering a guest a portable charger for their day trip?
As an industry, we have to start taking responsibility for the entire guest journey, not only for what happens on the premises of our hotels.
LM: Do you think repeat guests have higher levels of expectation when it comes to levels of personalization? How can a hotel genuinely impress you after your fifth or more visit?
AB: It depends. One thing I learned for sure is don’t try to fit your customers into boxes – they are not market segments or spreadsheets. They are human beings with different needs at different times.
The question is – why are you coming back? Only by understanding your motivation, can we then determine how to “impress” you. For instance, we recently learned that one of our loyal guest returns because of her familiarity with our rooms, our people and even the tables in the restaurant. She felt that familiarity lessens the stress of travel. Impressing and recognizing this guest means giving her the same room, the same table and preferably the same server.
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet in managing expectations, if there was, everyone would be in luxury.
“In a world where everyone measures their success by the ability to scale, commoditization of luxury is the unfortunate consequence.”Ana Brant, Director, Global Guest Experience & Innovation, Dorchester Collection