Just Like Home Is A Sham

‘Feels just like home’ or ‘Make yourself at home’ or any other iteration on this phrase is a common copywriting tool for hotels to create an inviting feeling for prospective travelers. While the intentions are all well and good, there is an underlying problem with this language.

Namely, what does the average home actually look and feel like? Cramped spaces. Old furniture. Hodgepodges of mismatched art. No cohesive design or vision. Kids toys scattered everywhere. Messy kitchen. Bedsheets changed at a minimum of once a week. Grime in the washrooms. Mediocre garden. Nosy neighbors. Repairs upon repairs.

True, the home is where the heart is. It’s where we rest, recharge and reflect, and this is the sentiment that we are all after when we insert a sprinkle of ‘just like home’ into the marketing prose for our hotels. We are subtly communicating that we want our guests to feel at ease. But ‘home’ also has quite a few less attractive connotations, starting with those mentioned above. Combined with the general overuse, it’s time to move away from this expression.

It’s time to market our hotels as better than home – cleaner, uncluttered, more secure and better serviced. In this sense, we should flip the switch; our guestrooms ought to be aspirational for what our customers’ homes could resemble one day. Staying at your property should enlighten your guests as how they can make their houses feel ‘just like a hotel’.

One clear-cut way to become an aspirational hotel is through the furnishings, décor and art that you deploy to fill the front-of-house spaces. This should be obvious for any hotelier who has visited more than ten properties. While you do indeed want to let your interior designers’ imaginations run wild to help bestow your property with a unique sense of place, there should still be room for little touches that are readily applicable to any guest’s personal domicile. The gift shop can act as a bridge in some ways, but you might also consider drafting a guidebook that details what each piece of art or furniture is and where it was sourced so that if customers like a specific work they can cut out the middleman.

The next two broad routes to becoming an aspirational hotel are through embracing technology and by offering ‘sample services’.

The former should be readily understood; guestroom or lobby features that heighten the utility or aesthetics of a space are bound to trickle down to other forms of residence, much like how military and NASA electronics have inevitably found their way to the average consumer in the form of geolocation services, cell phones and a host of other technologies.

What I classify as ‘sample services’ are ones where guests can try out different products to find what suits their needs best. The entry level to this occurs at the restaurant where you might offer charcuterie boards, cheese plates, wine tastings or fruit samplings, for example, so long as you have your servers identify what each individual component is. You might also have a prix fixe menu with demonstrations on how to make each dish.

Sample services are appropriate for in-room uses. Think a custom selection of pillows covering a range of soft to firm, or a differentiated towel service comprising a variety of fabrics. Ditto for all other products you put in the washroom, or even the mini-bar for that matter. And building on this, the spa is prime territory for sample services whereby you might offer a discount on treatments for first-timers, with the products available for purchase, of course.

The idea behind sample services is to give guests opportunities to try new things they would not otherwise be able to do at home. Instead of attempting to create what guests already have, help them improve their homes and they will be all the more thankful for it.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published by HotelsMag on April 22, 2016).

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