With luxury and boutique concepts on the rise, high-end hoteliers are forced to continually raise the bar in order to remain current and competitive.
In this fast-growing segment, how should hoteliers nurture their guest experience? We ask three experts to share their advice.
Our Expert Panel
- Mitzi Gaskins
JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts, vice president and global brand manager
- Anthony Saint Claire
Ruthin Castle, owner
- Anne Blackburn
Sidona Group, customer experience director
Hotel Industry Magazine: What is your strategy surrounding the luxury guest experience?
Mitzi Gaskins: JW Marriott strives to offer an environment of simple elegance. We work hard to provide approachable luxury through intuitive service, refined design and an integration of well-being into many of the guest touch points. While we want each JW to have a consistent thread of these experiences, each one of our hotels is unique and offers a distinct sense of place that represents the “flavour” of the destination.
Anthony Saint Claire: Our strategy is to combine all of the expected luxury hotel offerings with a first-class service at all stages of a guest’s journey with us. We strongly believe that investing heavily in our staff and the overall service offering is the vital ingredient to achieving an unrivalled experience.
Hotel Industry Magazine: Has the economic climate impacted upon guest experience strategies?
Anne Blackburn: Certainly, the economic crisis has hit everyone at every level, and so a desire for value has emerged out of this. We are in the middle of a guest-led revolution in which customers feel that everything is up for renegotiation.
Hotel Industry Magazine: So, how should luxury hoteliers respond to this guest-led revolution?
Anne Blackburn: Well, the dynamics are changing in three key areas. Firstly, new technology is driving change and it enables hotels to deliver great service.
Secondly, personalisation is a factor. Guests now expect a high degree of personalised experience from a wide range of touch points and guest-staff interactions.
Finally, value is important. Even for the most affluent guests, value for money is important – although, granted, that value is relative. Some luxury hotels are finding it tough in the current climate with customers demanding more value from their packages than ever before.
Anthony Saint Claire: Yes value for money is essential. Speed and convenience are also playing increasingly important roles. Our hotel guests are also looking for something different in their experience. No longer is a finely appointed room and award-winning cuisine enough; it’s now about the added extras and introducing new and exciting experiences to ensure guests have a memorable stay.
Hotel Industry Magazine: What distinguishes you from other luxury brands?
Anthony Saint Claire: We recently introduced the UK’s first log-fired sauna tent and outdoor spa experience in a castle moat. This is an exclusive well-being innovation that gives us a sought after USP in the luxury arena.
Mitzi Gaskins: We work hard to offer diverse cultural experiences through innovative menus, unique wine programs, balanced well-being initiatives and much more.
Anne Blackburn: Discretion and confidentiality are currently emerging as a strong theme in high-end hotels. High profile guests expect a high degree of discretion and they, more than ever, desire to be invisible. It is not uncommon for the valet to take the car on arrival and the guests to not know where it is on checkout. They’ve been in the hotel, using the facilities and enjoying the experience – they have not had the inclination to leave!
Luxury hotels are also investing heavily in their bathrooms, a trend I think comes from the guest expectation for uniqueness. This is especially true in boutique hotels, where every room must be different. It’s important for guests to know that “Suite A” is completely different to “Suite B”, and that the people staying next door are having a completely different experience. In this respect, high-end bathrooms offer a competitive differentiator.
Note: Please click here to read part two of this Roundtable feature.