It’s All About the Experience: Hotels That Win Are So Much More Than a Place to Sleep

After the past few years, it’s hard to define the word “normal.” In so many ways, we’ve left tradition behind, realizing that you don’t need to keep doing something the same way just because that’s how it’s always been done.

For travelers, getting outside of that box means “doing what they want to do, not what everyone else is doing.” The Expedia 2023 Travel Trends report refers to this sentiment as the “No-Normal,” and says that trends so far this year show a global shift in mindset for travelers. They’re actively seeking all-new experiences, from jet-setting around the globe to the biggest culture capitals of the world to heading for wide-open spaces (cowboy hat included).

How can your property capitalize on this rapidly growing trend? Turn your hotel into an experience of its own. Whether you’re a boutique, niche hotel or a Fortune 500 brand name, it’s fun to get creative and think of ways to wow your guests. And those unexpected surprises are a great way to build customer loyalty and drive both new and repeat bookings.

Upgrading amenities to experiences can take two forms: enhancing those you already offer, or creating completely new ones that will surprise and delight. First, here’s a look at some simple ways you can get started – or make sure you’re staying the course:

  • Create cozy and comfy accommodations. Guests appreciate clean, comfortable, well-designed rooms that help them truly relax after a long and stressful day. If you haven’t already, consider upgrading your rooms to include things like memory foam mattresses, soaking tubs, or smart lighting.
  • Demand excellent customer service. A guest’s interaction with your staff members can make or break their visit (and lead to a great or not-so-great review). Ensuring top-notch customer service from the first interaction to the last can go a long way toward creating a memorable experience.
  • Make sure the internet works. This may seem obvious, but nothing ruins a business traveler’s trip faster than a hotel room with spotty – or no – wifi. There are many ways to upgrade your tech experience, but one of the most essential is to ensure that your guests have reliable access to the fastest speeds possible.
  • Cook up quality dining options. Even if your property only offers continental breakfast, you can still make it the best continental breakfast your guests have ever had. Always ensure that the dishes are hot, the wait staff is wonderful, and that your dining menus offer local, fresh cuisine.
  • Beef up your gym. A well-appointed gym can be a make-or-break option for some guests. To turn your gym into a fitness experience, invest in some of the latest equipment and offer a variety of ways to work out. It’s also a smart idea to consider TVs and ways to keep the gym smelling shower fresh.
  • Get local. Offer your guests a guide to everything they need to know about local attractions, events, restaurants, and more. The experience of finding hidden gems and living like locals is rapidly trending in 2023, and the perfect opportunity to get on board.
  • Sweat the small stuff. There’s a reason that cruise ship attendants create creatures out of bath towels – passengers love them! Thoughtful touches like fresh flowers, personalized notes for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays, or even free water bottles in the room can make a great first impression (and leave a great lasting one as well).
  • Go to the dogs. If you don’t, consider allowing guests to bring their pets. And if you’re already pet friendly, give their furry friends a great experience, too! Things like indoor potty areas in case of rain, treats distributed during check-in, and maybe even crates for rent can give travelers added security that their fur babies will have a great time as well.

Leveling Up Your Guest Experience

If your amenity game is on point, it’s time to take things to the next level by creating experiences that will drive conversation, good reviews, repeat visits, and word-of-mouth referrals. It’s true that some of these require an investment to be successful, but when “experience” is already at the top of every travel list and still climbing, the hotels that can deliver on that need will come out on top.

Ready to step it up a notch? Here are some ideas to get your creative gears turning.

  • Offer culinary experiences. Why not take dinnertime to the next level by offering not just superb meals, but the chance to learn how to create them? Access to chefs, exclusive dining events, cooking classes, and local culinary tours are sure to attract foodies to your property.
  • Go from spa to ahhhhh. Many luxury hotels already have spas, but you can set new trends in relaxation and wellness by going above and beyond the traditional menu. Consider things like meditation classes, salt caves, yoga, or even wellness retreat weekends with a focus on relaxation, mindfulness, and self-improvement.
  • Double as a tour guide. Step up the idea of offering your guests local information and consider offering tours and excursions of your own that start and end at your property. Whether you’re in a scenic rural area or a bustling city, create itineraries that would appeal to your typical guests.
  • Make it personal. Another hot trend right now is personalization, which can range from the simple-yet-effective tactic of calling a guest by name to allowing them complete control over the ambiance of their room, from lighting to music to pillow preference.
  • Host workshops and learning opportunities. Depending on where your property is located, set up classes for your guests that will enhance their local stay, like kayaking or canoeing, photography, wine tasting, city navigation apps. The key to success here is to understand what interests your guests while they’re with you.
  • Become the VIP. If your property brings in a lot of business travelers, host a happy hour in one of your gathering spaces so that they can meet and network in a social setting. If you’re a family-friendly hotel, host a themed holiday party. Or, extend the party off-site by partnering with local attractions and events.
  • Think outside the room. If it’s feasible and in line with your values and guest profile, consider offering accommodations that are beyond the traditional, like bunkhouses, treehouses, underwater suites, cabins, or glamping-style tents.
  • Entertain the kids. Make the whole family feel welcome with experiences like family-friendly excursions, activities for all ages, a kiddie pool, or even a kids’ club that operates as a drop-off center so the adults can have some time to be themselves.

As you plan, it’s imperative to keep your brand, values, and guest profile top of mind. Always put those things at the top of the list, and make sure that whatever you’re planning ladders back up.

If this all sounds great but a little daunting, Hawthorn Creative has an expert staff of digital strategists, creatives, and analysts who can work with you every step of the way to come up with unique ideas that your guests will love.