Fact, fiction or fad: What do hotel guests really want?

Leonie Bulman By Leonie Bulman
Uploaded 12 September 2016

iPads in rooms? Concrete slab desks? Breakfast in a bag? All these changes have undoubtedly created excitement among hotel guests, especially the prized millennial traveller. But when it comes down it, what is really most important to travellers?

BDRC Continental has analysed the latest hierarchy of guest needs, to be presented at the Hotel Insights Forum, taking place at the AMBA Hotel Charing Cross on 15th September.

The last half decade has seen possibly the most substantial evolution of the hotel product. Designers have moved away from stuffy hotel bars, dated patterned carpets and wood-panelled lobbies, towards more open and minimalist environments. Most importantly, they've opened up public spaces to the outside world through trendy food and beverage outlets. The influence of the start-up culture is found almost everywhere today, from independent boutique hotels to global chains.

Keeping up with the times is vital for the hotel industry and most of these changes are undeniably for the better. Although it has to be said that some of them are not to everyone's taste. For example, ask any business traveller whether or not they enjoyed having to finish a presentation while lying on the bed, just because the hotel designer thinks desks are uncool. You can't please everyone, but by and large these changes meet the demands of today's new generation of hotel-stayers.

From the hotel management perspective, the main risk of adopting every new trend is that they become a fad. This is mitigated to some extent by building in the cost of regularly refreshing technology and design into the higher prices that these trendier properties command. But there is actually a much greater risk that the focus on trends and design causes the hotel to skip over the basics. Do these changes actually reflect the top guest priorities?

BDRC's Hotel Guest Survey assesses hotel-selection priorities across 50,000 travellers each year, and the latest quarter of data suggests that hotels still need to work on getting the basics right. The top five priorities have in fact remained fairly constant in the past few years and they focus on basics, such as good value and a great night's sleep. These seem very obvious, but what is surprising is the number of hotel brands that aren't perceived to deliver on those aspects. When looking at brand performance on the top priorities, they show some of the largest spread of scores from one brand to another. These basics are supposed to be the hotel industry's main defence against disruptors like Airbnb, but why would travellers worry about standards in home rental if they won't get that from a hotel anyway? 

Delivering on the basics is all the more important for the older generations. Targeting Millennials is a sound long-term strategy, but should hotel brands turn their backs on Baby Boomers just yet? They still make up a large chunk of demand and will continue to do so for a while longer.

Business guests also cite free access to reliable Wi-Fi as a top priority, and it's not far from the top in leisure too. Again, that seems obvious, but many brands currently compromise on either free or reliable Wi-Fi, or both in some cases. It can be hard for guests to accept that when free Wi-Fi is offered almost everywhere these days.

Leisure guests place a high importance on feeling welcome.  Whilst it's great that technology is replacing time-consuming check-in processes, this should allow staff to spend more quality time with guests. The concept of 'Affordable Luxury' has also gained ground in the past year, first among leisure guests and more recently among business travellers. Staying away for a few nights is all too often synonymous with giving up home comforts, instead of something exciting to look forward to.

Leonie Bulman, associate director at BDRC, will be sharing the full results at BDRC Continental's Hotel Insights Forum, including the top priorities across different hotel guest segments. The conference takes place at the AMBA Hotel Charing Cross on 15th September and tickets are available for purchase here.

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