What Is Hospitality and How Can Hotels Improve Their Guest Experience?

We've all encountered some form of hospitality. Whether this be from visiting a hotel, eating at a restaurant or something so simple as visiting a friends house, but what does hospitality mean?

The word "hospitality" comes from the Latin word "hospes", which means "host".

Dictionary.com defines hospitality as; the friendly reception and treatment of guests or strangers.

waiter serving a drink

Historically, ancient cultures hospitality generally involved welcoming a stranger and offering them food, shelter and safety.

In modern times, hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival for the guest and is largely associated with etiquette, entertainment and offering a service.

Cultures and subcultures across the globe offer varying degrees of hospitality with some going out of their way to provide the very best for their guests.

Working in the hospitality industry, you'll find yourself in one of four sectors; Food and beverage, travel and tourism, lodging, and entertainment and recreation.

UK hoteliers are starting to see a resurgence in recent times with 'staycations' becoming more popular than ever due to people's unwillingness to travel far due to the impact of COVID-19.

With so many hotels vying for the same business, how can you set yourself apart from your competitors, creating lasting experiences that directly bring recommendations and repeat bookings?

How can hotels approach hospitality in the modern era?

As a hotel owner or staff member, your job first and foremost is to ensure that your guests are completely satisfied. Hospitality starts before they arrive and doesn't end until their departure.

This ever-changing industry (especially now even more so in this digital age) is fast and hotels have to keep up with the endless changes and expectations of customers. Hoteliers have to think outside the box and what better way than to bring a level of sophistication and individuality to what they offer.

There are so many different ways to approach hospitality; what it boils down to is what you're trying to achieve as a hotel.

Are you trying to be the home away from home for your guests? Are you aiming to provide the ultimate luxurious experience? Maybe something more relaxed and laid-back? These all require varying degrees of management and ideas.

Whatever your hotels goals are, there are many stages within your guests lifecycle that require specific attention.

Your guests lifecycle can be broken down into;

  1. Pre-arrival
  2. On-arrival
  3. During their stay
  4. On-departure
  5. Post-departure

These segments are self-explanatory at face-value, but below we will share some tips on what you could bring to the table in each section of your guests lifecycle to help improve your customers experience.

The 'Pre-Arrival' Experience

As with many businesses within the hospitality industry, their first impression of you can often be their last if they decide not to book with you.

Executing your first impression is vital to securing successful bookings and hospitality starts the moment they find out who you are.

hotel sign

Streamline the booking process

A large proportion of guests will opt to book online instead of over the phone. The ease of this in many cases outweighs the need to pick up the phone.

Ensuring your website is mobile friendly is a must. Mobile bookers are on the rise and are starting to eclipse those that frequently book via desktop.

According to a survey, smartphone users are 47 percent more likely to book more than three trips than their computer counterparts.

Their experience with your hotel begins the moment they visit your website. Streamlining the booking process to ensure its quick and painless as possible will go a long way to ensuring a successful booking.

Integrate a booking engine within your website to handle all bookings and provide enough contact information so potential guests can get in touch quickly if they have any outstanding queries.

Such features as a live 'chatbox' can be extremely helpful to guests as they can quickly get answers which can instantly turn a potential booking into a complete one.

Communicate before they arrive

Just because someone has booked with you doesn't mean you should forget about them until they arrive.

Communication before their arrival is a great way to increase the likelihood that stay with you goes smoothly.

Along with the formality of providing a booking confirmation, you can also email across information about your hotel that highlights such things as hotel amenities, pick-up services, parking facilities and directions on how to get safely to your hotel.

Many customers use the likes of Google Maps to get directions to places. Embedding a Google Maps link directly into your confirmation email will help them easily find you on the day of arrival.

Welcome books are a common thing among hotels, but in the digital age these can be provided before the guest even arrives.

Being an insider of your local area allows you to recommend hidden gems and offer advice on when the best time to visit certain places. Ensure your staff are also clued up on the local area and encourage them to visit the places you promote so they are actual local experts.

Offer early check-ins and late check-out

Not everyone's schedule will line up with your housekeepers. Sometimes people will need to check-in early and/or check-out late with your hotel.

This service (while at a price) should always be available and its up to you to ensure their room is clean and ready for the arrival of new occupants.

This also ties in with the second recommendation. Early check-ins and late check-outs can be offered to those who have booked, but haven't opted for any of these services yet.

Chance to up-sell

Upselling should always be on your mind. Many customers will be willing to pay for extra services but either haven't been offered them or they don't know about them.

Your extra addons and services should be tailored to your hotel. If you're a busy hotel in a city where business travellers tend to rent a car, offer designated parking as an enhancement.

If your hotel is renowned for its restaurant, offer a tasting menu or specific meal time services that cater to the foodie that could be visiting.

The 'On-Arrival' Experience

You should already be aware of who is arriving on any given day. If you've communicated with them well in advance then it's likely they will arrive at your hotel during what you now know is their preferred check-in time.

This means it should be easy to provide what they expect when they arrive. Their room key should already be ready for them and directions on how to get there should also have been emailed to them to minimise any complications.

The jury is still out for your hotel, so ensuring a smooth arrival will go a long way to securing a positive experience. Making the most of your hotels lobby as a first impression is extremely important also.

Smooth check-ins process

Many guests will travel a long way to come to your hotel. The last thing they need is a long arduous check-in process.

Given the age we're in, it's becoming more common to find hotels using a self check-in process which can either be done at a kiosk or from their own phone. This process can also be enhanced by offering other services such as late check-out and room service during this time.

Such technology can minimise mistakes and quicken the process to ensure your guests aren't waiting too long.

self check-in process

Address your guests personally

Personalisation can go a long way. Addressing your guests either by their first or last name can make them feel special. This little extra attention to detail can go a long way.

Training your desk personnel to address your new guests this way can take their experience to a new level.

To go even further, remembering your guests names for the duration of their stay will also be a positive experience. For example, seeing them in the lobby in the morning after their first nights sleep and addressing them by name and asking if they are enjoying the hotel is a sure-fire way to enhance their experience.

Baggage carrying service (free of charge)

Many travellers have had a long journey to get to your hotel. Depending on the size of your hotel, it may be worth offering a free baggage carrying service.

This service also acts as a mini hotel tour, as the baggage handler can point out interesting parts of the hotel as they escort the guests to the room door.

Your baggage handler should be well versed in the local surroundings and offer suggestions on what to do around the local area.

During Their Stay Experience

While all stages within your guests lifecycle are important, the stage where they are currently staying at your hotel is arguably the most important.

Ensuring that all your guests needs are met and that you are attentive will go a long way to securing a positive experience for all attendees.

Room cleanliness and maintenance

It's an obvious one, but room cleanliness is of paramount importance. Most of a hotels complaints to the front desk will mostly be about cleanliness. It can easily ruin a guests experience and it's something that is completely avoidable.

Having a well drilled housekeeping team will help keep the level of complaints to a minimum. A tailored list of daily checks for each unique room will help ensure all the jobs necessary are done before a new guest arrives.

Leaving a notice in a newly cleaned room verifying that all linens and towels have been replaced with fresh clean ones helps put guests minds at ease. There's nothing worse than finding stains on towels or the sheets of a bed.

Room amenities

Guests love coming back to their hotel room after a long day's work or sightseeing, so ensuring your room amenities are up to scratch for what they expect is important.

Fast free WiFi is a must in this digital age. More and more guests opt to travel with laptops, smartphones and tablets, all capable of using a whole host of internet services (Netflix, YouTube etc).

The expectations are high from modern tech-savvy travellers.

Keyless room entry is another perfect example of quality-of-life (QoL) amenities that are simple in nature but provide great benefits to guests. Being able to open your door with a smart phone app is better than fiddling for your key card in your pocket.

Attentive staff

Your staff are the generally the best point of contact for your guests. A rude or inept staff member can have a hugely negative affect on the overall experience of a guest.

Proper training along with plenty of experience will ensure your staff are up to the standards when dealing with guests.

Being attentive also means being mindful of your body language. Opting for an approachable and friendly manner will be highly appreciated.

Listen to guests complaints

The age old saying 'the customer is always right' isn't actually true, but that doesn't mean you should discount whatever that they are saying.

Being reactive to criticism and fixing the issue within a timely manner will be of great significance when it comes to guest satisfaction. Not everything can be resolved by simply looking at the immediate issue, what about the root cause of what is broken?

Being proactive in learning about guest complaints is also a great way to resolve issues. Some guests may be less forthcoming with complaints and might leave it to online reviews to have a dig at certain aspects of your hospitality.

A way around this is to be up front with your guests and just ask if there was anything troubling them with their stay.

This way, you will be able to act fast and hopefully resolve the issue before their stay with you has ended.

The 'On-Departure' Experience

The time has come for your guests to leave, hopefully with them having a great experience. But your hospitality should not stop here.

Easy check-out process

Your front desk staff members should know who is departing in the morning. Any pending bills should be ready and waiting for when they arrive at the front desk.

It can be beneficial to offer a quick check-out process in the form of an unmanned key deposit box.

This helps with the flow of departures and doesn't create a back-up of guests trying to leave. You will, however, forfeit the chance to ask how their stay way.

Reach out for feedback (informal)

If you opt for a check-out process that requires guests to come to the front desk then this is the optimal time to ask guests about their stay.

Try and gather feedback (good or bad) to help you learn and improve your hospitality.

While this is an informal approach to asking for reviews, be sure to mention whichever review platform you use to subtly push guests in the direction of writing an online review of your hotel. These feedback opportunities should be offer as often as possible.

The more feedback you get the better you will be at improving your hotel and increasing it's value to guests.

The 'Post-Departure' Experience

And finally, the last stage of your hospitality is the 'post-departure' experience. This is when guests have left your hotel and you now engage with them through various online channels.

Securing positive feedback and re-bookings is the goal here and it's something every hotel should be engaging with.

plane depaturing

Engage with them post-departure

Just because your guests have left doesn't mean they won't come back. A positive experience is likely to lead to repeat bookings and keeping your hotel within their mind will help with this.

Send regular newsletters, deals and offers surrounding your hotel to entice people back.

Do you have a special event happening? Your previous guests should know about this.

Do you have a special monthly promotion? Your previous guests should know about this.

It's easier and more cost effective to bring previous customers back to your hotel than gathering completely new guests. The ease at which this is will all depending on how they felt about their previous visit.

Reach out for reviews (formal)

Now they have completely left your hotel, give them a day or two to recuperate and travel back safely before engaging with them again.

This time, you should be asking for online reviews. Give them a selection of options (Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor etc), so they can choose which is more convenient for them. The less barriers to writing a review, the better.

You can also offer an incentive for writing a review (good or bad). For example, those that wrote a review in the last month have a chance to win a weekend stay at your hotel, free of charge.

These types of incentives will greatly increase the likelihood that they will indeed write a review.

Takeaways

Hospitality is a never-ending job that can have huge consequences if you get it wrong.

There's never a one service fits all. While the above mentioned is a good building block to start from, you have to tailor your hospitality to your specific business.

You will no doubt encounter a variety of guests who all have different demands and needs. Ensuring you do you best to cater to these needs will help you move in the right direction of good hospitality.

Creating a memorable experience for your guests that will serve as a positive memory for years to come is what you should be aiming to achieve.