Much like the airlines that have removed checked baggage and free seat selection, some hotels are in the midst of the great unbundling process.
The rise of affordable luxury means that hotel amenities that were once to rig– think turndown service and a chocolate on the pillow – give way to a new line of leaner offerings that more accurately reflect the needs of the modern traveler.
After all, if a slender luxury traveler just wants a bed with nice linens and smooth online check-in, why spend the money to keep room service and front desk running 24/7? However, it turns out that the analysis of what the traveler actually wants versus what he wants to say they may want to be tricky, depending to a new study from the Cornell University Hotel Research Center.
The study looked at 50 hotel and room amenities offered by a hotel company across six of its brands (33 properties in total). The 724 guests surveyed underestimated how much they would use some amenities, while overestimating the importance of others.
Interestingly, among the amenities that travelers said they really wanted, but didn’t actually use, was wifi. Respondents overestimated their use of in-room Wi-Fi by 43% and lobby Wi-Fi by 36%. (The study authors argued that this was because travelers had hotspots on their own devices.) Other amenities in this category were wake-up calls in the room (both a phone call from reception and old alarm clocks); hotel catering (over 30% overestimated) and out-of-hours room service (73%).
And what about the amenities that travelers thought they could live without, but actually use? The authors noted that there were fewer that fell into this category, but included valet parking, lobby seating, bellboy and concierge services, access to a business center and miniature toiletries in the bathroom.
There was also a difference between the types of travelers. Pleasure travelers tended to predict that they would use more amenities than business travelers. But when it came to using the crown jewel of hotel amenities – a swimming pool – the results were reversed. “While half of leisure travelers predicted they would use a swimming pool, only 21% of business travelers said they would. In the end, just 6% of business travelers said they had used the pool, while almost 40% of vacationers had a swim.
The quest to strike the right balance between amenities – not so much that you waste money in the trash, and not so little that your guests leave disappointed – is a challenge for hoteliers. After all, even if a minority of guests use your business center, those guests could well be your most loyal customers. As the study authors point out, “amenities figure clearly in a guest’s initial decision to book a hotel room and (perhaps even more so) whether to return to that hotel.”