By Dean Minett
The world of hotels is a lot like the world of fashion. Every year, new trends and styles come sashaying down the catwalk. Some are eye-catching, some are puzzling, and some are downright ridiculous – depending on who you ask.
This constant drive to innovate is one of the things that makes our profession so dynamic. Hoteliers and their stakeholders are always looking for the next original combination of styles and concepts. Sometimes it even pays off. Multi-functional common spaces are a good example. A decade ago, this concept was akin to one of those outlandish puffy gowns with a matching headpiece. In 2018, breezy common areas with ergonomic workstations are less the exception and more the rule.
But let’s face it – for every good idea that sticks around, there are a dozen that can’t be swept into the dustbin quickly enough. Here are a few recent hotel trends that should probably enjoy the catwalk while they can.
At the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in Southern California, a sunglasses butler will tighten and clean your shades while you lounge by the pool. At the Benjamin in New York City, restless guests have access to a sleep concierge who gives advice on getting good sleep, and helps guests select from a pillow menu. Your dog doesn’t have to go wanting, either. If you’re at the Belmond Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy, a dedicated dog masseuse will de-stress Fido with Swedish massage in a room overlooking the Portofino Bay.
Some of these butler services are both fun and practical. At the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, for example, a VIP “entertainment concierge” will help you navigate the city, bridge the language gap, and give you access to local hotspots. This is a logical step in the age of experiences over things – but some of the butlers now roaming the world’s hotels make it appear as though logic and reason have left the building.
Space age technology
When a guest wants to lower the shades or change the lighting, that fancy control panel had better be easy to navigate. Otherwise it will lead them into a confusing and frustrating experience, in which changing the air temperature becomes an exercise in advanced programming.
The answer, by the way, is not to introduce a control panel butler who helps guests understand in-room controls. Instead, let’s make sure to keep those controls elegant and simple. There’s no doubt that technological advances can enhance the guest experience, but the wrong kind of technology can make things worse. Products are coming to the market fast and furious these days. Hoteliers should be wary of investing in control panels that are flashy and expensive but frustrating to use. (Interestingly, I was recently asked for some input on an in-room tablet solution and when I pointed out some challenges that guests might have, the spruiker wanted me to use more technology to deal with it. This clearly misses the (obvious) point that if technology is not user-friendly, it will not be used.)
Astronomical thread counts
Speaking of things that merely look or sound impressive, let’s talk about thread counts. Is a higher thread count always better? Luxury linens typically clock in between 300 – 500 threads, but some hotels have recently been advertising bed sheets with thread counts in excess of one thousand. The problem is, most people can’t tell the difference. If they can, they might conclude that a lower thread count is more luxurious.
Single-ply Egyptian cotton around 400TC is widely considered to be the most luxurious – especially when they’ve been newly washed and ironed. Sheets with higher thread counts tend to be made of cheaper two-ply yarns, which give them a heavier feel. It may be difficult to compare and contrast sheets when you check into a hotel, but the highest thread count you’ve ever experienced is probably not the most luxurious.
Keeping it real
We hoteliers face a broad set of challenges. Navigating the landscape of hotel trends is one of them. As we survey our properties, we should strive to know the difference between a passing fad and a timeless touch. As the designer Karl Lagerfield put it, “trendy is the last stage before tacky.” There will always be new and interesting things coming down the hotel catwalk, but let’s face it – not all of them look good in the real world!