How Hotels Blow It When Delivering Amenities

What is the perfect hotel amenity? It’s more difficult for a hotel to figure this out than you’d think. They have a guest’s past preferences, that may have been recorded. They can do a bit of research – some guests have more of a google trail than others. But it’s perhaps more important to get the desires right for the guest of a guest than for the guest themselves.

A solo business traveler is far easier than someone traveling with a companion where the hotel doesn’t know what to expect about them. What happens when the companion has a flower allergy you don’t know about? Oops.

But when executed properly it creates a sense of delight, gratitude and care.

When a hotel guest says what they want things are, of course, easier. Some people make odd requests just to see if the hotel will do it, like a photo of King Charles or Jon Hamm on their bed. Or this:

Personally I hate receiving bottles of wine, not because I don’t drink but because hotels almost invariably give wine I would never drink at home (bad wine).

I love having plenty of bottled water, mostly not worrying if I have enough or having to remember to pick some up. If I am staying on my own I probably want 3 bottles for the night. With my wife and daughter multiply that out.

Years ago Hyatt tested out trying to deliver on preferred amenities. I often found a dozen bottles of water in my room – also, in hotels with refrigerators, real cream or half and half to use (just a drop!) In my coffee – and a fresh coffee display, not the coffee maker that had been sitting in the room uncleaned for however long. This was maybe 5 or 7 years ago? The effort did not last.

I miss having a check-in amenity from Hyatt, which was eliminated with the World of Hyatt program. I could *choose* points or a food and beverage amenity if I fancied one.

Grand Hyatt Tampa Cuban Sandwich Check-in Amenity

What I really love is a dessert treat in the room each evening. Recently the Park Hyatt Dubai had baklava in my room on arrival as an amenity. Lovely. On day 2 they placed fruit. Nothing on days 3 or 4. Odd. Is it a daily thing and a fail? Was it supposed to be only the first night? Who knows. Either make it special and a bit over the top like every night or make super it personalized or else it is probably a waste

When I stayed at W Doha there were odd memes on the table with my head (and I got less of an upgrade than most).

At St Regis Dubai they created a cake with this blog’s logo (but didn’t otherwise treat me differently). The cake was pretty good.

Nothing like either of these things has happened in the last seven years. No other hotel has ever obviously recognized me except for Park Hyatt Paris where I haven’t had better than the junior suite I confirm at booking in over 10 years. Indeed their ‘social media manager’ once introduced themselves at check-in. I had inquired about a further upgrade to suites many other Globalists received. I was quoted a buy up price

Fair enough! I do not try to leverage this platform for special treatment. I have declined unearned comp status (the only I was ever offered was Hilton Gold). I experience travel the same way all of you do.

The interesting takeaway though is how hard it is for hotels to deliver personalized service even when they want to. One chain once tried to get better service from their properties for bloggers. They ran a list of upcoming stays. And accidentally sent that last to a staff member at The Points Guy. Oops. (And my upcoming stay with that chain received zero extra recognition.) Execution is hard!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Complimentary welcome amenities are often more of a hassle than they are worth.

    I remember arriving at a Hilton family property in Dubai some years ago as a HH Gold and finding a welcome gift with another guest’s name on it in the room. I called the front desk who apologized and said they would send someone up to collect it. After 30 minutes, a person arrived to say that the gift was supposed to be for me and they put the wrong card. I went out for the day and returned to find a message that the gift was not for me after all and I should call to have it picked up. I did and nobody showed up. The next morning at checkout, I was billed an extra AED 100+ for the amenity that was still sitting in the room. When I requested to speak to the manager, he threatened to call the police and have me arrested unless I paid the additional amount demanded.

    Ever since then I am very wary about accepting amenities from a hotel unless there is a written confirmation that it is for me, and I always photograph the room on arrival to show what exactly was there when I opened the door. If there is an unlabelled welcome amenity in the room, I will call for security to identify and/or remove it.

  2. Downright creepy. The reality is businesses couldn’t care less about me and I couldn’t care less about them. I give them money and they hopefully give me the service/product that they promised. I’d prefer they focus on delivering just that minimum obligation/expectation, which they very often fail to do, rather than pretend the relationship is something more than that.

  3. Honestly, any attitude except thanks for a welcome gift is a bit much for all but the most exclusive hotels. Expecting that a thoroughly vetted welcome gift will be offered daily at a business hotel is pretty unreasonable.

    With that said, this is isn’t really rocket science and should be an easy way to earn loyalty. Nordstrom has been storing customer preferences for decades, and lodging execs love to pontificate about personalization at hotel conferences. Unfortunately, my hunch is that this investment is about figuring out how they can extract more money from you rather than how they can reward your loyalty. (E.g. we’ve targeted you with a $5 credit so you can buy a $15 cocktail plus a tip and 20% service charge!)

    If someone gets this right it would be a long term competitive advantage. But it’ll probably be a group like Lowes or Omni that has to work a little harder, not Marriott.

  4. When I worked at a hotel we got yelled at for doing too many amenities for guests because they get billed to the front desk budget. So sometimes it’s just ridiculous managers overbearingly watching the candy and water budget.

  5. I agree with the comments above and yes it’s happened to me not once, not twice but multiple times so I believe the alleged amenity is a reason to upcharge no matter what level, tier or points that you have.

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