National Report – Forward-thinking hotel operators and designers are raising the bar when it comes to bath toiletries and other in-room amenities. Customers of all types of hotels appreciate—even expect—more than tiny bottles of generic shampoo and lotion. Branded toiletries and unexpected items can help a hotel differentiate itself and create higher levels of guest satisfaction.
Examples of creativity can be found everywhere. At the female-oriented Indian brand Lemon Tree Hotels, rooms feature jewelry boxes, facial steamers and even makeup. At Trump Collection hotels, guests can borrow running shoes, which are placed in the guest’s room before check-in. At The Pierre in New York, the Goring in London and the Fullerton Bay in Singapore, guests can relax with Molton Brown’s Temple Soother, which contains sleep-inducing ingredients, such as Moroccan cedrus oil, Bulgarian lavender and sweet orange oil.
While high-end properties may have more to spend on luxury amenities, the trend is expanding to all segments, as owners and brand executives recognize that their brand message can be solidified through the products they offer.
Carrying a brand with name recognition is almost standard practice at upscale hotels and is increasingly common across the entire price spectrum. Whether it’s Bulgari at the Parker Resort in Palm Springs, Calif., or Bath & Body Works at Holiday Inns, finding a brand that aligns with guest expectations makes an impression. Lorraine Francis, regional director of Hospitality Interiors for design firm Gensler, said brand synergy is crucial. “For example, the Westin and Aveda partnership has been very successful for a long time because it’s a nice alignment,” she said.
Marty Collins, president and CEO of hotel owner and development firm Gatehouse Capital, agreed. “I think the solution is to meet the market where they are. We try to find things that resonate with our customers and help to differentiate ourselves and our space,” he said. Gatehouse’s portfolio includes the W brand, which carries the Bliss line of amenities, and Westin, which recently launched the Heavenly Bath line after the success of its Heavenly Bed program.
“They reflect who that customer is, and are aspirational” he said. “I think you’d put yourself at great peril not having an organic, wellness-oriented product in a Westin, or in the case of the W, an upscale, superior-branded product.”
Knowing the customer is key at IHG’s new Even Hotels brand, said Adam Glickman, who heads the brand. The wellness-oriented concept features amenities that support the theme. In the bath, these amenities include a choice of shampoos and other bath items in two formulas—an invigorating scent for mornings and a relaxing line of products for evenings. The wellness focus extends to the bedside where a light fixture, designed by Philips Lighting, can be programmed with the guest’s smartphone to change hues and provide light therapy. All Even rooms contain workout kits—a portable cork floor surface, yoga mats, exercise balls and exercise bars and bands. Even also created a series of workout videos, available on room TVs and via smartphone apps, using the in-room gym equipment. The hotel provides water bottles that guests can keep and fill from filtered water stations located on each floor. Finally, Glickman said, each Even room features surface cleaning wipes. “We hope guests can see how clean our rooms are, but some people like the reassurance of knowing that they’ve cleaned certain surfaces themselves,” he said.
LOCAL, CUSTOMIZED EXPERIENCES
Borrowing from the pillow choice trend, Francis said more hotels will bring the idea of choice to bath and beauty products as well. Conrad Hotels & Resorts has a new amenity program that offers guests a selection of three luxury brands—Aromatherapy Associates, Shanghai Tang and Tara Smith Vegan Hair Care. All three brands offer the basics: shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel. Guests can specify their choice at the time of booking or make their selections when they arrive. “Customizing the stay is a big plus, and it’s possible to offer it, given the evolution of mobile check-in, even at a big market hotel,” Francis said.
Francis also said that choosing local amenities is a good idea that resonates on a tourism and environmental level. “Guests, especially millennials, respond to what’s authentic and [making] a connection to a place. They like the idea of local [products] and of doing good.”
Speaking of doing good, while some brands have had success with the bulk product trend, when shampoos, conditioners, body washes and lotions are contained in more environmentally-friendly dispensers, many guests, particularly women, aren’t impressed and liken the experience to that of a locker room.
So for hotels and brands to find success with bulk product dispensers, execution is critical.
“The design of bulk is critical. They may look great at first, but what happens when they start to dribble? You have to be very careful about the details and the ergonomics,” Francis said.
A final word of advice from Gatehouse’s Collins: “I think looking forward, guests are looking for more authentic, organic and original experiences,” he said. “That’s where the trend is going. If hotels can make progress in authenticity and sustainability, it will resonate with customers across all product lines.”