Why we must stop calling absolutely everything an ‘experience’

I am getting tired of the word "experience." In fact, one of my go-to lines on stage is that as an industry we need to coin some new phrases so we can stop using that one word ad nauseam. Honestly, it’s driving me bonkers.

Every hotel industry-related conversation I have these days seems to go like this: "Experience...blah blah...experience...blah blah...experience, experience, experience."

So, while that is more frustrating and impossible to deal with than trying to convince your friend they are voting for the wrong presidential candidate, it does underscore the truth: Experience is everything.

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Yet, sadly, we’re overusing it to the point where the word is losing all meaning. While experience may be everything, it must not be used to describe absolutely everything. It’s a catch-all term that’s become a frustrating game where we’re declaring that anything counts as an experience, which is precisely the wrong path for us to take.

What is experience exactly? And how should we use it properly in our universe?

Well, I am glad I asked. Here’s where I come down on this major issue that you didn’t know was an issue:

Everything is not an Experience

We must ween ourselves off claiming every time there is a guest contact, it counts as an experience. Yes, yes. I get that it technically is. But simply greeting a guest, for example, does not an experience make. It is not the welcome experience it is "hello." By calling everything an experience, we are fooling ourselves into believing what we are doing at the property level is more effective than it truly can be.

It’s seriously misleading, plus it prevents us from fully understanding what the customer is truly craving. It’s about something differentiating your hotel from all the others in the world. By convincing ourselves that a typical interaction when a guest checks in as an experience, then you’re less likely to focus energy on creating a legitimate experience elsewhere.

What, Then, is an Experience?

In my humble opinion (OK you got me, I do not possess that quality), to call something an experience, it must rise above the threshold of the common, and what is normal. Putting extra pillows on a bed and calling it a sleep experience does not count. Nor does having lemon-infused water count as a hydrating experience.

To call an experience an experience, well, it absolutely must be something atypical. Something out of the norm and not what the others are doing. But it must be found at your hotel or be related to your direct facilitation. Creating highly personalized guest moments tailored specifically to that individual counts an experience. Providing a guest with access to an event, activity or a rarefied event; yup, that, too, is an experience.  

What to do!

Stop getting confused by shiny objects. Simply wishing an element of a guest’s stay is special, does not make it so. And, therefore, does not make it an experience. It makes it part of your basic function to deliver great service and a clean, comfortable room. I don’t hear that one too much anymore. Let’s bring it back.

Or, maybe I am completely wrong and we should just call everything from checking in and out the stay experience.

What do you think? Am I crazy to get all riled up over one word? Perhaps you agree it has a much more important meaning than how we use the E word today. Email me at [email protected] or on Twitter and Instagram @TravelingGlenn and share your stories.

Glenn Haussman is editor-at-large for HOTEL MANAGEMENT. His views expressed are not necessarily those of HOTEL MANAGEMENT, its parent company Questex Media Group, and/or its subsidiaries.

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