• Richard Graham

Creating the Guest Experience on a Multi-Sensory Level


Standing out amongst the noisy boutique hotel scene has become a challenge for many hotels in recent years. While our property is no exception, our management company (Pivot Hotels) constantly promotes creativity and strives to create a unique brand that will separate us from the rest. Pivot’s core values are built around embracing people’s creativity and “celebrating our inner weird,” which makes for opportunities to build memorable moments with guests daily, ultimately reminding us of why we joined the hospitality industry in the first place.

With the experiential travel trend at its peak and here to stay, offering guests more than just a place to rest their head is crucial to prosper as a boutique hotel. Creating personalized guest experiences is an effective way to ensure guests are left with a lasting impression representative of the hotel’s brand and identity. From service to hotel culture, the guest’s stay needs to be a cohesive, seamless experience from arrival to checkout.

Empowering Guests through Experiences

Travel today is all about experience. Guests are willing to go out of their way, bypass loyalty programs and spend more to have personalized experiences. Most people now expect every touchpoint to offer an interesting and enriching experience, and travel is no exception. The term “experience economy” was first coined by the Harvard Business Review in 1998 when they sought out an explanation for the desire for memories as products. Consumers in general are moving steadily toward experience-based consumption, in which they would rather indulge on life experiences than material things.

The “local” experience is becoming far more important to travelers than being a tourist. Travelers want to do what the locals do and embrace all a destination has to offer, and this includes the hotel. Authenticity is key and allowing the guest to shape their own stay while still providing them with warm hospitality creates a well-received balance by the experiential traveler. Giving the guest a stay that is both memorable and comfortable requires each and every detail to be a step above the rest in order to really stand out and create a lasting impression. Travelers have become much more than tourists and they can expect a hotel that reflects that. Giving them a feeling of comfort while still creating experiences that allow them to step out of their comfort zone is what can harmonize the stay. Many travelers will bypass standard offerings and programs in favor of an experience that propels them forward or enriches them as individuals.

The independent-minded traveler is also looking for a sense of customizability in their travel choices. A personalized hotel experience is far from a new concept but giving guests the chance to feel as if they are in control of their own experience is an invaluable asset in hotel business.

Building an Identity Through a Cohesive Team

It takes two to tango and in the hotel industry, far more. Creating unforgettable stays for guests takes a team of dedicated, passionate hospitality experts. We concentrate on individualized service. We look at every arrival, every stayover, every day, to find opportunities to make a lasting impression on our guests in hopes of giving them an experience they won’t soon forget. From friendly exchanges in passing to thoughtful touches through in-room-service, hotels can find endless ways to truly make their guests feel special.

Having a team that is in sync with a hotel’s brand and identity creates a cohesive experience that can help solidify a guest’s positive feelings toward the hotel. At the Fontaine, we embrace the allure of our building to create a legacy within it. We work daily to write a story that integrates our service culture and property into the community. This starts with our team members, who we know are our number one asset.

Therefore, building a solid team is vital to brand awareness. Each of our team members have a seat at the table and we not only encourage them to pull up and lean in, but we expect it; our core values are predicated on participation and risk taking. We challenge them to create unique experiences at every customer touch point and work together to solve problems, bringing us even closer together and creating an environment of trust and esteem among teammates. Working together to curate service and create legends ultimately leads us to creating a brand story that is infused throughout the hotel and with every guest touchpoint.

The Importance of Brand Culture

We strive to consistently support a unique culture through our fundamental belief of “celebrating your inner weird,” which speaks to the openness of empowering team members to put their individual touches on guest service as well as in their interaction with other team members, which promotes a distinct atmosphere. From design using local art to food and beverage, every aspect of The Fontaine holds a piece of each team member’s voice and personal brand. By artfully combining luxury and familiarity, we use originality to create an atmosphere that is inviting and approachable for both team members and guests.

The uniqueness of the brand would not be the same without each individual touch and thought process that takes part in the growth and prosperity of the property. Each overnight guest, visitor and team member has an integral part in creating a brand that stands out. Without the individuality of each person that comes in to relation with our hotel, it would simply get lost in the noise of the hotel industry.

Having a team that is encouraged to be expressive and embrace their individuality helps construct the brand that is presented to guests. Guests who are looking for an “experience” rather than a “stay” have expectations that exceed the basic hotel experience and the brand, which are met by the dedication of the hotel team. The Fontaine celebrates each team member’s journey that got them to where they are today and understands that by doing so, makes for a better “them” for tomorrow.

Dedication to the Hospitality Business

In this fast-paced world, it is easy to get caught up in schedules, tasks and putting out fires. Often times, this can take away from what truly matters in our industry. Our guests. This includes our guests walking through the door, but also the “guests” we work with side-by-side daily. People drive this industry and without a passion for each individual, a hotel and its brand will disappear into the noise. Each guest takes part in co-creating their experience, which in turn, gives us more of an identity. Guests and team members together shape the hotel’s unique qualities, whether they are aware of their effect or not.

This business takes a crucial curiosity in the well-being and experiences of others and hospitality, and in many ways, chooses you. In this industry, you must love being around and serving people. Remembering that making people happy is one reason we entered the hospitality industry in the first place, allowing us to stay innovative while pushing the envelope on creating memorable guest experiences.

Creating the Guest Experience

The guest experience begins the moment they step foot on property, and guests will carry that first impression with them throughout their entire stay. Generating a warm, welcoming first impression can set the stage for an unforgettable stay. Upon arrival and departure, we offer warm or cold aromatherapy towels, which is especially refreshing in our Midwest winters or in the heat of the summer.

We also offer seasonal complimentary beverages in our lobby. Many hotels offer this service, but we like to take it a step further by offering elevated seasonal drinks that are unique to The Fontaine. Our house-made hot chocolate, which features a play on eggnog that showcases a vanilla pastry cream with fresh Chocolate and Hazelnut, is a great example of our unique offerings.

A memorable hotel stay relies heavily on a sensory experience. The smell, sight, sounds should all trigger a familiarity to the hotel, on experienced only in that specific space. Constructing an innovative, custom adventure for the guest is what sets modern boutique hotels apart from the rest.

In other cases, we use our own instincts to help and focus in on our guests’ dispositions and react accordingly. I frequently refer to this as “reacting proactively to needs.” How we react varies on the situation and we try not to duplicate as much as possible as each guest reservation is distinct.

We are proud to know that each and every individual within our hotel has a unique and lasting effect on the hotel’s brand, which helps us slow down and create individual experiences for each guest. Without allowing our internal team to “embrace their weird” and create a fun and entertaining brand, the hotel wouldn’t be what it is today.

Overall, adapting according to the constantly evolving industry trends is crucial to success as “the hotel” has become much more than a place to sleep. It is now an immersive experience where memories are created, revisited and treasured long after the stay.


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