Guest loyalty is becoming more elusive. Perhaps this is unsurprising given the increasing level of competition between hotels, multiple booking channels, new accommodation types and the desire of travellers to stay in a place largely because it is new and previously unvisited. In addition, guest expectations appear to be on the rise, fuelled by more experiences that take visitors away from home and the promises that accommodation providers make ahead of their stay. In a world of so much choice, it is imperative that hoteliers deliver on their promises.
Numerous examples demonstrate how important it is for hotels to achieve loyalty rather than relying on discount pricing. They also show how merely satisfying guests does not guarantee loyalty, as it is a complex emotion that is more likely to be triggered at certain points during the their stay than at others. It is also influenced by service, the environment, sensory stimuli, meaningful experiences and the chance to make exciting discoveries.
Enter the Sleep event, which is working with Ipsos Loyalty, as well as the Glion Institute of Higher Education UK this year to explore Loyalty: Lessons in Love. Sleep is Europe's annual hotel design and development event that displays a certain aptitude for tapping into current industry themes and exploring them through the lens of a designer, in a way that influences the overall sector with important conversations and industry tips. In 2016, 4,700 visitors attended Sleep, which combines conferences with concept room installations and an international exhibition that, this year, has reached capacity with over 150 exhibitors that are a cross-pollination of Sleep veterans and newcomers. There is also Spaces, a collection of stands that will showcase interior collections in hotel settings, and will involve 19 major manufacturers.
The Sleep Set competition will see leading design practices translate the year's theme into physical hotel environments. The four participating firms for 2017 have been selected for their diverse experience and culture. They are: Il Prisma, which has studios in London and Italy, as well as a portfolio covering work, retail and hospitality spaces; 1508 London, the leading luxury residential design studio that is bringing its magic to hospitality; Stonehill & Taylor, the hospitality-focused architecture and design studio from New York City; and London-based MKV Design, which specialises in the interior architecture and design of high-end hotels and resorts globally.
In the opinion of Il Prisma's Gilberto Vizzini, hotels and their designers face the challenge of converting a one-night stay into a long-term love affair. "We have a great opportunity to elicit guest loyalty by combining physical and digital worlds into a new 'phigital' paradigm," he says. "This has the potential to not only create connections between the hotel and its neighbourhood, but also to deliver new networks for guests when they return home."
Sleep is seeking to raise the bar for ideas, technological innovation, customised design and information exchange across all of its components. The conference is free to attend and promises attendees will enjoy a compelling combination of panel discussions, roundtable conversations and rare opportunities to hear from some of the industry's most influential designers. Upcoming panel topics will look at hotel investment and development, food and beverage trends, hotel brand identity and 'post-cool' hotels, among other major trends in the industry.
James Soane of Project Orange will be one of the speakers on the post-cool panel. "By definition, what is cool now will not be cool for much longer," he explains. "While it can lead to fun concepts, there is a bigger question at stake - can we continue to operate in this style-led, throwaway economy? Looking at a world where resources are becoming scarcer and the climate is getting more unpredictable, there needs to be a better appreciation for making ethical choices. This embodies everything, ranging from how materials and food are sourced, to employment opportunities."
Loyalty and love for the planet and ourselves, between hotel brand and guest, right through to the values of a product and personalising experiences are the themes that Sleep will explore and debate on 21-22 November at the Business Design Centre in London.