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Phocuswright Europe – Beyond the Bed: Lodging companies craft unforgettable guest experiences

Phocuswright Europe 2024

At Phocuswright Europe 2024, industry leaders discussed innovative lodging practices beyond basic accommodations, emphasizing service, sustainability, and unique guest experiences to meet modern traveler demands.

In today’s travel landscape, travelers crave more than just a comfortable room.  They seek unique experiences that create lasting memories. The “Executive Panel: Beyond the Bed – An Experience You’ll Never Forget” at Phocuswright Europe 2024 explored how leading lodging companies are innovating to meet these evolving demands. Moderated by Lorraine Sileo, Founder, Phocuswright Research and Senior Analyst at Phocuswright Inc., the session featured Maud Bailly (CEO Sofitel Legend, Sofitel, MGallery, Emblems, Accor), Nils Korsvoll (VP Customer Journey & Product Development, Strawberry), and Juan Carlos Sanjuan (Founder & President, Casual Hotels).

The panelists emphasized the importance of fostering a distinct brand identity that extends beyond the physical hotel room.  Bailly highlighted the crucial role of exceptional service: “Hotels are built on two pillars: product and service. While providing a beautiful room ensures a good night’s sleep, it’s the service culture that truly creates lasting memories. It’s about emotional intelligence, personalizing the experience, and making guests feel special. They may not remember their exact sleep quality, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

Korsvoll described his company’s unique approach to building staff culture: “We’ve externalized our internal party culture for our guests. We don’t do traditional recruitment; instead, we hold large-scale auditions in each city. While these candidates may not have prior hospitality experience, they possess the right personality and energy. We then invest in extensive training to equip them with the necessary skills.”

Sanjuan underscored the growing focus on creating a happiness-driven ecosystem: “We’re moving beyond a purely transactional model and aiming to cultivate a culture of happiness within our hotels.”

The panelists also discussed the shift towards leisure travel.  Bailly noted that Accor is now experiencing a 65% leisure travel mix compared to a pre-pandemic 50/50 split.  “Leisure travelers today have new demands,” she explained. “They seek larger spaces, villas, and a higher level of service, including amenities like in-room cooking options. We’re building brands that cater to these evolving needs.”

Wellbeing experiences are another key trend. Bailly highlighted the importance of holistic wellness programs:  “Travelers are no longer solely focused on aesthetics; they want to feel good overall. Our Purist program, built on four pillars of wellness, has been a big success.”

Sustainability also emerged as a crucial factor for today’s travelers.  Bailly pointed out that 46% of Accor’s hotels are now eco-certified, reflecting a growing demand for responsible tourism practices.  Korsvoll shared an example of how his company incorporates sustainability into their conference offerings:  “Nordic hotels have carbon budgets for their conferences, so menus may feature more vegetarian options instead of beef. While some delegates might initially miss steak options, we explain that these choices align with their company’s carbon goals.”

The session concluded with a call for ongoing education.  Bailly emphasized the need to educate guests about sustainable practices: “There’s a level of explanation required when explaining why we might not be offering plastic water bottles. It’s a journey that requires ongoing communication and education.”

Sanjuan echoed the focus on creating a personalized experience: “We strive to make our guests feel like they’re staying in a friend’s home. Each of our rooms is unique, offering a distinct experience for every guest.”

Vicky Karantzavelou
Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.