How to keep an old hotel relevant to modern travelers

It’s no wonder Hotel Royal has become one of Gothenburg’s historical landmarks. It was built in 1852 which makes it the city’s oldest hotel. The first cornerstone of the building was placed in 1850 and two years later, Sundbecks Nya Hotel För Resande, which eventually changed its name to Hotel Royal, was opened.

A lot has changed since Hotel Royal first opened its doors almost 170 years ago: Gothenburg has grown from a backwater town to a trendy Nordic city that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year. The population has grown from only thirty thousand to a half million inhabitants.

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No matter how much the city might change, the hotel building remains the same. That’s important for Hotel Manager Henrik Lind as well: “Thanks to our long history, we see everything in long-term. We for example reinvest a fair share of the profits in maintaining the building.”

The hotel has received numerous facelifts over the years in order to meet the standards of modern travelers. It has been managed by the Oddestad family for 38 years now. They have preserved the atmosphere of the building very carefully and kept stunning interiors dating to the end of the 19th century: there’s for example a hand painted glass ceiling, beautifully patterned stone floors and an Art Nouveau staircase with hand-forged banisters.

Timeless service

Hotel Royal has always been an independent and family-owned hotel. During its whole existence, the most important thing for the hotel has been to provide outstanding guest experience and personal service.

Lind believes in timeless service: “I use to say, what’s the difference in running a hotel in 1850, 1950 or 2050? I think there’s no difference: you welcome guests, give them a key, serve breakfast and then say goodbye again. We don’t want to change existing best practices just because something is the new thing in the market.”

Henrik Lind

In a world where everything changes quickly and competition between hotels gets tougher and tougher, you would expect it to be necessary for the hotel to constantly change as well. According to Lind, it might actually be the opposite. No hotel should change just for the sake of changing.

He gives traditional room keys as an example: changing them to smart keys and smart locks would take away the most important thing, interaction with the guests. “We still want to greet our guests, talk to them and make them want to come back. Not everything has to be about efficiency.”

It has worked out pretty well, as the hotel has a lot of regular guests coming back every year. Also, after taking a look at Hotel Royal’s guest reviews, you quickly notice one word repeating itself: authenticity. There is no hotel like Royal, that’s for sure.

Revolutionizing guest experience

Lind decides carefully, which amenities to deploy and which not. “It’s not that we don’t like to try new things, we just don’t do everything that everyone says is the next big thing.”

What’s a good amenity then? Something that revolutionizes the guest experience. Like Valpas for example.

Valpas makes design bed legs that safeguard guests from bed bugs. By implementing the system, hotels join Valpas Hotels network, which is a network for hotels of the world that are safeguarded from bed bugs. Hotel Royal joined Valpas Hotels in January.

“Bed bugs are quite a taboo topic to speak about. If you talk with your colleagues, nobody has ever had them. When you talk to the exterminators, everybody has had them”, says Lind.

He is right: according to a research conducted by Orkin, each hotel faces an average of 7.1 bed bug incidents over a five-year period. It’s nobody’s fault: bed bugs come to hotels with unsuspecting guests and are extremely hard to notice until it’s too late. The more luxurious the hotel, the higher the guests’ expectations are.

Henrik Lind is one of the lucky ones, who hasn’t encountered bed bugs in his hotel but acknowledges the risk: “We want to do everything we can to make the guest experience to always be excellent. As traveling in Gothenburg increases, we know that there is a huge risk that someday we will encounter bed bugs. We can’t prevent them in any other way”, says Lind.

He knows that travelers are also getting more anxious and stressed because of bed bugs. The Valpas Hotels’ site allows travelers to find hotels that keep them safe from gnarly bed bugs, which is an essential solution as these bugs just keep on increasing around the world. When choosing a Valpas hotel, travelers know that they can travel carefree.

“A great guest experience is everything for us and that’s why we joined Valpas Hotels”, says Lind.

The hotel staff gets to follow each room’s status real-time with Valpas’ web service. Doing manual check-ups in the hotel would require a lot of time. And time is a valuable thing.

Lind talks a lot about time. Living in the moment. Having fun. Enjoying coming to work every day. It seems to be especially important for him that the staff doesn’t need to hurry. He wants to create a feeling to both the guests and to his employees that there’s always time for them.

“We do almost everything from scratch. We put a lot of time and effort in most of the things we do. Just because we like it, it’s more fun like that”, tells Lind.

Other thing that makes Hotel Royal stand out from the masses is their humbleness: “We see our customers. We see our staff. It’s all about seeing other human beings. We respect everyone and treat everyone as equal” says Henrik, takes a pause and continues “We take time to get to know our guests.”

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