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The Mille Club: luxury demands the unexpected

luxury demands the unexpectedFor reference, the Mille Club denotes those hotels that offer accommodations at or above $1,000 per night (hence the word Mille, Italian for thousand), a segment that’s growing rapidly around the globe. With price points in this range and great nominal margins while at all, properties can use their imagination to reinforce their brand equity and enhance the guest’s product appreciation. But make no mistake, the competition at the luxury and ultraluxury levels are just as fierce as ever; it’s often not the case of ‘can’ use so much as ‘must’ use their imaginations.

In this sense, even if your property is not (yet) at this rate, there is still great learning for you, too. Rates and packages must be competitive, but so must service levels, amenities and onsite programming in order to ensure lasting success.

Obviously, there are numerous ways to go about this, and there’s never a silver bullet, panacea or one-size-fits-all solution to all of hospitality. We can, however, deploy the age-old psychology trick of surprising and delighting our guests to endear them to our brands. As we will see in this Mille Club example, embedding these surprises and unexpected services is all but required for modern luxury.

Our recent stay at the Halekulani in Honolulu, Hawaii provides an effective demonstration of this approach. Of the two of us, Larry has visited this property pretty much every year for more than the past decade, except for a Covid-induced break. With 453 rooms, the property is not large in Waikiki Beach terms (the area where the hotel is located), yet at the five-star level this is a fairly significant size. In previous years we’ve written about the housekeeping team which we felt was certainly among the best in the world. On this post-Covid visit, we were wondering if they had maintained this level of excellence.

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One week’s stay revealed zero housekeeping flaws. Housekeepers at the Halekulani work in pairs, which we suspect is one of the reasons for their exceptional service acumen.

As in the past, each night revealed a different keepsake at turndown, accompanied by a short poetic card. A small tape measure (pictured), sand in a bottle, a steel ruler and a book-page clip are examples. All logoed, these small trinkets certainly beat the usual wrapped chocolates or candies. Moreover, they reinforce the brand, something a confection (even a bespoke truffle) can never really hope to accomplish. As we learned from the management team, the Halekulani guest stays an average of 7+ nights. This was the core reason for developing a different turndown trinket for each night of the week.

Yes, the guests delight in receiving something special every evening that differentiates the turndown service and adds that je ne sais quoi. But the unexpected part was discovered upon the return from dinner the night before departure. Items carefully arranged on the desk in each of our rooms included: a thank-you card from the housekeeping team, eyeglass repair kits, a hardcover book describing the area and a wall calendar.

While never of us can comment on whether or not this is solely for repeat guests, to our knowledge, we were not on any sort of VIP list. Asking others at the bar the next day, they confirmed that they too received the same outgoing package of goodies. It’s far and above was the luxury guest expects and a wow moment for anyone visiting the hotel.

There are lessons here for your hotel, even if scheduling room attendants in pairs and delivering this upper echelon of SOPs is out of the cards. First, recognize that your housekeepers are a true frontline of your staff. Provide them with the tools to make them part of your loyalty-enhancing team. Encourage them to get involved. Try to find some unique way of creating a lasting impression of your property.

Importantly, lasting impressions harks at the hospitality concept of the ‘sense of departure’. We spent so much time crafting great arrival experiences that we may forget that, psychologically speaking, guests may give even more emotional weighting to the moments just before they leave. Hence, a turndown chocolate doesn’t necessarily work because it’s expected and routine. Certainly, with all the bright minds on your team, you can do better!

As a Mille Club member, you’ve got the financial horsepower – specifically, a greater nominal gross operating profit per available room (GOPPAR) – to make every aspect of your guests’ stay memorable from check-in to departure. But for those properties with lower rates that aspire to create similarly delightful moments, there are many other ways to go about this, and oftentimes restrains can be great motivators for coming up with creative solutions.

This article may not be reproduced without the expressed permission of the authors.

Tags: amenitie, onsite programming, service levels

Managing Partners at Hotel Mogel Consulting, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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