3 Guest Experience Tips from Award-Winning Hoteliers

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If you’re looking for ways to improve guest experience at your hotel, who better to get advice from than hoteliers who’ve won awards thanks to the fantastic experiences that they provide their guests?

We asked award-winning hoteliers what their secrets are, and we noticed that despite their unique properties, locations, staff, and management styles, all of these award-winning hotels share three core values at the heart of their guest experience. These are the foundations of their exceptional service and the cornerstones of their success:


Sometimes a great guest experience is about a big moment that stands out in a guest’s mind. But, more often than not, it’s the small details that make a stay memorable. Your guests might not consciously notice all of the finer details, or may not be able to put their finger on exactly what made their stay special, but, as the team at Belmore Court & Motel knows, it’s a combination of all of these thought-out details which add up to make the guests stay memorable.

“We’re all about making guests feel like they’re coming to a home away from home. That means we nail the personal touches, obsess over the little things, and always have a smile ready when they walk through the door.”

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— Terry B McCartney | Owner | Belmore Court & Motel
2023 Shortlist GREATest Service and GREATest Value for Money 

It goes beyond getting the basic details right – the modern traveller wants their personal needs met every step of the way. Personalisation is more than just a buzzword — it’s a necessity for making your guests feel like more than just a head on a bed. When using the right technology and adopting the right policies, hoteliers should have a wealth of data at their fingertips as soon as the guest has booked, and making the most of that information will make your guests’ stay that much more memorable.








This approach has worked wonders for the team at Thaba Eco Hotel. “We understand that guest tastes, preferences and likes are not all the same, and therefore we don’t believe in applying a cookie-cutter approach,” explains Maris Botes, Managing Director at Thaba Eco Hotel, which was shortlisted for GREATest 50-99 room hotel in the 2023 GREAT Awards. “Guests have become increasingly more savvy and sophisticated in terms of what the difference between an average and an outstanding stay is. Prioritising guest experience and satisfaction by offering personalised services, anticipating needs, and providing tailored amenities to enhance their stay is essential in exceeding guest expectations.”

“Technology aids communication and feedback collection, while recognition reinforces high standards. This approach ensures a consistent, exceptional guest experience across all hotel departments.”

— Terry B McCartney | Owner | Belmore Court & Motel
2023 Shortlist GREATest Service and GREATest Value for Money

Personalisation in response to guests’ requests (which can be facilitated via pre-stay surveys and other guest correspondence) is great and necessary for hoteliers – but it is the attention to ‘unspoken’ details that sets award-winning hotels apart. The team at LUX* South Ari Atoll’s secret weapon is anticipating their guests’ needs at every stage of the guest’s stay.

“Our dedicated team members take the time to understand each guest’s preferences and go the extra mile to create personalised experiences. This could involve remembering a guest’s favourite drink, arranging surprise in-villa decorations for a special occasion, or crafting a bespoke itinerary based on their interests,” says Mr John Rogers, General Manager, for LUX South Ari Atoll, winner of GREATest 100+ Rooms category in the 2023 GREAT Awards.

These smaller details can get overlooked in the hustle and bustle of a busy hotel, but for each individual guest, it can be the smallest detail that can create a lasting impression.

Read more about getting started with personalisation


Being guest-centric in your strategy, operations and staff training is a surefire way to create a positive guest experience. Understanding your guest’s needs, however, can be a complex process and often requires multiple points of contact.

Firstly, hoteliers should ensure that they are soliciting feedback from every guest and continuously analysing that feedback to stay on top of what their guests are thinking. Management and staff should be encouraged to have genuine interactions with all guests and to view each guest as an individual, with their own set of needs and preferences rather than merely a room number or a head on a bed. Lastly, astute hoteliers should be analysing broader industry trends concerning changes in guest preferences.

We pride ourselves on staying abreast of industry trends, embracing innovation, and adapting to meet evolving guest expectations. This makes it possible to stay ahead in the competitive hospitality sector. When providing services and products it is essential to know what the trends are and what clients want.

— Marius Botes | MD | Thaba Eco Hotel
2023 Shortlist GREATest 50-99 Rooms

The first step in understanding your guests, and being guest-centric, is to encourage a real interaction with every guest. “We believe in genuine connections with our guests. It’s not just about providing a service; it’s about creating a welcoming atmosphere where guests feel like they’re part of our extended family. That warmth and authenticity shine through in every interaction,” asserts Terry.

While management at LUX* South Ari Atoll views “genuine care and warmth” as one of the cornerstones of their award-winning service, John, reiterates that “true hospitality comes from the heart. Our team members are passionate about creating memorable moments for our guests. This genuine care and warmth shines through in every interaction, fostering a sense of connection and exceeding expectations of traditional hotel service.”








While it is true that having these moments with your guests during their stay will help your hotel exceed expectations and delight your guests, it is also important to encourage raw and honest feedback from your guests post-stay.

“Actively seek guest feedback (even though sometimes it may be brutal)”, suggests Caron van Rooyen, General Manager at Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport “and use this platform as an opportunity to improve service delivery.”

By shaping strategies and operational directives based on insights gathered from guest feedback data, top hoteliers ensure guests stay at the forefront of every hotel decision and action.

“Guest feedback is vital for continuously improving guest service standards,” agrees Terry. “It helps identify areas needing improvement, prioritise changes, inform training, enhance guest engagement, benchmark performance, and inspire innovation.”

I personally cannot imagine not having feedback from my guests, how would we continuously improve service excellence to our customers?

— Caron van Rooyen | General Manager | Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport
2023 Winner GREATest Cleanliness

“We’re constantly soliciting feedback, analysing data, and refining our processes to ensure that we’re always delivering the best possible experience,” says Terry “ By actively listening and responding to feedback, we can ensure we remain responsive to guest needs and preferences, fostering trust and loyalty.”

This strategy has clearly paid off for Terry, as Belmore Court was shortlisted in both the GREATest Service and GREATest Value for Money category in the 2023 GuestRevu GREAT Awards.

John sums this up simply, “Guest feedback is the cornerstone of our continuous improvement process. We analyse all feedback channels, including surveys, reviews, and direct interactions with team members. This allows us to identify trends, understand guest expectations, and implement changes to refine our service standards.”

We take guest feedback seriously and translate it into actionable insights. This could involve revising menus based on dietary preferences, enhancing in-room amenities based on guest requests, or introducing new activities based on guest interests. Guest feedback allows us to tailor our service approach to individual preferences.

— John Rogers | General Manager | LUX* South Ari Atoll
2023 Winner GREATest 100+ Rooms

As the management team at Thaba Eco Hotel knows, your own guests are not the only ones worth listening to. “We pride ourselves on staying abreast of industry trends, embracing innovation, and adapting to meet evolving guest expectations.” says Marius “This makes it possible to stay ahead in the competitive hospitality sector. When providing services and products it is essential to know what the trends are and what clients want.”


You can offer beautiful rooms with personalised service, sublime meals with specialist ingredients, and a dazzling view, but if your staff are not upholding your high standard, chances are your guests won’t be delighted. Your hotel staff are the face of your business and are in constant contact with your guests, so they need to be operating on top form.

Finding, training and retaining talented staff while creating a culture of teamwork and professionalism can go a long way in ensuring your team offers great service, but more than that you need to empower your staff so that they can deliver award-winning service for each individual hotel guest.

Terry knows that if you want award-winning guest experiences, staff training needs to be a priority. “Consistency in guest service excellence hinges on comprehensive training, clear standards, and ongoing monitoring,” he says. “Staff receive regular feedback, fostering a culture that prioritises guest satisfaction.”








Caron makes a point of “instilling the company core values, being honesty, respect, caring, passion and sustainability” in her team at Hotel Verde. “If each one of us at Hotel Verde lives by these values and drives these values at work as well as in our own personal lives, then we have the combination to succeed!” This philosophy emphasises the need to educate employees on the significance of the service they provide and ensure they understand and embrace the hotel’s core values.

In keeping with unifying the team, it is important that staff know where their roles fall within the bigger picture of the hotel, and how their efforts help to shape the guest’s overall experience. Marius credits Thaba Eco Hotel’s success in part to their unique training programme in which they conduct “cross-training, to ensure staff members understand and gain an appreciation for the roles and responsibilities of other departments.”

In addition, their commitment to service excellence also includes “daily, short team meetings to reinforce guest expectations and share feedback to enhance communication between the different departments at the start of each day,” Marius explains.

“Staff are empowered to take ownership of their roles and we encourage them to provide ideas for improving service and sustainability practices within the hotel.”

– Caron van Rooyen | General Manager | Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport
2023 Winner GREATest Cleanliness

Empowering staff means that each member of the team is aware of every guest, they have a responsibility and duty to ensure that each guest is well taken care of, but with that responsibility, staff need a level of autonomy to make in-the-moment decisions for the benefit of their guests.

“We invest heavily in training our team members. This includes comprehensive onboarding programs, ongoing skill development workshops, and service excellence training that emphasises our core values and guest-centric approach,” Explains John. All this training means that when staff need to make autonomous decisions, they are equipped to do so.

“Our team members are empowered to make independent decisions to enhance the guest experience,” says John. “We foster a culture of ownership and recognition, celebrating successes and encouraging initiative.”

Read more about motivating your team here

Exceptional guest service isn’t just a nicety; it’s the foundation for a thriving hospitality business. Delighted guests don’t just leave positive reviews – they become your most powerful brand ambassadors. By prioritising unforgettable experiences, you cultivate a loyal following. These advocates share their positive experiences with friends, family, and even online communities, generating a constant stream of positive word-of-mouth marketing and repeat bookings.

While winning an award feels amazing and gives your team the recognition they deserve, creating a guest experience that is unforgettable means that you will have a constant stream of brand ambassadors, with your guests becoming your biggest advocates and sharing their amazing experiences with those around them.

Do you believe your hotel and your team are truly GREAT? Could you compete with the amazing hotels highlighted here? Enter our GuestRevu GREAT Awards! Entries are open until 30 June 2024.

>> To enter or for more information click here <<

Tags: Award-Winning Hoteliers, Guest Experience Tips



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