For two centuries, hotel singularity has been dominated and almost exclusively reserved for ultra-luxury. The revolution in service codes and the transparency of atypical offers on the Web are revolutionizing the benchmark for “exceptional hotels”. So how does one become a singular accommodation today?
• • • • • • • • • •
For a long time I wondered what, in the hotel business, and more generally in the areas of service, was exceptional. What kind of concept, brands and invariably brings guests in? What’s the recipe for top of the class and how do you duplicate it? A brief benchmark of practices in our sector can be a source of inspiration that can be adapted to our different categories of establishments.
On closer inspection, the operational exception has its roots in the luxury hotel industry, alongside the classic inn celebrated in the beautiful feature film Hôtel du Nord. Born in the 19th century, the exception is embodied in France by its very first palace, Le Meurice, 180 years ago. The services are innovative and exceptional: soap-washed linen, car rental, room service …
A little over half a century later, Caesar Ritz’s visionary establishment emerged, with a bathtub, private bathroom and telephone in each room, and an elevator on every floor.
After the Second World War, Paris, Nice, Monaco, Deauville, Biarritz became the strongholds of luxury and exceptional hotels. In Nice, the Negresco is the only French establishment to be equipped with a steam boiler, switches and a pneumatic post to deliver the mail in the rooms.
Luxury and exception were one and the same
The Palace qualification will be officially recognized as of 2010. It distinguishes itself from high-end establishments by combining two requirements: being 5 stars and enjoying the Palace distinction.
The exclusive and discretionary classification is reserved for 25 palace establishments in France. The label of exception is obtained in two phases: an expert jury examines the 5-star establishment, at least one year old, with a Spa and a multilingual team. Once this first airlock has been passed through, Atout France, the State operator, decides on the eligibility of the establishment on the basis of 200 criteria.
The award commission is made up of personalities from the worlds of literature, arts, culture, media and business, appointed for a renewable 3-year period by the Minister of Tourism.
The French distinction “Palace” is a response to the need for a palace, whether the standard withered its magic, or whether the multiplication of competition from the four fundamental palaces made this standard necessary… The French distinction “Palace” is intended to meet this need.
Considerable efforts are made in ultra luxury to continue to seduce a delicate and demanding clientele. Historic hotel luxury is no longer intrinsically the only expectation and consideration to embody the exceptional product and the exceptional experience.
The hotel exception is gradually no longer synonymous with luxury in its classic and historical perception. For more than two decades, singularity has flowed through the names “Boutique Hotels”, “Design Hotels”, “Concept Hotels”, “Pocket Palace”, “Experience Hotels”, etc…
The standards and qualifications are not necessarily very clear, but the offer is prolific and is gradually structured around real customer expectations.
1. The real case by case
As part of the profound and sincere redefinition of luxury, La Réserve Paris, recognized as a Palace, makes a clear bet: fewer units (40 rooms and suites), more dedication to the client. The philosophy of the Michel Reybier group is to reduce the volume of units for a time dedicated and personalized to each client. The functions of gastronomy, florist, floors have one or even several Meilleurs Ouvriers de France. The exceptional treatment and customer experience has earned the establishment recognition two years in a row as the best hotel in the world and in Europe by the Conde Nast Traveler and the US News&World Report.
2. The framework
As a major trend in the hotel industry in the context of its medium and high-end renovations and restructuring, decoration is no longer a secret for the sector. In addition to the undisputed and prolific figures of designer Philippe Starck (Mama Shelter, the Royal Monceau, Brach, Hotel 9 Confidentiel…) and decorator Jacques Garcia (Maison Souquet, the Hotel, the Oscar in London…), other talents are imposing their style: Dorothée Meilichzon, Stella Cadente, Jean Philippe Nuel….
The objective of home automation is to ensure customer comfort without having to move around in the room and to manage the energy of the establishment. The Citizen M hotels with their touch-sensitive tablets are pioneers in this field. A single workstation controls the ambient temperature, lighting, the Web, TV and radio channels, service control, alarm clock, etc.
Check in – check out with your smartphone, seal your safe by fingerprint or facial recognition, it’s done. The field of possibilities is open to a precise knowledge of the customer’s profile (age, sex…), his weight, his health (heart rate, weight), his food consumption at the minibar.
High tech equipment
Glass is explored in all its potentialities: opaque glass to the touch for shower walls to guarantee privacy, magnifying mirror integrated in the bathroom mirror to save time).
Flat and connected screens are embedded in the mirrors. The Artemis intelligent mirror allows the magnifying glass function, the 360 vision to see each other from the back and from the side. It analyzes the skin texture and the adapted treatments, beauty tutorials, and … the check out.
The sanitary facilities are also sexy and atypical, in restaurants and hotels. The French brand Throne is revolutionizing the intimate experience of sanitary facilities.
4. The sustainable
The trend is towards ecology or “green effect”. In 2014, the Green Air Hotel concept born in China aims to upgrade aging hotels with purified air and a refreshing space. The concept will be generalized in the United States by 2020.
5. The staff
An exceptional hotel is a hotel that radiates its staff and its well-being. It is no longer a question of dissociating customer satisfaction from internal satisfaction : the expectations of the new generation of hoteliers differ from the previous ones : fulfilment, social usefulness, team motivation.
The staff, too, is becoming robotic. At the Campanile in Shanghai, it is a robot that ensures the check-in and customer follow-up.
The exceptional has gone from luxury to the quest for simplicity, simplicity and authenticity in human relationships, in daily and practical uses, in the flexibility of the offer, in the wonder, in the rooms or the promotion of the most instagrammable living places, in the respectful (even egalitarian? ) contact with the staff.
New offers related to this mutation are emerging such as the Glamping contraction of glamour and camping. Urban hotels are being transformed into family homes. Eco-lodges are sustainable examples around the world.
We no longer speak of a compartmentalized “reception” but of a welcome, of a “lobby” but of a place to live, of a “personal” but of an “ambassador”.
Day after day, the hotel industry proves its ability to reinvent itself, to adapt to the new model of society, and to surprise us with its exceptions.
In a forthcoming article, we will discuss simple and quick techniques for establishing a business forecast.