25 October, 2017

Oatmeal, a brand and a happy staff – a good hotel from a business traveler’s point of view?

The digital revolution has brought us closer to each other. Work communities all over the world can communicate in a completely new manner. Video calls were thought to be the end to business travel, but many people still travel because of their work.

What do frequent business travelers demand of their hotels? We talked to communications consultant Wille Wilenius about the subject.

Wille is a business traveler who has an extensive career in PR and media. Yearly he spends around 50 hotel nights in Helsinki and 50 in Tallinn.

As a frequent hotel customer, Wille has a special set of assessment criteria that he uses while reviewing hotels. He is known as one of the most active TripAdvisor commentators in Finland.

The first criterion in finding a hotel is, of course, findability. Wille uses the services of hotels in Helsinki and Tallinn frequently, and he has noticed that travel has increased in both cities, as the hotels are often full. Finding a hotel room in May or June can be impossible.

The second criterion for Wille is the previous good experience a hotel has given. An interesting brand is important. Wille praises Hotel Helka for its nice atmosphere.

It’s nice to invite guests here because Helka is situated in the centre of the city, and it houses interesting artwork and architecture. The staff at the bar is friendly. This place feels more like a local bar than a hotel lobby. Usually people in Finland don’t go for drinks in hotel bars if they don’t stay in that same hotel. However, in Amsterdam, for example, hotels are more a part of the city. Helka has that same spirit, and the atmosphere and the flow are excellent.

Oatmeal is the new black

The third criterion for Wille is breakfast, and he has a unique system to measure its quality.

Before, I used to measure the quality of the breakfast by counting how many cheeses there were. Now I count oatmeal. One type of oatmeal equals four cheeses, so Helka having two types of oatmeal is an eight-cheese achievement! Naturally, I still also count the amount of cheese varieties. Cold cuts and their varieties do not interest me at the moment. Oatmeal is the new black. The oatmeal trend is growing globally, and, to give an example, the restaurant Grød in Copenhagen is packed all the time.

One measurement of a professional staff is the ability to meet every customer individually. According to Wille, most hotels have a fast and friendly staff, but they don’t always remember to look the customer in the eye.

In Helka you feel like everyone is your friend. The staff is friendly, and they always go the extra mile to help. If I’ll have a glass of water, they ask if I want ice. There’s always someone in the reception willing to talk with me about the presented art.

According to Wille, art makes a hotel feel cozy. Helka’s “Aarght by Marita Kouhia” gallery is to him an unusual, but functional solution. A slowly evolving exhibition by a single artist differentiates Helka from other hotels that don’t invest in art as much.

Coziness is important to a person who travels much. There are maybe three cozy hotels in Helsinki. Coziness is achieved through many things; for example, one would be that the staff recognizes me. Finnish architecture and art is cozy, and this feeling is present in every space in Helka. The feeling doesn’t just stay at the lobby, it continues to other rooms as well.

However, feelings and atmospheres are not enough for a business traveler. They are there to work, and the hotel must accommodate for their needs.

The hotel network must work, that is extremely important. I also like to try new innovations. For example, the ability to check in yourself is a fun addition to hotel services.

The travel industry is trying to please customers by adding new services. However, not every service is universally wanted. What services are, according to Wille, useless to a business traveler?

I’m not interested in additional purchases. Many hotels make you feel like you’re missing out if you’re not a returning customer. It’s kind of blatant and ugly. Also, gyms in hotels are useless. Central Helsinki is full of excellent gyms with various hourly rates. Why would a customer pay extra for a sub-par hotel gym, when they can go to a real one?

Managing a hotel fit for business travelers shouldn’t be that difficult, then. Working basic services and coziness go a long way. But what differentiates the great hotels from the good ones?

A great hotel is a hotel you can take your family or spouse to. The experience is important. It doesn’t come from ad agencies and it can’t be just something you try to artificially create. A real experience comes naturally.