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The 10 Touch Points of Modern Hospitality

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When does hospitality begin? It is not at the moment your guests arrive. It is not at the time of booking, either. Instead, it begins at the moment you decide to create a short-term rental business.

Hospitality is, after all, a state of mind. You must learn from the very beginning to become a mind-reader—someone who uses empathy to anticipate your guests’ wants, needs, comfort levels and fears, and then deliver an experience that deeply understands them. 

Honestly, I get frustrated by the mistaken belief that there is a way to build a hospitality business that is passive and sustainable. 

A true hospitality business is anything but a “passive income” stream. Sure, you can get by for a while with a short-term rental business that you put the bare minimum of effort into (especially when the market is good).*

But eventually, your commodity mindset is going to be your downfall. Guests do not want to be seen as commodities. They are people. 

True hospitality is a mindset of service and of mutual respect. If you don’t respect your guests, you better believe they won’t respect your property.

Put another way: your guests probably will not remember the exact contents of your welcome basket a year from now. But they will remember how that welcome basket made them feel. And it’s right there in the name: they will feel welcomed, and like they matter to you, their host. 

That’s hospitality. And it will be the cornerstone of your long-term success. 

*If you are in it for quick cash and a quick exit, well, this post is not for you!

Hotel Clermont: A Hospitality Case Study 

Now onto the case study! 

Last year my kiddos and I traveled to Alabama for a wedding and, on the way, spent a few nights at a cute little boutique hotel in Atlanta, the Hotel Clermont.

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It was hands-down one of the best hospitality experiences I have ever had, and I am difficult to please. 🙂  If you are ever in Atlanta, I highly recommend you stay the night (they are not paying me to say this)! 

I was first attracted to the Hotel Clermont because of the irresistible boho vibe, enticing photos, and gushing 5-star reviews. But when I arrived it was so much more than that…they won me over by their incredible hospitality.  

I am so used to offering hospitality that it felt great to get it in return. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to reverse-engineer what made my experience so great. 

Now I will share those insights with you!

1.  It starts with the search.

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Although I am in the short-term rental industry, I am also a boutique hotel addict. I firmly believe they have a lot to teach us rentalists, so most of my trip searches begin with hotels instead of vacation rentals. 

I found Hotel Clermont on Expedia, my go-to (they do a great job of aggregating all of the hotels on one feed). From there, of course, I navigated to the hotel’s website to #bookdirect. Here is where their branding stepped in to win me over completely. 

Their web design is simple, modern, easy to navigate, and they had clear, lovely photos of the hotel and the rooms. It’s hard to articulate exactly what makes a brand stand out, but in this case, it was a sense of timelessness, the soft colors, and the subtle advertisement that doesn’t shout about how awesome they are. 

ACTION: Apply this to your own short-term rental business by paying attention to your aesthetic. Make sure your photos are excellent yet honest (consider interior design, as well!). Create a memorable logo. Make sure your written descriptions are enticing, thoughtful, and helpful. If you have a website, be considerate of the “vibe” you present in your fonts and color choices. Like attracts like!

2.  Be helpful between the booking and the stay. 

Before arrival, I received several emails welcoming me to the area with things to do and additional information about Hotel Clermont. Each of these were genuinely helpful, with unique info that is not available elsewhere. 

ACTION:  Anticipate (or collect) guest questions and answer them in your pre-stay emails. And when you do get asked the same question for the 1000th time even though it’s in your email, be patient, honest, and kind (even if it is through gritted teeth). They don’t have the familiarity with the property that you do.

{Hint: Check out TDG’s Guide to Guest Communication for professionally written email templates to send to your guests!] 

3.  Create a seamless booking process.

Having a clear, easy-to-navigate booking process is essential to a great guest experience, and you want to remove any roadblocks between their interest in your property and making their booking. 

Once I was on the Hotel Clermont website, I was able to book a room within a few moments. And just like that, I was on my way to Atlanta. Easy peasy!

ACTION:  If you have your own website, make sure your guests can easily book your property without requiring customer support or too many approvals between clicking the “Book Now” button and having a confirmed stay. Annoying as they can be, embrace the instant book options on both VRBO/Airbnb and your own website. If you are uncomfortable with a booking, you can always contact the listing site and explain your concerns and ask them to cancel. It works out more often than you think. 

4.  Make check-in simple.

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I arrived at Hotel Clermont after a long day of travel, checked in at the front desk and viola, we were off to our room and onto our adventures with a map in-hand and some excellent suggestions for dinner! What a relief. 

ACTION: A simple and easy check in process is the key…literally. Buy a digital smart lock if you haven’t already. A few weeks prior to the guests stay, drop them a welcoming, automated email with their unique access code. Then welcome guests with a basket of goodies or a handwritten “hello” inside. 

5.  Provide a sanctuary.

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Now we get to the fun stuff! 

I loved everything about the Hotel Clermont’s aesthetic—from the vintage boho feeling of the branding to the décor and attention to detail.

If you are like me, when you travel you’re looking to escape your hectic life at a zen-like sanctuary that has very little clutter other than that which you bring with you! The thoughtful simplicity and comfort of boutique hotels are a far cry from my hodge-podge “doing the best we can” aesthetic at home.

ACTION:  Travelers are looking for a place to stay that is well taken care of, where sheets are precisely tucked and towels are thoughtfully placed. It’s those little details that instill confidence and let guests escape from cluttered “real life”—if only for a few days. Living in a space where everything has a place does wonders for the overwhelmed brain! 

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 6.  Small touches.

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Tying into their uncluttered aesthetic, Hotel Clermont did not provide many “extras,” but the ones that they did provide really spoke to me. 

I loved that they left a few bottles of complimentary water, because I didn’t have time to run out to the shops prior to check-in. A huge bonus when traveling with always-parched kids!

They also provided a to-go size bottle of lotion in addition to the more eco-friendly large bottles in the bathroom. I always grab a small lotion before I leave the house…and I was impressed that they anticipated that need.  A lesson and takeaway for me!

ACTION: Don’t underestimate the importance of providing the extras in anticipation of the needs of your guests. Gift baskets with local touches can be nice. Even something as simple as leaving the porch lights on makes a lasting impression because of the welcoming feeling it evokes. 

7.  Check in with your guests.

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At the Hotel Clermont, the customer service was simply outstanding. From the maintenance person who helped my kid open a Hot Wheels box, to the barista and front desk manager and our daily morning chats, everyone was able to read my situation and treat me with kindness. 

I was a young lady (well maybe not that young 😂) with two small kids traveling on my own. They were there for me, found common life connections with me, and made me feel like a person… which made my stay amazing.  I will never forget that!

ACTION:  Even remote hosts can check in with guests the morning after their arrival.  A simple email is enough. Others use phone calls or text. Sometimes it is as easy as reading the guests cues on communication and taking their lead. If they have family,  remind them of the nearest family friendly beach, for example. This creates human connection, which is pure gold! 

8.  Provide a clean space.

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Hotel Clermont was beyond clean. I even would have taken a bath here, and that is not something I would do at most hotels! Everything was fresh, clean and well-maintained, including the large toiletries. And, of course I am a complete sucker for a well-made bed and towels styled to perfection. I felt like I was in a spa 🙂

ACTION: Don’t remind guests that someone stayed there before them! This is vitally important to hospitality: Make sure your cleaners are well-trained in cleaning for hospitality, and what that includes for your place, specifically.  

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9.  Let your hospitality be your review request. 

The Hotel Clermont did not even need to ask me to leave a review….I wanted to leave a review because they were amazingly kind and became like family over just two days!  So, of course, I left a review on Facebook and Yelp, and I called out by name every person who had been so wonderful. 

ACTION: With great hospitality, you don’t have to request reviews. They come to you. 

10.  Stay in touch. 

To this day I am still on the Hotel Clermont mailing list, and will be for the foreseeable future.  Not because I plan to go back to Atlanta anytime soon, but because they have a special place in my memory—and of course I love their marketing and following their successes because I still feel like an extended part of their family!  

ACTION: Continue to reach out to past guests with engaging content. When you’ve provided top-notch hospitality, your guests will be happy to hear from you and be reminded of the wonderful memories they made at your place. These little reminders lead to many enthusiastic referrals and repeat stays! 

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Comments

  1. Rosana Sorensen says

    Alanna,
    Thanks for sharing your touchpoint and for all the help with linens. You are amazing. I just listened to you on Heather’s podcast and I kept saying (outlaid) Yes! Yes!. You taught me so much and helped me as I become a great host. Love you wisdom.

  2. Courtney says

    I couldn’t agree more! There are so many touch points that lead up to an outstanding hospitality experience, it goes a long way. Especially, the check ins before you check in! This hotel looks soo cute too! It seems like boutique hotels just get it!

    Happy Sunday!

    • Alanna says

      Totally agree about the check-ins before check-in ;)! I get so much inspiration from staying at boutique hotels…

  3. Alicia Hursley says

    Thanks for sharing these tips. We just bought and fixed up an older house with the goal of turning it into a nice vacation rental. Now that we finished resurfacing the wood floor, we’re excited to finally get started. Your tips are definitely going to come in handy.

  4. Ellen Taylor says

    Thank you for your advice and tips, they have helped my thought plan immensely.
    My husband and I are getting our Californian style barn ready for an air B&B, once refurbishments are complete.

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