What is guest experience?

The guest experience is the overall satisfaction of your hotel’s guests before, during and after their stay. More explicitly it means that at each stage of their stay certain aspects create an emotional reaction, which helps customers determine if the experience reaches their expectations. During this process, a decision, whether to also recommend your hotel to fellow travellers is made.

As an independent hotelier, it’s your job to ensure that every guest feels welcome, that their needs and wants are met, and that the experience exceeds expectations.

Delivering a great hotel guest experience is key to building customer loyalty and maintaining consistent revenue. Some guests might even become lifelong supporters of your brand.

Today’s traveller is deal-seeking, tech-savvy and has more buying power than ever. Going above and beyond to provide an exceptional experience is critical to standing out from the competition and increasing those all-important repeat bookings.

Earn more by crafting a truly satisfying guest experience

From streamlined booking and check-in to enhanced guest communication, Little Hotelier is an all-in-one property management solution that elevates the guest experience and wins you more business.

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Why guest experience in hospitality matters

To be successful and remain competitive, hotels must provide an excellent experience rather than just reaching the basic level of expectations. Your hotel has to provide a stay beyond the guest’s hopes.

In the present-day digitalised world, hospitality in general relies on online reputation. Travellers research and make their decisions based on reviews and pictures more than ever before.

Increase guest satisfaction

According to Tripadvisor’s statistics, up to 81% of travellers frequently read reviews before booking a place to stay, with 78% focusing on the most recent reviews. Furthermore, the top reason (87%) for people writing reviews is simply to share good experiences with fellow travellers.

For this reason, complying with travellers’ needs and expectations is the most important thing to do. Satisfied guests contribute to your hotel’s positive reputation management and boost revenue through referrals and repeat business.

Decrease costs

Keeping your guests happy is the key factor in bringing in new potential guests. According to a study by Bain & Company, acquiring a new guest can cost 25-95% more without satisfied guests. Focusing on guest experience increases guest satisfaction which as a result creates long-lasting relationships with the right guests, brings in new ones and keeps your costs down.

Typical guest experience cycle 

Now that we’ve armed ourselves with a guest experience definition and why hospitality guest experiences are important, what does such a guest services experience look like?

(For those asking “what is guest service experience?”, it’s a different term for the same thing: guest experience.)

When we more precisely define hospitality experience, we can then deliver better guest experience management, and ultimately enhance guest experiences.

To that end, the typical hotel customer experience looks something like this: 

1. Pre-arrival

The customer experience hospitality businesses offer their guests begins long before the guest gets to the property. It begins with brand exposure, usually through marketing efforts. It goes through the booking process, the booking confirmation, and any other pre-stay communication you might have. First impressions count, and they are made right here.

2. Arrival

On check-in day, the focus turns to in-person guest relations, meaning the opportunity to make a first impression is offered up again. What does guest relations mean? While the guest relations definition is simply the management of the guest’s experience with your hotel, this underplays its importance. On arrival, everybody – the driver, the doorman, the receptionist, the bellboy, the housekeeper – all have a key role to play in delivering an unforgettable experience.

3. Occupancy

Occupancy is the most important part of the guest experience cycle, as this is the experience that the guest is actually paying for. From the helpfulness of the concierge to the demeanour of the waitstaff, the experience you offer guests while they stay at your hotel will define your ability to create loyal customers and build your reputation to attract more.

4. Departure

While check out is a very administrative end to the guest experience, hospitality businesses should still work to make it memorable. In fact, this is one of the most underestimated areas for businesses looking at how to improve guest services in a hotel. Nice touches like a check-out treat, thank you note or simply a heartfelt farewell can end the stay on a memorable high.

How many points of contact are there in a guest’s experience?

Top-notch guest experience can be achieved by truly understanding the emotional journey map and analysing how to make each touchpoint pleasant and easy for them.

Once you have found the positive experiences that seem to work, it’s time to evaluate the outcome. Ask for feedback, consider it and create a loyal relationship with the guest.

The key to enhancing the guest experience is to concentrate on those 3 components also known as “the three C’s:”

  • Communication
  • Convenience
  • Choice

Let’s break down the three main components of the guest experience


Your guests long to be heard, informed and taken into consideration. Good communication skills by your staff and contact options in your hotel allow you to listen to your guests’ needs, answer questions and solve problems and value their feedback. Guests will be more open when they feel connected, which leads to better guest experiences and customer loyalty.

Try enhancing your communication by

  • Sending a detailed pre-arrival email to simplify the check-in process.
  • Encourage your guests to get in touch either at the property or online by making it easy for them.
  • Answering their questions and solving problems quickly.
  • Thanking them for staying with you, asking for detailed feedback and considering it.


Guests are becoming more and more time-poor. Doesn’t matter if it’s a business trip and working or holidays and spending days discovering the area. Guests need convenience, they need a worry-free stay.

Try enhancing your guests’ convenience by

  • Providing a self-check-in option and having a ‘skip the queue’ key pick-up desk.
  • Working together with local tour guides and restaurants to save guests some time with research.
  • Provide a transfer from an airport.
  • Include a special requests section when booking a room so that you can provide essential amenities for each type of traveller.


The highly competitive hotel industry is constantly raising the bar for guest experience and therefore a big part, if not the most important one of it, is now personalisation. 

Giving each guest choices to create their stay according to their expectations and helping them experience the place the way they want to, is the real key to your guest’s heart. This also allows you to show that you care about your guest and the things they care about.

Try giving your guests more options by

  • Offering personalised packages (for example spa treatments for leisure travellers, tour buses for Boomers, local food/drink tasting experiences for Millennials or Gen Z travellers etc.)
  • Let your guests decide when they need housekeeping (a sign of environmental sustainability).
  • Asking about any special occasions.
  • Having different ways to contact the hotel staff (telephones in the rooms for older guests, online self-service for the younger crowd.)

Other notable points of creating an excellent guest experience are

  • Clean and tidy hotel
  • Safe and secure
  • Aesthetic and comfortable
  • Electric sockets and lamps next to the bed
  • Noise control
  • Helpful attitude by staff members
  • Fast service time
  • Good value for money
  • Provide free and fast Wi-Fi
  • Share clear directions about getting around the property and the local area

Who to tailor your guest experience to

When in the process of working with the three C’s, it is also important to know your main crowd and audience to enhance the experience towards their profiles’ desirable preferences. Different profiles are attracted by various styles of hotels and that’s why it’s crucial to know which ones your place already appeals to. And then make it better!

1. Boomers

The generation born between 1946-1964, Boomers tend to take a few longer trips a year, thanks to the fact that most of them are now at retirement age. This also means they  can have higher travel budgets, while appreciating the value offered by loyalty programs.

Boomers are more likely to unplug their phones and communicate in person. They prioritise authentic local experiences through food and culture. That said, they also appreciate the ease of sightseeing tours which pick them up and drop them off at their hotels.

2. Millennials

The generation born between 1981-1995 now make up 31% of the world’s population, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars on travel every year. In the thick of their professional lives, Millennials are more likely to book shorter vacations that fit around their work schedules.

Millennials are technology users who spend plenty of time booking trips and researching online. They seek travel inspiration on social media, mostly Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, and use these same platforms to share their adventures.

3. Gen Z

Born between 1996-2010, Gen Z are dedicated technology users who are far less likely to unplug. They tend to head to social media, basing their travel research based on others’ experiences.

They don’t enjoy sightseeing if it feels too touristy, and tend to avoid Insta-famous places, instead searching for secret spots. They desire travel flexibility, they are eager to learn and experience local life, and they are  Financially and environmentally conscious – they appreciate good value, sustainable choices.

4. Business or leisure travellers

This cohort is travelling for one reason and one reason only: work. Their days are long and full of meetings, so they are looking for a high level of convenience and comfort when coming back to the hotel to rest. They will be interested in restaurants and cafes with a calm working atmosphere.

Business travellers might also make time for leisure activities and might extend their business trip into a long weekend to see the sights.

5. Families

Multi-generational travel has slowly transferred from Boomers to Millennials. This means that families mainly research and book online (74% in the past 5 years).

Travelling families are looking for shared experiences, and those with children enjoy an educational element to their travels.

Families tend to choose resorts and hotels that have kid-friendly programs/amenities and events – the goal is to book a place where everyone is entertained and happy

6. Wellness travellers

  • The majority of wellness travellers are females between the ages of 18-34, though this market is demographically vast. 
  • These travellers are searching for a break from the stresses of life or to boost their physical and mental health.
  • They find retreats via Google search, friend referrals and Instagram posts.
  • These travellers are very environmentally conscious, with sustainability deeply influencing their travel decisions. They also prefer all-inclusive packages – they want to completely switch off and free themselves from the need to make decisions.

Guest experience is a hospitality business’s main indicator of quality service. To remain relevant, it can’t be anything else than excellent. Polishing your hotel’s ability to deliver a top-class guest experience can be done by knowing your guests, understanding their needs and style of travelling and giving them what they expect at every touchpoint they have with you, from pre-arrival to post-stay. 

Exceptional guest experiences also launch a positive cycle of high guest satisfaction and a good online reputation which in turn will lead to more new and repeat business while keeping the costs down. 

Image explaining guest experience in hotels

How to improve guest experience in hotels

When considering how to improve the guest experience in your hotel, you need to consider macro factors, like the type of guest you attract, and micro factors, like the amount of information you ask from guests when they make a direct booking on your site.

If you’re looking for inspiration, the following guest experience ideas are a great place to start.

1. Understand your guests’ wants and needs

Make sure you understand what your guests want before and during their stay. Set up automatic emails to your guests, pre and post-stay, so you can collect useful feedback. 

Find out why your guests are staying at your property—perhaps they are getting away for a milestone anniversary or maybe they have to travel to your town for the funeral of a friend. The purpose of their trip is extremely important for you to know how to cater to them.

Most of the time you’re collecting vast amounts of data about your guests without even realising it. However, if you aren’t using it to customise the guest experience then you are not using it to its full potential.

Use that information to personalise the experience and establish a connection with your guests. 

2. Ensure guests can book and pay easily

Your website should not only showcase your property but also provide a simple booking experience for guests.

With this in mind, your online booking process has to be up to scratch. A lot of elements of your website come into play here – including comprehensive room and rate information, secure payment processing and a positive mobile user experience.

3. Make first impressions count

First impressions are everything in hospitality, as you know. Your guests need to feel welcome and at ease from the moment they book a stay with you. When they arrive, make sure each and every guest is greeted warmly. 

Add a little something extra in their room based on what you know about their trip. Your guests will remember that you took the time to go above and beyond during their stay.

Whenever possible, you should strive to be available to meet your guests and offer them hospitality. Warm cookies fresh from the oven, a tray of local fruit or a glass of sparkling wine from a nearby vineyard are just a few ways to surprise your guests and leave a lasting positive impression.

4. Prioritise customer service

Simply put, customer service is king. Anything you can do to make guests more comfortable and reduce issues will be noticed and remembered when a guest reviews their visit, makes a post on social media, or decides where to stay on their next trip to your area.

The fact that you can truly personalise each guest’s stay is what makes your offering so special. Personality can’t be taught and replicated by the big hotel chain next door.

5. Design a loyalty program

If guests are going to choose to stay loyal to your property, they expect something out of the ‘alliance’. Your loyalty program needs to be developed in an attractive way so it will not only improve the guest experience, but also help you increase your repeat bookings.

Reward programs that offer free upgrades, discounted room rates and other additional perks are received positively by guests in every different market segment.

6. Create a common gathering area

More travellers are looking to connect with other people while they’re abroad, but it isn’t always easy for newcomers to do this. You could design a garden or similar common area where guests can sip coffee together and chat. You might also make a lounge area with high-top cocktail tables that are perfect for meeting new people. 

By offering these community spaces, you will increase guest engagement while also improving your brand reputation.

7. Implement technology that enhances engagement 

Mobile technology allows you to engage with your guests in new and exciting ways. 

A mobile app for your hotel can allow guests to check-in prior to their arrival, or order room service with the touch of a button. You also may want to consider new smart technology features, such as keyless room entry and smart TVs, as these can improve the guest experience significantly.

8. Offer packages that include local experiences

Many hotel guests are looking for more than just a great place to stay with local flavour. They want to immerse themselves in the local culture. 

Partner with native tourism companies to offer interesting experiences, such as a personalised tour of the city with a private guide or a yoga lesson in a local park. This can help you increase your revenue while also improving the hotel guest experience at the same time.

Latest trends on guest experience ideas

Guest expectations are always evolving, particularly in terms of technology. As an independent hotelier it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse to ensure your guest experience is better than that offered by your competitors.

Sometimes it may seem hard to keep up with the latest in technology, especially when things are always moving so fast. Fortunately, there are some trends that are here to stay, that offer a high ROI, improve your customer satisfaction, and will attract more guests.

1. Smart TVs and device integration

Customers are now checking-in with two or maybe three devices per person, and 44% of guests are streaming media on their own device, a number that grows to 52% for Generation X and 62% for millennials. And the good news attached to these statistics is that a third are willing to pay more for this!

There is a lot of technology out there that allows devices to join the in-room TV. This means that guests can have the option to view their own personal content such as Netflix, movies, photos and music.

Here are some of the top examples:

  • Apple TV ($150-200)
  • Roku ($50-130)
  • Amazon Fire TV ($50-140)
  • Chromecast ($35 or less)

If you’re a small property then the cost of having one of these installed in each room will not be too high.

2. Wi-Fi network

Gone are the days of properties charging large rates to use the slow and tedious internet on the one and only computer in the shared office. Not only is this a terrible user experience, but considering 90% of business travellers require Wi-Fi access in their rooms and a third would not return to a hotel that did not meet this expectation, it will also deter any guests that might be travelling for business.

Access to Wi-Fi is considered to be the most important aspect of guest entertainment. Wi-Fi needs to be high speed and free, the pay per use model is basically gone.

By Dean Elphick

Dean is the Senior Content Marketing Specialist of Little Hotelier, the all-in-one software solution purpose-built to make the lives of small accommodation providers easier. Dean has made writing and creating content his passion for the entirety of his professional life, which includes more than six years at Little Hotelier. Through content, Dean aims to provide education, inspiration, assistance, and, ultimately, value for small accommodation businesses looking to improve the way they run their operations (and live their life).