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Crossing the threshold

Crossing the threshold

Our American identity is founded on transition rather than tradition. What is the American Dream, if not a vision meant to supersede present reality? What was our archetypal history, if not an unknown frontier replacing former frontiers, turned present domesticity? Seen through this lens, we should all arrive at a new hotel room every night. Business would be good, another American touchstone turned milestone.
 
Crossing the threshold … visions of a bride swept into the arms of her betrothed, still warm from the wedding dances, at the moment the wedding festivity turns to the wedding night … the ultimate dream night. 
 
Let’s assume the hotel room measures up to the wedding night, either because they took the bridal/honeymoon/presidential suite, or because they were too oblivious to notice the pillow menu, or lack of one.
 
But the threshold ? the moment the (non-wedding night) guest opens the guestroom door, steps into and sees the room for the first time ? is the pivotal moment in establishing customer satisfaction. And the threshold for this “threshold” experience is high. Unfortunately, the tools we have to meet it, and our batting average, so to speak, is not that high. Why?
 
Is the truism “all hotel rooms look the same” actually true? We must admit to at least a grain of truth. How different can they be? If we distill the commonality of guest needs down to bed, bath and boob tube, how can we make the best B, B & B, and what else can we add to make a consequential difference? Artisanal bath oils and exotic water bottles (preferably without the $10 price tag) are good, but what about the room, and that all-powerful first impression from the threshold as the door swings open?
 
Hotel rooms nearly all follow the formula of entry with bath on one side (and closet on the other if the room is wide enough) and the room beyond, with a window on the far end. In residential condo design, although people mostly want an enclosed foyer that controls the view upon entering, most designs have an open view diagonally across the living room and out the window, because this “money shot” sells condos. In hotels, the same adage may apply, but with less square footage to dedicate to the wow factor, and since the customer has already checked in (and is unlikely to check out immediately, money shot or not), there is often little thought to making the first ? and lasting ? impression a good one.

If your hotel has a water view, like the W Fort Lauderdale or Fountainebleu Miami, where I spent the last couple nights, you can succeed by merely having housekeeping leave the drapes open, assuming the premium cost of the water view is not too high and that the water view isn’t an ensemble of eyesores festooned with a tiny sliver of blue. But if you are not selling the view, how do you make someone happy in 300 square feet or less, and how do you communicate that in five seconds or less?  My next entry will address this question.
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