Turndown or not?

How can you make your guest feel more pampered and looked after? Is turndown — the service most 5-star hotels have introduced to give their guests an extra touch that will pleasantly surprise them just before going to bed — the answer?

Originally turndown could only be found in the more luxurious hotels, and it simply consisted of rearranging the room for the night, refreshing it and getting the bed ready to jump into, leaving a small sweet gift for the guest. Nowadays it has become hotels’ routine, and it’s no longer only about the bed. Hotels are always experimenting to exceed guests’ expectations, so even when it comes to turndown, more and more hotels are venturing into extraordinary new ways to offer a service as differentiated as possible.

You cannot have a proper turndown if you escape the ritual of opening the bed linens. This is an invitation to the guest to slip under the sheets and enjoy a good night’s sleep. Closing the curtains and lowering the lights are also standard turndown practices.

One of our touches at Dukes is to leave a delicious mug of hot chocolate waiting for our guests in the room. What better way to gently fall into sweet dreams? For guests under 12, a Dukesy dog and a book to read at bedtime are also part of the service.

Some hotels have slowly begun to walk away from the classic turndown treats in the flow of new trends, such as leaving cocktails or wine for couples, perfumed pillows or even sushi treats for a light nighttime snack.

The turndown service is a small gesture, but as hoteliers, we know that small gestures are the ones that will have a positive impact on guests’ impression of a hotel and will make them eventually come back. 

But should we just assume guests need this kind of service or that they won’t perceive this as a disturbance? It all depends on the guest. For this reason, some hotels make the decision to leave this specific service only “on request” to respect the privacy of guests. Turndown is a double-bladed weapon — it either enhances your guest’s experience or it compromises it. For example, on a recent business trip while I was showering I heard someone coming into my room, realizing it was the room attendant coming in for turndown. I waited in the bathroom. The room attendant, on the other hand, hearing that I was in the room, left the service unfinished and never came back to the room, even after I had come back from dinner it was left as I left it. That is definitely not 5-star service! Another bizarre experience happened to me in a hotel in Cannes where, to my delight, placed on my pillow was a “love box”!

Now, this may be nice for a couple, but think about who is in the room and what you are placing on the pillow!

I do believe in going the extra mile in luxury hotels — after all, this is the “plus” element that marks the difference in a 5-star property, and it’s exceeding the expectations of guests what makes you stand out. But I also believe each guest is unique and hoteliers shouldn’t perhaps just take for granted that the “ extra touch” will always be welcome.

What are your thoughts?