What Makes a Great Hotel Experience?

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It’s all about how the hotel makes you feel.

This post is part of a new series called Love Me and Bee. It’s a series where my mum and I experience the same things and write about it from our different perspectives. This is my mum’s perspective on our trip to Estonia and the hotel chain that invited us.

Many of you may not know but the first part of my career was spent in the Hotel Industry. I have a degree in Hotel Management and my first job was at Walt Disney World in Florida, which really spoilt me for life on the work front.  I have managed Food and Beverage Departments in Hotels, done duty management and have worked at some of the best hotels in the world.  Hotels have always fascinated me and always will, I have no idea why other than to say that I get obsessed about things other people don’t seem to care about. I think no, in fact, I blame Disney; if anything, Disney teaches you to look at all the small details, to treat everyone as a V.I.P. and to expect more.

photo of girl looking out window

I’ve always felt let down by hotels that are chains, they are either at the stuffy high end of the market and insists in carrying your bags to the room while judging your footwear, or they tend to be soulless places, that while they leave you to do your own thing you feel anything but welcome.

So that got me thinking, what really makes a good hotel experience for me, someone who has spent a lot of time behind the scenes on a hotel? For me, I think it’s how the hotel makes me feel, how welcome I feel when I walk through the door, how comfy the night’s sleep is and can I go down for a drink or something to eat without getting lost or feel out of place?  Yes, of course, I want a clean room and all those things but the little extras really don’t mean that much to me, because if this place doesn’t feel a home from home I just feel uncomfortable.

As an Instagram mum, sometimes we want our rooms and hotel to be picture-perfect, but not always. And whatever I’m there for I want an experience that I feel part of, I want to feel that I matter and I want to feel when I walk through the door that I am coming home, That’s what matters to me.

So when Bronte said we had been invited to Estonia to see and experience the new Ibis Hotel, I was intrigued and finally, I could put that hotel experience to use.

breakfast area at ibis hotel

As a side note, I’m also one of those people who love innovation, especially when it is linked to statistics and the changing generations I’m all ears. I did spend 14 years studying generational theory and 20+ years working with young people, yes I am THAT old. So when ibis began to talk about innovation, statistics and the next generation I was honestly in heaven, which I know is a strange thing to get euphoric about but at my age, I’ve long since learnt to accept my quirks.

Now I have to say when I think of Ibis I think of a blue hotel I once stayed while doing some police training and I can’t remember much about it, so I was curious as to what innovation might look like in the economy level of the hotel.

What struck me first was how different this hotel felt when I entered; firstly no big hotel reception, a personal hatred of mine. You are greeted by a large open space with colourful stools, beanbags, lots of glass, wood and cool lamps. It was clearly decorated with the millennials, Gen Z, in mind. It feels like you are walking into a cool trendy bar rather than a hotel lobby. As soon as we walked into the hotel a receptionist beamed at us and welcomed us. How did I know she was a receptionist? Because she had a sweatshirt on that said Check in with Me. Every time we walked past the reception area, which was just a low desk, we were greeted. Apparently, Ibis is using technology in such a clever way that the receptionist or welcomers can focus more on customer experience, and it works.

girl sitting in social area reading

The welcoming area smoothly blends into the bar, lobby area and restaurant, with games, football tables and the newly designed Charlie’s Corner restaurant, which is all about good beer and food and sourcing locally, all run by an enthusiastic head chef and I can say the food and the many beers were delicious.

You get the distinct impression that this place has been designed for people to socialise, which for the British person in me who just wants to stay in the room and watch TV was a bit of a challenge. Having said that, however, when this lobby-come-bar-come-restaurant is in full swing you get to see its versatility.  Music events happening in the restaurant, meeting rooms next to a football table, private glass cubes with swinging chairs, someone playing the guitar and others having private conversations on big red comfy chairs. There was a moment where I stood and watched, thinking that this was such a cool concept. I’m probably too old to get it but I love how the younger generation has forced places to think about how spaces are used and demand they be more flexible.

breakfast area at ibis hotel

But for me, this most exciting thing about this whole concept was Ibis Music. Ibis has decided to make music part of its core offering, not just from the music they play but also by putting on live events and giving local musicians a platform and a venue to perform in. It’s all about helping up and coming talent while giving the guest experience; this alone puts them apart from other hotels in this bracket, and of course adding to the overall coolness.

And this coolness is carried through to the bedroom, from little things like the make up my room door hanger saying Come into my World; yes I am the person that notices these kinds of things.

Ok, this is all well and good but how was the sleep you ask? Well, let me say, so much thought has gone into the rooms as the rest of the hotel. Ibis asked their customers what added to a good night sleep and incorporated all that into their rooms. For example, there are blackout curtains, double mattresses and very comfy pillows; in fact I slept so well in these beds. But it was the little things like the fact that all plugs and light switches are mounted in runners off the wall so the noise of switching them on and off doesn’t wake the neighbours, the fact they are all equipped with usb charger, or the fact that the ceiling and carpet mirror each other and look like the surface of the room. Everything their customers wanted they have delivered on, including a hairdryer that has a long cord that isn’t attached to the wall and a floor to ceiling mirror. I was first perplexed by the lack of wardrobe, but they were replaced with hangers to free up space and you can hang things on the rails around the room. Again it is a room designed to be versatile and work with the person in it, which seems to me like a great idea.

Before this post becomes an essay – told you I love hotels – I had better wrap it up but what I will say is I for one am so glad that this young generation have changed the way people think about spaces and how space should be used and I’m very happy that some companies understand that and are changing accordingly. But most of all I’m delighted that I got to experience it because I just love seeing where the future is going. Thanks, Ibis!

bar area of hotel