Too many hotels miss an easy way to make guests feel welcome

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I wasn’t planning to write about this when it happened to me the first time, but now that it has happened on three consecutive stays I think it’s time to speak my peace. 

First impressions are meaningful in just about every human interaction, including the way you perceive a hotel. Hotels spend millions and millions of dollars every year trying to create an experience that is welcoming to the guest thereby improving the chances of winning the guest’s future business and recommendation.

On my last three stays, I checked into three different hotels where I have stayed more between 50-75 nights at EACH hotel over the last 3-4 years. On these three consecutive stays, I was asked “Have you stayed here before?”  at check-in.  It’s like your best friend asking what your name is. This unwelcoming gesture is a terrible way to start off a stay and works in the direct opposite direction of the hotels desire to make guests feel welcome.

The luxury hotels do a good job at this, but that is about it.  The Park Hyatt Tokyo was well aware of my previous stay that had happened 9 months prior.  When they mentioned the previous stay, I grinned because I was so impressed and couldn’t help but feel welcome.  I understand that luxury hotels have more resources available than full service or discount hotels when it comes to personalizing service for a guest but what we’re talking about is one, REALLY easy number to compute.  Every hotel that uses a computer for check in should have this number.  I suspect the number of stays/nights a guest has at the particular hotel is available to an agent but the practice of identifying frequent customers is either not easy to do or simply not included in the check-in training process.

I would like to point my finger at one or two chains as being the worst offenders but from my experience as an elite across most chains at one point or another, I have found only the luxury hotels are consistent in understanding their guests stay history.

The bottom line

I understand this is a very minor issue, but I think most hotels are missing a REALLY easy way to create a welcoming first impression. It is such low hanging fruit. I have to suspect the data is there but it is either not easy to find for an agent or not included in the check-in training process. When you’ve spent a lot of time somewhere, “Welcome Back” feels so much better than, “Hey Stranger”.

What are your thoughts?

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About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at

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  1. I’ve noticed that Hilton properties have been very good with “Welcome back”, and some on my first visit have given me a little memento.

  2. I completely agree. As a frequent business traveler, I don’t need a big gesture.

    I have little interaction outside of work on the road, so it’s nice when a hotel can remember the last time I stayed, or the desk agent remembering my name and giving me a hello when I come back after work, or other, small personal details.

    This goes much further than free water or snacks and even better, it doesn’t cost a dime.

  3. Totally agree. I’ve had quite a few hotels ask me if I’ve been there before and my response was, yes, I could give the tour here, or yes, I was here a week ago.

    It’s very simple and something their computer systems should have easily accessible.

  4. I agree it’s a nice gesture to have

    but on the other hand, consumers mostly care about low prices and hotels are dime in a dozen, so why over-think it

    And to hotel, we’re just another number, stranger. Remembering a person MAY affect your NEXT hotel booking by 1%, so why bother.

    Prices, Location, Hardware, etc…are all factors people consider before “whether front desk remembered me”

  5. I totally agree with you. When my daughter was young, I frequently traveled on business to the city where my mother in law lives, so I’d bring my daughter to visit her grandma while I worked. For years, my favorite hotel would greet me with “Welcome back to the hotel. Will you be needing a crib during this stay?” It is such a small thing, but it really made me feel like a valued guest, and it still brings me happy thoughts!

  6. We have had this happen on a few occasions. I don’t usually get too annoyed if they don’t remember but I do register it as a big positive if they DO. There are so many little things a hotel can do to make your stay enjoyable and taking 2 seconds to look at the reservation to see if a person is a frequent guest costs nothing.

    In an industry where most front desk staff could care less the ones who do care and put forth just a little effort stand out like stars!

  7. I never really thought about this, but after reading your article, you are completely right. What’s worse, is when someone knows you, greets you by name and then asks for ID (most Starwood properties). That one bugs me every time, and I let them know it does, but always get the same reply that it is company policy and we are being monitored by video.

  8. I agree with you on this. It matters a LOT to the hotel manager, whether I stay with them or another hotel within the same chain in the area, since it is revenue they are not receiving! As such if their staff can recognize me, then it makes me want to stay at that specific hotel even more.
    In addition if the desk staff are able to see the traveler is a frequent visitor to their hotel, then it should play into the upgrade process as much or more than status (if two mid-level customers are there, then the frequent one should get the tie-breaker).
    Finally, the basic loyalty program information for an individual should be available to all of the hotel managers of that chain, and the general managers should use it to see if a visitor is staying at another hotel in the chain within their area. They should also use it to make contact with customers that may be a good fit for their establishment and reward those frequent visitors.

    For instance, I have a monthly stay in an area that was served by a Hampton Inn. Last month, a new Hampton Inn opened in the same geographic area. I would have expected the General Manager of the new HI to find out who stays at the first one, and contact me to entice me to try his/her property. I would also expect a note in the system for use during check-in to make that actual “first impression” a solid experience. I didn’t get any of that.

    In addition, I would expect the general manager of the original hotel to find out why I canceled my reservation with them to stay at the new HI. We’ll see about that, but I doubt it.

    I tell ya, it doesn’t have to be intricate; rather, a short email to say Hi and ask if there is anything I need or how my stay was at the new HI would be significant customer service.

  9. Hotels shouldn’t have stay information for another hotel. That is ludicrous. It might be better for the consumer but it makes no sense for a business.

    We can make cars drive themselves but can’t get a computer to remember if we’ve stayed at their hotel before? It’s probably time for a software update.

  10. I agree that it should be something that comes naturally, but like others have posted, I don’t really expect it. BUT, when someone does take the extra few seconds to either look up my stay history, or just plain knows me by name, I make sure to give them compliments on the hotel’s feedback form, or even better, I will occasionally run into the hotel’s manager in the hallway, and I mention to him how friendly “Nikki, the front desk agent” always is to me..
    If we want to see more of this behavior, we have to reward those precious few who do it..

  11. Agree mostly. The key to hotel recognition is through their loyalty programs. I have Hilton brands, Hyatt and Fairmont memberships. These folks have both the technology and service standards to welcome returning guests. They never ask if I have stayed before, only my name brings up the data. It’s TRAINING backed by technology.

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