Home Publisher's Point of View Getting Into the Minds of Guests—What They Are Really Thinking

Getting Into the Minds of Guests—What They Are Really Thinking


When I was in graduate school at Ohio University, I took a course that was entitled something like, “The Cognitive Processes of Writing.” At one point during the class I had to sit and try to write an article while saying everything related to that article that came to my mind. Meanwhile, what I said and did was videotaped for later review. It is probably the only time in my life that I ever felt like a lab rat.

Why mention this experiment? Just as my professors were trying to understand what I really thought while writing, I would really like to understand what travelers think when staying at a green hotel—one that has visible indicators that it is indeed an eco-friendly establishment. I don’t believe enough academic research has been done in this area—whether to the extreme that I went through in school or in a more informal way.

I am not suggesting that you wire someone’s noggin or follow that person around your property but it might be worth your time to dig deeper than your typical comment card would allow. (Perhaps a mystery shopper type of deal might work? You would really have to spend some extra time prepping the company sending the “shoppers.”)

At what points in a typical guest’s stay would you really love to know what that person is thinking? When the person sees the green certification plaque hung on the wall behind your front desk? Or, perhaps when the guest enters the guestroom and sees that tent card presenting the option of opting out of towel and linen service? (What is the guest really thinking when given the option of opting out of housekeeping altogether? Does a reward for doing this change or not change the perception of their stay?)

The Guestroom Recycling Conundrum

One of the most interesting psychological dilemmas for companies today is deciding to what degree to engage a guest in recycling. Do you or do you not put recycling bins in the guestroom? If not, why not? People are used to recycling at home but is it offensive in some way to ask guests to participate in in-room recycling? I am constantly coming across examples of hotels that hesitate to go beyond public spaces with their recycling programs. I realize there are operational processes to consider but has anyone actually asked their guests what they think? Are they really bothered by guestroom recycling? Do they believe it negatively impacts their overall hotel experience in some way?

Another interesting area to delve into is guestroom energy management. I constantly run across different schools of thought when chatting with vendors and hoteliers. Should you engage the guest in an energy conservation step when that guest enters or exits the guestroom? What I am referring to here is to a master switch or keycard-activated switch that controls certain lighting, heating and cooling, the TV, etc. These types of switches can help hoteliers save a lot but what is the guest really thinking when asked to take a room out of, or put a room in conserve mode? Do they believe their overall hotel experience has been compromised? Or, do they get warm fuzzies from knowing they have done something to help the environment? Or, does the guest’s thinking fall somewhere in between? (I stayed at a hotel last year with a master switch at the door entry and I had no idea what it controlled or did not control. I was just confused. Sometimes a little signage can help!)

Those who sell guestroom energy management systems probably will tell you what benefits them in the long run. Many will tell you it is better to keep the guest out of the equation—give guests control when they are in the room but let automation take care of energy conservation at other times. Of course those who sell keycard-activated systems will tell you the many reasons for engaging the guest. Has anyone really asked guests what they think? I would love to know.

What Guests Think About Water Conservation

Dual-flush toilets is another example. One could easily arrange a debate between vendors about these but what do guests really think when using them for the first time? Or any other time? Or what about low-flow showerheads?  

These are just a few examples of operational areas begging for research. Of course there are many more. Which areas do you believe deserve more study?

Any student, professor, vendor, or anyone else out there who has done the type of research I am referring to, or is thinking about it, should contact me. I can be reached at (216) 848-1406, or by e-mail at editor@greenlodgingnews.com.

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