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Great first impressions throughout the Guest Journey

It takes most people just 7 seconds to form an impression about a business! The guest journey is a myriad of first impressions – from the point of making an enquiry, confirming a reservation, arriving at a hotel or venue, checking-in, meeting different departmental team members, and experiencing all the different facilities like bedrooms and features, lounge areas, food and beverage. We consider some of the stages of the guest journey and aspects to consider to ensure that guests have great first impressions at each turn!

Engaging with guests and communications 

The opportunity to meaningfully engage with guests begins when they make an enquiry or visit your website, right through to the post-departure email you send to let guests know you look forward to seeing them again. A website is one of the first places that guests will go to find information about a hotel. Websites should be easy to navigate, informative, and presented in an engaging way that visually communicates who you are and what you do! The second place a guest is likely to go is review platforms, to find out about other peoples’ experiences – active presence and engagement with reviews is a good a way of communicating that you care about each guest experience.

The next step in a guest journey may be to call or email the hotel directly. This is the opportunity to create a personal connection with a guest and for your teams to show genuine interest. One of the most important aspects here is that response to calls and emails should be prompt, for example, calls answered within 3-5 rings or response to emails within 24 hours. Team members then have an opportunity to build report and foster a personal connection with a guest by asking questions that communicate genuine interest. Aside from the most important – asking for a guest’s name and using it during the conversation to show that team members are actively listening, there are many ways to build report and develop a personal connection during the enquiry:

All of these small but crucial touches are key to creating a positive impression for guests right from the enquiry or booking stage. It will also set guest expectations, if a guest has a positive experience during the booking process, they are more likely to have positive expectations of their experience with you before they even arrive.

Warm welcomes, shared spaces and bedrooms

A warm and sincere welcome is so important in creating the foundations for great first impressions and guest experiences. A fantastic example of a warm welcome comes from our friends at The Resident Soho who create personalised welcome greetings for guest bedrooms. We visited recently and were greeted with the most beautifully crafted card:

Every team member has an opportunity to add to a guests experience of a warm and sincere welcome, not only those who are predominantly guest facing. For example, at Mama Shelter Shoreditch, everyone greets each guest with a huge smile – from security at the entrance all the way through to reception, restaurant and bar, housekeeping and maintenance. Another brilliant example is St Ives Hotel who give the warmest of welcomes to children, talk to them as though they are the most important guests and make them feel really special!

Shared spaces are usually the first places that guests see before they fully settle into their stay. Team member presence and well laid out shared spaces that are inviting and comfortable are important factors in ensuring guests feel welcomed as soon as they arrive. Some questions to ask here might be:

  • Reception and lobby – Are the areas clean and clear of clutter, are team members present at all points of contact such as reception and information desks?
  • Atmosphere – How does it feel? For example, is the lighting and music at an appropriate level for the time of day? If evening, low lighting can help to create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation

For bedrooms, again, it’s often the smallest touches that matter. Too often there’s a bulb missing or broken, or the dressing table, mirror, and socket for a hair dryer are fixed in entirely different areas of the room! Although these may appear minor it can be real frustration for guests and can create a negative impression where there is simply no need.

By shifting your perspective from ‘what do we need to deliver’ to ‘what are the needs of guests at every turn of their experience’, it is possible to identify areas where small changes can really improve guest first impressions at each turn and demonstrate how much thought has gone into their experience.

The Bar & Restaurant

The bar & restaurant are often the most frequented areas of a hotel by guests throughout they day. A prompt and friendly welcome is just the beginning – and don’t be afraid to make it fun! A cheeky greeting of ‘You look like you need a drink!’ really tickled us recently and is a great way to engage a guest and make them laugh. Food and beverage areas have several guest experience opportunities and touchpoints throughout, for example: name but a few! While everyone will aim to create a great first impression and cover all bases, mistakes happen in such vibrant and fast-paced environments! It is team members who can rectify mistakes or oversights during busy periods and change a guest’s impression when that happens. Team members should be enabled and empowered to confidently rectify mishaps and it is often at these times that guests really feel that connection and trust that someone is looking after them.

A helpful tip when deciding on a room layout or setting up for the day or a service is to, when you feel everything is ‘ready’, walk out of a room or space, put your guest hat on and walk back in with the mind and expectations of a guest. This is a helpful way to shift your perspective and identify things that could be better placed or delivered!

And lastly, the final impression….

Final impressions are said to be just as important as first. The goodbye, whether that be as guests depart the bar & restaurant or check-out, a genuine farewell goes a long way as it will be the most recent impression the guest leaves with!


  1. The importance of Hotel First Impressions
  2. The first impression counts