Industry, Product  |  16 March 2021 |  Tom Brown

What went wrong at the Hotel California?

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Hotel California is a great song. We all know it, we all love it. However, it doesn’t exactly paint the hotel industry in a good light. The poor customers at the Hotel California aren’t getting a remarkable guest experience.

But no property is beyond redemption. Mews has the power to transform hotels, so we thought we'd take a thorough look at how Hotel California is operating, and where there’s room for improvement. Buckle up. And if you need a soundtrack while you read, we’ve got just the thing:

 

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim, I had to stop for the night

 

Not much to learn so far about the Hotel California, apart from its location and the fact that they have very good signage. But that’s no small thing: visibility is important, particularly for a property that likely attracts a lot of walk-in custom. A ‘shimmering light’ will help to draw in guests like a moth to flame. Let’s hope they have an equally compelling website to drive direct online bookings too.

 

There she stood in the doorway; I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself, "This could be Heaven or this could be Hell"
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor, I thought I heard them say...

 

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the positives: being greeted at the door by the receptionist is a classy touch. Very personal. It’s not the only way to do things, of course – if you’re expecting more guests, you could use a check-in kiosk to cut queues, but to be frank, it doesn’t seem like a busy reception is a problem at Hotel California.

But now the experience starts to get problematic. First off, ringing bells at such a late hour isn’t likely to be appreciated by any of the other guests. Even more worrying is that the guest’s first impression is that ‘this could be heaven or this could be hell’. Those are some high stakes. At this point, it’s not entirely clear what the hotel is doing wrong, but a more cohesive check-in experience and a more welcoming lobby area definitely wouldn’t do any harm.

Leading the guest to his room is another nice touch (though it does leave the reception unmanned, so I hope they do have a check-in kiosk). The candle creates a good atmosphere, which suggests they could be going for a vintage boutique vibe. Hearing voices in the corridor is less good – thin walls and loud guests aren’t a happy combination.

 

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place, such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year, you can find it here

 

It’s all very well having a ‘lovely’ hotel, but there’s clearly a major problem with occupancy. Having plenty of room all year round isn’t something you want to boast about. There are a few potential solutions, but as a vital first step the GM needs to think about integrating a revenue management tool. It’s unclear whether they have any sort of Marketing Manager, but even if they don’t have the budget for one, it’s worth testing a reputation management solution to boost reviews and start attracting more guests.

 

Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends
How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

 

I’d be interested to know how the hotel manages their parking. Someone’s obviously brought their Merc, which is great, but is their parking lot a free for all or is there a smooth, automated system in place with licence plate recognition? Admittedly, this probably isn't the highest priority item on management’s to-do list.

 

So I called up the Captain, "Please bring me my wine"
He said, "We haven't had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine"
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night, just to hear them say...

 

They have room service, which is great, but a customer shouldn’t need to call someone up anymore. It’s the 2020s. The hotel would benefit from more modern guest messaging, with a virtual concierge that guests can use for any demand, whether it’s room service, housekeeping, or a complaint about being woken up in the middle of the night by voices.

And while I do feel a little bad about piling on the criticism, it’s also not great that the hotel has run out of the guest’s favourite drink. Bad stock management. Any modern hospitality cloud is able to handle basic inventory counts – even if there’s a Restaurant California that's part of the hotel, there are countless POS integrations that can seamlessly connect them.

 

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place, such a lovely face
They livin' it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

 

The stay has taken a bit of a turn here. Despite the strange voices, there seems to be a convivial atmosphere at the Hotel California – at least, some of the time. A word of warning, though: be careful about the demographic that you wish to attract. If people are checking in to your hotel as an alibi, it might cause you a big legal headache down the road.

 

Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
And in the master's chambers, they gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can't kill the beast

 

Ah, mirrors on the ceiling. I suppose that given their location and low occupancy, the General Manager of the Hotel California can’t be picky over their clientele. It may even be that they’re operating as some sort of kink hotel. If they are, they might want to consider making their rooms bookable for day use as well, as it will help with occupancy and boost revenue. As for the stabbing and the beast, let’s just say it’s a metaphor or a special themed room and move swiftly on.

 

Last thing I remember, I was running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
"Relax," said the night man, "We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!"

 

Check-out at any time is great – presumably they have online check-out, meaning that guests can do so from the comfort of their own room the night before they depart. Departure is the final physical touch point you have with a guest. There’s plenty of research that shows it’s a key moment in influencing the overall impression of a guest’s stay. However, as a general rule, one thing you don’t want to tell a guest is that they can never leave.

No hotel is perfect. But there’s no doubt that Hotel California would benefit from embracing modern tech and automation, as well as dropping some of the more bizarre elements of their guest experience. If you work at the hotel – or any other property that you think might benefit from a transformational hospitality system – reach out to the Mews team and we’ll show you around our platform.

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Tom Brown
16 March 2021