Hoteliers, particularly front desk staff, know all too well, arguably more so than anyone else, that what it takes to deal with wearied and stressed out travelers. More often than not, it is a challenge involving consummate diplomatic skills and inexhaustible patience. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has over the past summer cataloged a long list of woes passengers encounter while embarking on their vacation (and business) travel. Many of these are a direct outcome of the relentless growth in airline travel (presently at approximately 2 billion per year).
The advent of newer more efficient aircraft such as Boeing’s Dreamliner, slated to come into service towards the end of next year, and Airbus’ A380 SuperJumbo that just entered service with Singapore airlines together with a plethora of new carriers – discount and luxury – only compounds the problems for passengers who undergo escalating levels of stress by the time they reach their destination hotels. That is underscored in a recent survey conducted by American Express which found that “nearly half of passengers started feeling stressed out on the airport, three quarters are pretty much freaked out before boarding the plane and nearly as much (sic) cannot cope with long check-in queues. The stats for business travelers is far worse, with nearly 95% finding that the experience as stressful or worse than it was a year ago.
While Amex’s survey focussed on the traveler’s experience with airlines, its relevance to the hotel industry cannot be over-emphasized. The industry’s response has been commendable with a raft of measures from a range of pillows, mattresses and even concierges (Affinia hotels) to make the hotel stay as non-stressful as possible. At the front end, hotels can, and have, manage the process with continual employee training not just on customer service issues but also interactive training on stress management. New technology fielded in kiosks can also help speed up the check-in process and reduce stress both among guests and employees by averting a buildup in queues and tempers.