Roberta Nedry, president and founder of Hospitality Excellence, Inc., says that there is a need for hotels to focus on that initial wow factor. “In any hospitality environment, the spirit of welcome is so important in creating a strong foundation for the guest experience. Each person, each point of contact, can add so much to the ‘welcoming experience.’” In an article published in Hotel Business Review, she explains that receiving people goes beyond words. It creates a feeling of caring and gives a sense of pleasure. “A cordial and courteous welcome gives guests the feeling they have been invited to join the setting even though they chose to go on their own. The power of welcome is to affirm the guest made the right choice and is further welcome to enjoy (and spend) each aspect the property (or business) has to offer,” she says. When done sincerely, it creates an impact. When executed poorly, it feels superficial. And guests are quick to note that.

Warm welcome

The reception area of Marriott Hotel Manila
The reception area of Marriott Hotel Manila

Michelle Garcia, the marketing and communications director of the Marriott Hotel Manila, says that their service has always received good reviews from guests who say that all the hotel staff they encounter are “friendly and not snobbish.” Taking care of the guests is a big part of their training as well as a core value of their corporate culture.

At Marriott, they do this even before the guests arrive. “We look over our arrivals list and we get guest photos whether from the Marriott Rewards Membership profiles or we Google them if need be. The photos and names are circulated in all our departments and it helps us greet our guests by their first names. Many of them have remarked on this, saying that they love that we personalize our greetings.” 

At Novotel in Quezon City, the employees seek to deepen communications. Michael Sagaran, who heads the marketing and communications department, says that aside from the pins that the staff wears with the hotel logo on their uniforms, they also have badges that state their interests. “Someone’s badge might read that he is interested in the NBA, for example. This can help break the ice and encourage the guest to strike up a conversation with them.”  Hotels can feel impersonal or intimidating for first-timers so they want to offer a feeling of familiarity amid the luxury. “It is our job to make them feel important as soon as they arrive,” he explains.

In addition, both say that they purposely did not make their uniforms too formal to make the staff appear more approachable. “We want to emphasize that our luxury comes from our genuine service,” Garcia adds.

Settling in

The city skyline mural of the Diamond Hotel Manila
The city-themed mural of the Diamond Hotel Manila

The grand staircase at the lobby of the Diamond Hotel Manila is sweeping and impressive. The lobby itself, however, has a more casual, cosmopolitan flair. “The backdrop of the receptionist’s tables has a city-themed mural and the reception station itself has been revamped, where the long wooden desk was replaced by three different stations. This makes it easier for the personnel to get out from behind the counter and assist a guest, if needed,” says Melanie Samonte, the hotel’s marketing and communications director.

“What we usually have are our door girls welcoming the guests and guest service officers greeting them at the lobby. They escort them to the front desk or elevator. Our security personnel are said to be among the friendliest, and this is also part of our warm welcome. They put their hands over their hearts as they greet the guests coming. If you think about it, they are actually our frontliners,” Samonte says. There is also citrus water at the lobby, offered as refreshment for arriving guests.

At the Sofitel Philippine Plaza, it is Albert Andrada-clad Maria Claras who welcome you at the lobby, saying bon jour or mabuhay. “Guests are served indulgent and healthy welcome drinks at the lobby as well,” says Yasmine Hidalgo, Sofitel’s marketing and communications director. “We have the guest relations lounge area now located to the left of the lobby. Here, guests can sit comfortably with magazines to read. At the Club Millésime, they have welcome drinks plus a whole area to lounge around. Plus, kids get special treats at Le Petit Prince.”

Returning guests

Welcome drinks at Sofitel Manila, one of the landmark hotels in the capital
Welcome drinks at Sofitel Manila

Samonte says that their goal in providing excellent service is to have their guests return and even refer their establishment to others. “There are so many hotels coming up right now, so our differentiation from our competition would be the level and quality of service, which is consistent throughout their stay.”

Garcia agrees, adding that they represent not only the Marriott brand locally, but also hope that their hospitality will move the guests to book at their other global properties. “If from your first impression you already get failing marks, how can you get them to book again?”

“The first impression you give your guests is like meeting a new person. First impressions are very important because when you look at a person and start to interact, you would already know what to expect with how your meeting will go,” says Sagaran. “If you analyze it, you will see that the bigger hotel brands have things like grand-looking winding driveways. Pwede naman na straight lang ’yan but you want to give that impression of grandeur and luxury so you want to present a sweeping entrance. This then extends to the lobby greeters and the greetings you get at the concierge,” he adds.

For the first-time guest, it would be akin to unboxing a new iPhone, he relates. “There’s that feeling of anticipation, that magic that you cannot put into words. That is the feeling you want to elicit from your welcome.”    

Originally published in F&B Report Vol. 14 No. 2