Hotel guest are demanding when it comes to their bed – they want it to be ultra-comfortable, sleep inducing, luxurious and hygienic. Jane Ram on how hoteliers and suppliers meet the demand.
By their nature, hotel guests are hard to please. Pity the designer who must figure out how to include all the comforts of home, yet provide the increasingly special luxury hotel touches that guests have come to expect in upscale properties. Beds are challenging as leisure and business travellers alike spend the greater part of their hotel time sleeping. They want the best of all worlds – ultra-comfortable and sleep inducing, elegant and more luxurious than at home, yet looking clean and hygienic. Hotels must keep pace with their peers yet stand out from them. In the era of sleek minimalism, the bed has increasingly become the focus of visual attention in room design.
The idea of a hotel being a home away from home can be misleading when it comes to the bed, points out Amos Leung, Chief Instructor of Hong Kong’s Hotel and Tourism Institute. “Hotel guests may prefer a bed different from the one at home as during a relaxing holiday one may desire a more comfy and soft bed. Also, the way you prepare the bed at home and how it is done in a hotel might not be the same,” he points out.
“Hoteliers look for durability and easy maintenance combined with easy laundering and making,” Leung says. “From the service point of view, we should treat bed and bedding as a personal preference and hoteliers should provide what guests expect. For instance, some hotels will provide pillow menus for guests. Bed and bedding should be more than trendy: they should be regarded as a service.”
The past two decades have seen the rise and rise of the hotel brand signature bed and bedding. Sofitel were among the first with MyBed, Westin have their Heavenly Bed and so it goes on. Hotels have long since run out of catchy names and these days the latecomers often use their brand name as the name of their special sleep-inducing attraction.
The newest trend is to enable guests to customise their bed ahead of arrival, specifying their choice of mattress toppers and other features. This marketing tool seems to work as many regular travellers say they do tend to choose their hotel according to the bed. Most hotel groups now operate a profitable sideline in selling their bedding and beds online for home delivery.
It’s increasingly difficult for the best hotels to come up with unique selling points, although companies like Siam Feathers do their best to help in this respect. The company that has emphasised high quality since it was founded has a product range that includes bespoke pillows, duvet, mattress topper, and bed linen.
These days they design product ranges that are unique to each hotel to complement the style and feel of the property, something that is particularly important for boutique hotels, says managing director Samantha Hyland.
“We note the current trend for hotels to ensure that their amenities are of the highest quality. This includes new policies such as specifying a 5-year lifespan for pillows and established standards such as providing two soft and two firm pillows for every bed. The widespread adoption of pillow menus is the latest development for hotels to ensure a personalised experience for guests.”
Giving the world a good night’s sleep is the guiding mantra for Hilding Anders Group, a Swedish-based global hotel bed manufacturer. “We have set up a “Good Night’s Sleeplab” test centre for mattresses and bed systems with the collaboration of AEH (Centre for Occupational Medicine, Ergonomics and Hygiene),” says Kohlson Ong, the company’s Business Development Manager, Asia.
The independent Swiss centre, based in Zurich, was constructed at a cost of US$1.7 million to work with Hilding Anders to define parameters for test standards covering ergonomics, bed hygiene and bed climate durability. AEH is also responsible for auditing and certifying all test results. Each bed is issued a sleep-comfort certificate. Announcing plans for the lab in 2014, Alex Myers, president and chief executive officer of Hilding Anders had stated, “Requirements for the purchase of a mattress or bed differ around the world and also individually, so test methods must be tailored much closer to end-consumer needs than the industry does it today. Hence, as there was no suitable test … in response to these consumer needs, we decided to invest in our own facilities.”
“Sleeplab allows us to investigate the properties of new materials and fabrics more efficiently and effectively,” says Ong. “We are able to implement the findings directly into development of new and more innovative products. Hotel operators are able to use AEH certification as an additional unique selling point.”
New trends promise some relief from the prevailing all-white bedding. It is easily maintained and screams cleanliness, but given the dominant position of the bed in a hotel room, it often looks sterile and dull. Hence the arrival of what is sometimes called the bed scarf, an extra strip of material that adds a note of colour or even a dramatic accent to the all-white bed. The latest development is to have this feature incorporated in the design of the duvet cover, an innovation that has a number of advantages as it is less likely to be taken home as a souvenir and it is more easily kept in place. It also buffers the pristine white cover from suitcase marks made when guests pack and unpack on the bed.
Memory foam pillows sell well for home use, but are unlikely to be introduced in hotels any time soon, unless someone comes up with a filling that can withstand laundering hundreds of times a year. Headboards are the latest focus of attention as they can subtly or directly complement artwork on the walls to brighten up the room.
Some innovations might be invisible to the guest but important for hotel employees. “From the training angle we stress how to protect the person making the bed,” says Leung. “Bed making is usually the most difficult part of making up a room and housekeepers can easily injure their backs. Technology can help: an electric bed lifting system has already been adopted by some Hong Kong five-star international hotels.”
Hong Kong’s newest boutique hotel, The Murray, has raised the bar with a pillow menu offering 16 options reveals Dean Dimitriou, Hotel Manager of The Murray, Hong Kong,” This includes a Japanese tea leaf pillow to aid the immune system and relieve tension; snore-no-more pillow that provides extra support for the head and neck; and a magnetic pillow embedded with 28 magnets to stimulate blood circulation to the head and upper torso.” Let’s see who can top that list!