Surpassing guest expectations and establishing loyalty requires value-add at every touch-point. Zara Horner discovers how bedding plays its part.

In today’s hospitality industry old paradigms and processes are often questioned. But one thing appears to have remained the same for some considerable time… nothing surpasses the seductive power of a well-made bed.

But… the linen has got to be white. Apparently.

It was in the 1990s that Westin first conducted research into preferences around beds and bedding.

Guests responded to questions about mattress size, depth, and firmness, as well as whether or not coloured, patterned, and/or textured bed linen was attractive.

While responses around mattresses varied, when it came to linen, conclusions were indisputable… white all the way. Thank you.

For hotel guests white denotes luxury, stability, and cleanliness – perhaps because of the fact it is very difficult to maintain a crisp and brilliant white.

For guests, white bed linen even smacks of recent renovation, and a good nights’ sleep.

The importance of beds and bedding cannot be over-emphasised. It is, after all, where guests begin and end their day. As a focal point of every stay the bed and bedding can make or break a guest experience.

One way hotel brands know they have it right is when guests want to purchase products to duplicate the experience at home.

The Westin Heavenly Bed debuted in 1999. It proved so popular a whole retail division was created around it. Exclusively designed mattresses, linen, bedding accessories, and box spring products can be purchased and the company boasts that hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers have done just that. The Heavenly Bed is also said to be one of the top reasons people give for choosing to stay at a Westin hotel: beds in Asia are often said to be firmer than those offered in the US or Europe, but Westin Heavenly Beds are the same no matter where in the world the property is. Bed linen is all white, with a matt gold hem stitched on to pillowcases and flat sheets.

Predictions and permanence

Bed linens have gone through many permutations as various colour and design trends have been tried and tested.

In 2015, for example, some industry experts predicted large architectural graphics and custom prints would be commonly used. If they were, they didn’t last.

Plain white and a high thread count remain predominant, albeit with coloured, patterned, and textured accent pieces such as throws, extra pillows, cushions and valances as well as coloured stitching and even hem colours.

Jacquard – intricate in-fabric patterning – is often incorporated to offer texture and subtle brand differentiation.

The Middle East is one region bucking all this with bold colours such as dark greens, rich reds and even neons making in-roads there. It will be interesting to see if this catches on elsewhere. Additionally, star ratings appears to play a role with three- and four-star properties as well as the emerging poshtels willing to experiment with colours.

Amari-Koh-Samui

Get counting

Thread count is the deciding factor in the quality of bed linen. A minimum 180 – 200 thread count is normal, but more usually 300+ is chosen by hotels.

While cotton rich poly-cottons proved popular in the recent past, it is more likely hotels, particularly higher-end, will opt for 100 per cent cotton, though bamboo options – with the promise of easy maintenance, breathability and eco-friendliness – are making in-roads. Slowly. Cotton percale – a tighter than standard weave which reduces softness – is popular with clients looking for durability.

Sizing is also becoming an issue as the once normal double bed is increasingly replaced by King and even Super King size beds.