Guest Experience: The Definitive Guide To Top-Notch Hospitality

In trying to improve your guests’ experience, you’re already doing everything you can think of.

You make sure to answer all your guests’ questions quickly and politely (despite receiving the same ones day in, day out). You provide a super-clean property and secure property. You’ve also tweaked your property description to be as exciting and accurate as possible.

And yet, you aren’t seeing an increase in bookings to match the extra effort you’re putting in.

Do you ever wonder if maybe you accidentally missed the memo on how to provide a consistent five-star guest experience?

We hear you. 

But finding innovative ways to prioritize, modernize, and elevate the guest experience is a key hospitality industry trend right now (and it’s unsurprisingly set to stay that way).

Making the customer experience as streamlined, on-demand, and seamless as possible was already a major trend pre-pandemic. But it’s arguably become the future of hospitality operations now, as safety-conscious guests look for stays that are truly worth their time and money.

And when your guests are used to streaming movies on Netflix, ordering a ride with Uber, booking trips on Airbnb, and grabbing groceries online, it’s no surprise they want that level of convenience and personalization on vacation too—plus a welcome touch of luxury.

If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you’re looking for new and innovative ways to improve your guest experience, without having to change your staff, recruit more people, or add to your workload.

That’s why today we’ll dig deep into how hoteliers and property managers can create an excellent guest experience (and why it's so important). We’ve created a step-by-step checklist to help you elevate your guest experience, with smart tech at its heart. And it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.

Making your stays smart and streamlined will ensure guests are happy from the moment they book to the second they hit ‘submit’ on their five-star review, and future proof your business too.

Taking some time now to invest in the guest experience will free you up later to implement meaningful on-site touches to make stays more memorable and unique, for the best guest experience possible.

Here’s how.

Tech helps shape a pristine guest experience.

Want to see how you can implement contactless tech and a seamless guest journey?

Creating a smart guest experience

For guests looking for convenience and ease of access, setting up smart tech in your vacation rental or hotel is paramount. 

Outsourcing all your usual logistics, in-person, and admin work to automated tech means you and your team will no longer get bogged down in the behind-the-scenes admin. 

Instead, you’ll have the time and space to welcome guests with personal touches that make an excellent first impression.

Creating a smart guest experience lets you replace awkward and complicated in-person key handovers, and frees you up to wow guests with friendly and personalized messages, luxury amenities, and tailored in-room options.

Ryan Killeen, General Manager of The Annex smart hotel in Toronto, Canada, terms this approach “high tech, low touch.” He should know: The Annex is a “tech-led” hotel that runs with 1.5 staff to 24 rooms.
12_A view of a room in the Annex Hotel, Toronto


Because while smart tech might reduce in-person interaction, that doesn’t mean it removes the human touch. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The goal of any smart tech in hospitality is not about “replacing people,” Ryan says, it’s actually about making sure that staff are freed from repetitive admin. 

As a result, they have time to send friendly and helpful messages remotely, enable guests to check-in whenever and however they want, and deliver customer service that feels supportive from the start. 

Through the guest’s own smartphone, a hotel such as The Annex might invite guests down to the wine bar for a glass, or send them a personalized recommendation for the local area based on their dietary requirements or reason for their stay (honeymoon, birthday, etc.), for example.

Guests can have as much personalization, communication, or interaction as they choose.

“As a guest, we want to feel like you're in your rich best friend's house, and that you're being very well taken care of. It's a heavy emphasis on intimacy, but not in a stuffy way like a concierge.”

Ryan Killeen

General Manager of The Annex

“If you want to speak to someone 24/7, we can do that for you. If you want to use the hotel as a space to crash and take off and enjoy the city, you can do that as well. It comes down to allowing guests to choose their own adventure.

“That’s the difference between a great hotel guest experience and just an acceptable one. Through technology, we've enabled that.”


Step-by-step: Create an outstanding guest experience

Setting up technology to enable a great guest experience doesn’t have to be complicated. 

We’ve broken down the steps as follows.

  1. Set up your tech platform

  2. Install contactless access

  3. Establish great communication, even before check-in

  4. Enable in-room device control

Here’s how.

1. Set up your tech platform

05_Operto Connect phone shots

Choosing your tech platform is the first step. You’ll want to make sure whatever you choose integrates with any existing technology, like your property management system (PMS), and with any OTAs you’re currently listing with.

Consider whether you need something super-simple for only a few properties or a more robust platform that can cope with a larger business as it scales.

A platform such as Operto enables you to connect all of your technology to one platform, so you can oversee your entire operation on a single dashboard. Its guest communication portal Operto Connect for Guests functionality also means you can communicate from within the same system.

Simplifying your tech under a single platform enables you to be as efficient as possible, without losing touch with the importance of enhancing the guest experience.

2. Install contactless access

01_Smart home technology works best when it_s all connected. A hand opening a smart lock with a phone


Setting up contactless check-in for vacation rentals is a major way of using tech to enhance the guest experience from the start because it allows guests to arrive, check-in, come and go, and check-out whenever they want.

 Contactless access, using keycodes sent to guests in advance, also:

  • Reduces stress for the guest if their travel is delayed or their plans change

  • Eliminates awkward, unnecessary interactions 

  • Reassures the guest that they have everything they need to access the property before they arrive

  • Offers real safety and security because only authorized people with the keycode can gain access

  • Enables guests to check-in even without relying on their smartphones, data, or Wi-Fi

  • Ensures guests aren’t surprised by housekeeping or other staff accidentally

  • Enables you as the manager to monitor what’s going on and who is checked-in, checked-out, which rooms are secure, and which rooms need cleaning, enabling you to ensure availability and excellent service for guests throughout

As Ryan Killeen highlights: “You can go to the nicest hotels in the world that look beautiful, and you would think you’d have an incredible experience, but you show up, and you have to wait in line. And it kind of removes you from what you're there for.”

“If you come in after a long flight, you don't want to wait or see anyone. Everything is done ahead of your arrival so that when you show up for the first time, you're able to head straight to your hotel room. It’s a much better way to do it.”

3. Establish great communication, even before check-in

man checking text message on his smartphone

Part of using tech for the best guest experience is to use it to establish great communication well before check-in.

Many operators are radio silent until only a day or two before the booking. 

This can be unnerving for the guest and it’s also a missed opportunity for you to build a good relationship with them. You can help them to better prepare by answering questions about their stay, and spark excitement for their trip.

Using digital tech can help simplify this, as you can automate personalized emails from booking to arrival and beyond. Set up emails to answer common questions, and make sure guests have everything they need and more.

You might send them your space’s digital guidebook with recommendations on where to grocery shop before they arrive, or get them excited about the best places to eat out, have a cocktail, or enjoy the best parts of the city once they’ve checked in.

The conversation doesn’t end on their last day either. Instead of your final message to them being “Don’t forget to check out by 3pm!”, you can continue the relationship by asking them to leave feedback and reviews, and inviting them to stay again.

Subsequent messages and emails—again, digitally automated—can help continue the communication and foster the relationship further.

4. Enable in-room smart device control

06_A screenshot of Operto's Smart Device integration options

Using smart tech hands ultimate control to guests. 

As well as simple keycode check-in, connecting your system to smart devices enables your guests to specify their space’s temperature and energy use in real-time (such as lights or heating) right within their guest communication mobile app.

This means they feel in control, they can choose their guest preferences—making it as cool or as cozy as they choose—and they can also keep track of elements such as energy use in real-time, if that’s important to them. 

They get to choose, and that helps give them an even more personalized and satisfying stay. Guests can even use it to easily request extras, like getting a bottle of wine sent up or booking a rental bike for the next day.

8 ways to elevate guest experience

Offering a flawless guest experience isn’t just about technology. 

As we said before, setting up the tech first means you can later spend more time on other stuff—the human touches that will make their stay as special and memorable as possible.

gift hamper

Our tips are:

1. Offer gifts and surprises

This might sound like hospitality 101, but it’s easy to forget. Giving guests a welcome basket of local food specialties, a hamper of goodies or essentials, or even vouchers or offers for local restaurants or a free drink in your bar, can give an unrivaled first impression.

Personalizing the gifts—such as including gluten-free biscuits if your guest is celiac, or replacing alcohol with alcohol-free treats if your guest doesn’t drink—will go even further.

2. Establish friendly concierge and assistance

Establishing friendly, human-level communication when they arrive will mean they feel cared for and at home instantly.

This means keeping communication to easy-to-read, mobile-friendly emails and SMS, and providing helpful tips you think they might like, without being too salesy or impersonal.

Ensure your tone stays professional, but get rid of phone call ‘scripts’ that guests can see through a mile off. 

“We've all been to a hotel where there's a hotel phone, and you call and get the robotic ‘Thank you for calling reception services, Ryan speaking, how can I assist you today?’,” says Ryan Killeen.

“It's intended to be personal, but it's completely not. So we say, why not try to communicate as you might do with your friends? It’s just really speaking to our guests like people.”

09_luxury amenities

3. Provide extra-special amenities

On top of the free gifts or food hamper, offering memorable amenities is another way you can show guests that you’ve gone the extra mile to give them a great stay. 

You might offer them shampoo scented with flowers unique to the region, eco-friendly products produced by a local sustainable company, or even towels created by a textile weaver in the next town—whatever suits your brand or area.

Making these amenities available to buy—whether on-site, or via the same digital automation app your guest use to check-in—can be one of the biggest drivers of revenue as well, and leave guests feeling as though they can take a bit of their trip home.

4. Change up your front desk

Offering contactless check-in (as explained above) means that staff are freed up to improve the guest experience rather than doing things that can be automated.

Even if you still have a front desk, staff might be there purely to help guests with local recommendations or troubleshooting issues, to offer help and tips, rather than being stuck behind a computer doing endless admin (which is now done by automated technology instead).

5. Make their stay unique

Giving staff this autonomy, extra time, and headspace, means they’re free to provide an even more personalized, friendly experience for people. 

As Wil Slickers, founder of smart tech short-term rental brand Recreation Rentals, explains, using smart tools streamlines his team’s work, “so we can have fun.”

This might include offering offers for local restaurants, getting Champagne delivered to an anniversary couple, providing a favorite cake for a guest celebrating a birthday, or setting up a hiking trip for a guest who wants to explore the outdoors.

Wil says: 

“Freeing up time using tech enables us to create something cool to offer our guests while they're here with us. That's why we use these systems. They actually enable human connection.”

Wil Slickers

Founder of Recreation Rentals


6. Offer in-app local recommendations

Part of offering friendly and helpful communication also means using technology to offer crucial information to guests too, as well as extra tips such as local recommendations.

You can use tech to digitally send info about more prosaic-but-important guest needs such as the Wi-Fi code, nearby grocery stores, or drugstores. 

Connecting your platform to existing apps such as Google Maps means you can enable in-app recommendations and an interactive map of locations for even easier use, enabling guests to feel at home fast.

You might also partner with a local food delivery service, restaurant, or laundry to offer room service or similar services, depending on your hotel or space.

people drinking wine at dinner

7. Offer opportunities for guests to give feedback

Check-out is not the time to say goodbye for good. Using digital tech means you can remind guests of your check-out policies while also offering them a chance to give you feedback and tips for improvement as they go.

You might send them an automated link to a survey they can fill in, and even offer them a free gift in return for an honest online review on TripAdvisor. This helps you gather feedback and reviews, and continually improve your service, without any extra work on your part—while also giving the guest a valuable chance to feel heard and respected.

8. Automate opportunities and offer deals for guests to return

And it doesn’t end there. With digital automation, you can continue the conversation after check-out, and send emails with deals or reminders for guests to encourage them to return. 

Maintaining a good relationship with guests and reminding them of their great experience will improve the odds of them coming back to book with you, improve guest loyalty, and even increase the chance that they’ll recommend your space to their friends and family.

This might also include messaging them or interacting with them (in a friendly, professional way, of course) on social media, so you stay in their ‘orbit’ and are top of mind next time they come to book a trip.

Automating and personalizing these messages and sending them periodically means you can do this easily, keeping the guest happy without adding any extra admin to your workload.

A better guest experience: the bottom line

Ultimately, the secret to elevating the guest experience is ‘delegating’ the admin and repetitive tasks to technology, so you and your team members are free to focus on what’s really important. 

This can also include using tech to organize behind-the-scenes tasks such as reminding guests gently of the house rules and check-out times (so everyone knows what’s expected of them), and coordinating cleaning (so there are no delays and spaces are always sparkling).

Using smart tech both simplifies ‘boring’ logistics, such as contactless check-in and check-out, and enhances the more exciting elements, such as making your guest’s day with the perfect local recommendation or personalized free gift.

Far from making your life and business more complicated, smart tech could be the missing piece you need to stop you from getting bogged down in admin and trying your hardest to make your business stand out. 

Instead, it could be just the tool you need to lean back and give yourself more time and space. 

And that means you can offer guests a personalized, on-demand, streamlined and easy experience from the booking process to check-in, to the stay, to check-out and beyond.

Tech helps shape a pristine guest experience.

Want to see how you can implement contactless tech and a seamless guest journey?

Frequently asked questions about the guest experience

What is the guest experience?

The guest experience is about more than ensuring guests leave positive reviews: it’s about providing a personal, warm, and friendly “guest journey” from the moment they book to the moment they check out and beyond.

This means ensuring that you have enough time to focus on giving guests the best experience possible with contactless, seamless check-in; personalized gifts; luxury amenities; and local recommendations. A key way to do this is to ‘delegate’ all your behind-the-scenes, repetitive admin to automated technology, to free you and your team up to truly focus on the guest, establish friendly and easy communication, and give them a memorable experience throughout.

What are the benefits of smart guest experience?

The benefits of offering a smart guest experience are endless. 

Communicating with guests after booking via automated-but-personalized emails sets up friendly service from the start, while enabling them to check-in via contactless smart locks whenever they like, or changing the in-room temperature are just some examples of how smart tech can enhance their experience and put them in control.

Focusing on small but significant touches such as these means happier guests, better reviews, more personalization, and more memorable stays that they will talk about with friends and family for years to come. 

It also means more time for you and your team to do less boring and complicated admin, and more time to focus on what you do best: delivering great hospitality.

What is guest experience design?

Guest experience design means curating the guest experience from booking to check-in to check-out and beyond. It means taking a long view, and seeing how you can improve the guest’s stay at each stage of their stay, even before they arrive and after they leave. 

This means touches such as establishing friendly communication from the moment they book, providing personalized local recommendations and luxury in-room amenities, to offering them a chance to share their feedback on their stay afterward via follow-up messages.

This also often means ‘delegating’ the boring admin tasks to technology, allowing you to focus on ways to make your guest’s stay as memorable and special as possible.

What is the difference between guest experience and customer service?

Guest experience is more than simple customer service. It’s the entire process from start to finish, from just before guests book to when they leave their review post-stay. 

Customer service and communication are important parts of it—such as establishing great communication from the start, and being easily available through a smartphone app if guests have any questions—but it’s just one element of a wider whole.

Tech helps shape a pristine guest experience.

Want to see how you can implement contactless tech and a seamless guest journey?