Hey Richard Branson! Excellent start, but you’re not done fixing hotels yet.
I just read an entertaining review of the new Virgin hotel in Chicago. Richard Branson boasts that he’s fixed every indignity and irritation we’ve all gotten so used to: high mini-bar prices, extra wifi fees, cheap wine at the ‘guest happy hour.’ Great! I’ll take all of that (especially when you open your next hotel somewhere I want to stay)(Oh wait, I see you’re opening in Nashville, thank you very much). And being able to control the temperature of the room with your mobile app? Pure genius.
Dear Mr. Branson (Ricky to your mother), I welcome you to the hotel hospitality business and I look forward to you transforming another aspect of travel for the better. I’m a Virgin America Gold member and a happy Virgin Visa credit card holder and I am confident that you’ll get this right and inspire others in the same sector to do better. Now, on to my suggestions.
First, let me choose my room: In the same way I can choose which seat I want to sit at on your airplanes when I book, I want to choose exactly which room I’m booking at your hotels. Floor plan, photos, maybe I can even choose all the ones I like with a Pinterest-like interface and save them to my hotel “board.” Unlike airplane seats which are all basically the same, I need to see exact layouts so I can determine if there’s a tub or just a shower, how close the toilet is to the bed (important in case I’m being joined by a companion), how big the closet is. Show me that if I want to pay just $70 more I get that better room with the bathtub AND the two windows instead of one.
Second, let me bypass the check-in counter and its lines: like some rental car agencies do, let me sign all the papers and give you my method of payment before I show up. When I arrive I can check in on my phone (as we do on your flights), let the app inform me which room is mine, and I can waltz right up without waiting in those long check-in desk lines.
Extra credit: remember me. The sky’s the limit here. Stock my mini-fridge with champagne, never whiskey, and understand that I use a lot of shower gel for my bubble baths so have extras waiting. Remember that I always fly into town on Monday afternoons and leave on Wednesdays, and then we’ve got a nice integrated air-hotel trip planner going. (Although I imagine this is exactly what you’re planning, you do tend to see the big picture.)
Thanks in advance for considering my suggestions and I am so glad we could have this little chat.
Liz Dunn, San Francisco, CA