‘Christmas comes but once a year…’ which for some people is quite enough. For others, Christmas is one of the most special times which should be celebrated to the full. So how do modern hoteliers mark the season with appropriate and eye-catching decorations, as well as other ways to welcome and delight guests, whatever end of the Christmas spectrum they’re coming from? Let us help:Being culturally aware is important for hoteliers, especially those servicing international markets. At heart, Christmas is, of course, a religious festival, which has subsequently been overlaid with a mosaic of other myths and beliefs. Santa Claus, wise men travelling from afar, snowscapes, elves, and reindeer have all become muddled together into a sometimes indigestible mass. So here’s our first suggestion: Figure out what your take on Christmas is, then stick with that, and be aware that not every guest will see Christmas in the same way.
Knowing your guests is crucial. Older couples might be more attracted to a ‘Victorian Christmas’ approach, including a Christmas tree dressed with baubles. Younger, hipper guests are more likely to gravitate towards stylish decor and understated references to Christmas, rather than any overt imagery.
Keeping your decorations fresh is important for all guests, whatever end of the age spectrum they are, or whatever their cultural background is. Simply digging around the storeroom for the same old boxes of tired decorations and tattered tinsel is not good enough. Think new, and think creatively about how you can really celebrate the season.
Colour and light
In the northern hemisphere when the nights draw in, people respond to warmth and light. Not the glaring light of summer days, but soft, twinkling lights. Candles - lots of them - are wonderful to create the feeling of gentle relaxation. If health and safety allow, use candles, especially in the reception and dining areas. Alternatively, use many small lights - but not the flashing, distracting sort!
Colour is also important, and warm, ‘cosy’ colours encourage relaxation and the experience of wellbeing. Think like an artist and choose your palette so that you use a limited number of colours which complement each other, rather than making your hotel look like a fairground attraction. For ‘cooler’ hotels where guests are probably younger and perhaps more design conscious, colour can be more deliberately ‘arty’, for example by using small white lights, or even a ‘Nordic’ theme with only blue lamps.
The key to Christmas lighting success is to make conscious decisions about light and colour so that you have a scheme, rather than merely a random collection of candles or bulbs.
The tastes and smells of Christmas
For many people, there are unique fragrances and tastes associated with the festive season, and what better way to greet guests than with a glass of mulled wine or sherry and a warm mince pie at reception? Of course, have non-alcoholic beverages available too. Other wonderfully smelling foods include gingerbread, and potpourri bowls in reception and rooms can feature Christmassy touches like a sprig of holly and cinnamon sticks. Using commonly available calming essential oils such as frankincense, orange, cinnamon, rosemary, and pine in oil diffusers provides delicious holiday scents. And speaking of pine, if you do have a natural Christmas tree, that certainly adds to a sense of the season.
To tree or not to tree
A real tree, an artificial tree, or an ‘art’ tree? Natural trees smell good, and many guests appreciate the look. Others are increasingly conscious of the poor ecological footprint of the 120 million trees cut down each year worldwide (8 million in the UK). That’s a lot of wasted resources, which then have to be recycled only weeks later. Your cleaning staff may also be less than enthusiastic about needle drop, which can still be underfoot well into the new year!
On the other hand, artificial trees can last for many seasons, and have become ever more ‘interesting’. From originally somewhat unconvincing attempts to mimic real trees, the artificial versions have become ‘loud and proud’, available in many colours and sizes. So what’s your hotel’s demographic, and how will guests respond to either a real or artificial tree?
Then there’s the third way of having an ‘art’ tree, or trees. These can be anything from simply a self-illuminated conical shape, through geometric references to tree shapes, and even tree-like structures made from globes or balloons. The ‘art’ approach is eye-catching and memorable, but it must be part of your overall Christmas theme. Don’t go for an art tree and then dress it with traditional Santa Claus and reindeer decorations!
Less is more when it comes to decoration
There can be the temptation to throw everything at the walls and public spaces of hotels, as if the more tinsel and paper streamers there are, the better. Actually, lots of decorations simply make for a cluttered look. It’s also rather old-fashioned, and not in a good way! When it comes to decorations, think ‘less is more’ and keep the lines of your hotel clean and clear. One statement Christmas bouquet on a landing can be far more striking than endless Christmas bunting. Plants such as poinsettias, amaryllis, holly, and mistletoe, together with Christingles (oranges decorated with spices and dried fruit), make for eye-catching statements, seen across the reception area or in a hallway.
The sounds of Christmas
Your guests may have travelled far to stay in your hotel, and been subjected to ‘Christmas music’ almost every step of their way. In malls, airports, and elevators there will be wall-to-wall Christmas music, so perhaps it’s time to rest their ears with ‘The Sound of Silence’, as in actual silence. If however, you feel that’s too radical an approach, then think about playing themed music such as classical and mediaeval music, that sounds Christmassy, but doesn’t shout it out loud at guests. And what about engaging with some real live musicians and singers? Many towns and cities have choirs who are only too happy to be invited to perform carols and other Christmas music, either outside your hotel, or in the lobby. Donate to their favoured charity, generate great seasonal goodwill with local people, and thrill guests with a true treat for their ears.
Making hotel technology hum for Christmas
If your hotel is equipped with a modern Property Management System there are numerous ways in which you can make the technology hum to reach out to your guests at Christmas. Because a PMS holds full details of every guest that has stayed in the hotel, you can use it to send a personalised seasonal message to everyone. Newly booked guests can receive an appropriately seasonal confirmation email which reflects the Christmas theme and decor that you’ve chosen for the hotel. The PMS can additionally be used to broach special Christmas events and offers, both before guests’ arrival, and in-stay. The chance to show tempting restaurant meals, seasonal drinks, and any special entertainment can all be transmitted through a smooth functioning PMS. And these are not just bland notices, but can look great with Christmas images.
And of course don’t ever underestimate the power of the hotel’s website, where the excitement and pleasures of a Christmas stay can be delightfully shown with photographs, video clips and seasonal messaging. Technology doesn’t have to be ‘soulless’, and in fact, this kind of Christmas communication can really reach out to guests and help them anticipate a great stay.
Give your hotel a lasting gift for Christmas
If you haven’t got a modern PMS, then we can help, because that’s exactly the gift we bring to hotels and the hospitality industry, at any time of year. We are SabeeApp and we have developed one of the most flexible, highly featured Property Management Systems, specifically for hotels. What’s more, there are many other ‘presents’ which come with our core offering, in the shape of ‘Smart Solutions’ and apps which make super smooth operation the norm, and enable radically improved communication with guests. So light up the candles, or switch on the fairy lights, and whatever colour scheme and decorations you adopt this year, do one more thing: Give your hotel a superb Christmas boost by booking a free, no obligation demo of our Property Management System. - Because a state of the art PMS is the gift which keeps on giving, whatever the season.