Memorable guest experience

May 08, 2024 •

6 min reading

Creating memorable guest experiences: Personalization with storytelling

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In the world of hospitality, experiences play a crucial role in creating lasting memories for guests. While everyone may talk about the ideal guest experience, it's essential to recognize that not all experiences are created equal. What truly sets a guest experience apart and makes it unforgettable? Personalization is obviously key. Tailoring each interaction to the individual guest's preferences and needs can elevate a stay from ordinary to extraordinary and as a result, be highly memorable. But there is more than just understanding preferences and meeting needs...

This article helps hoteliers to understand how brands can create meaningful connections with guests and enhance the guest experience through personalization and the use of storytelling that creates a positive lasting impression.


What do we mean by guest experience?

Guest experience encompasses the overall satisfaction a guest encounters throughout their journey with the brand. It starts even before booking and extends beyond departure. It includes the emotions triggered and feelings that result from the interaction with people (i.e., employees), the physical environment – the ambience and multi-sensory elements; as well as the tangible and intangible aspects.

Factors include cleanliness and quality, courteousness and personalized attention, emotional engagement and empathy, efficient and relevant service that reflects context and demonstrates cultural sensitivity, as well as relevant communication, use of memorabilia and appropriate follow-up after a guest’s visit or stay. Specifically, the guest experience is about creating individual experiences.


The importance of guest experience management

Brands aim to exceed expectations. Managing guest experiences is a key part of this. It helps build a positive reputation, foster brand loyalty, gain a competitive edge, and drive sustained success. Positive encounters with the brand enhance brand image, increase satisfaction and WOM (Word Of Mouth), and encourage repeat business. Whilst the guest experience has always been relevant, particularly in the context of luxury, it has become increasingly so today and with the younger – Millennial/Gen Y and Gen Z – generations.

It is therefore crucial for hospitality brands to prioritize and manage guest experiences – and to view them as an investment rather than a cost. This involves knowing your client or guest, understanding their needs and preferences and effectively using this knowledge and data, as well as client/guest feedback, to tailor experiences and enhance service offerings.

Whilst today everyone talks about experiences, what makes an experience unique and memorable, particularly in the context of hospitality?


Personalization plays a large part and always has done

It elevates an experience and makes it special. With digital and developments in technology, “personalizing” is easier than it has ever been. But it’s not without its drawbacks. Technology brings anonymity and dehumanization, but the “human touch” – particularly in luxury – brings a relevant dimension of the experience. It’s also about knowing the purpose of it: Why are you personalizing? What do you want to achieve by it? It goes beyond a simple automated or automatic response.

In luxury specifically, personalization needs to carry meaning. It provides an opportunity to engage at a deeper, more human level that triggers emotion; as well as being more genuine and authentic.

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Storytelling is one way to personalize

We know that stories are a powerful way to communicate. Using narrative transportation, they draw you in and take you on a journey... Inspire the imagination and initiate a process of self-discovery. Stories create interest and more easily engages its audience. They affect us in some way, eliciting emotions and defining feelings that drive action. Brand storytelling brings an occasion – the experience – to life and makes it more memorable.

Specifically, this requires:

Knowing the brand

The brand's history, heritage and origins, the creator or founder, as well as famous people associated with the brand – past and present clients or guests; employees and their stories. Knowing about its products – where and how they are made, by whom, the materials that are used and where and how they are sourced. As well as knowing how the brand reflects the facets and characteristics of luxury – the quality, its rarity and extra-ordinariness, its aesthetics and polysensuality; in ways that are relevant, builds the brand’s luxury credentials, the myth and “the dream”; and the brand’s purpose.

It is also about knowing the brand’s narrative – the brand’s story – that provides a framework for storytelling. Then, identifying and defining stories that can be crafted around the brand that builds on the brand’s over-arching story. For example, aspects of the property, a particular room, the gardens; as well as the Chef and food (e.g., menu, dishes, recipes and ingredients etc.), the Sommelier and beverages (e.g., wine, whisky, cocktails and the inspiration behind them). There is also an opportunity to convey more contemporary messages relevant to the brand – for example, around sustainability, art and cultural associations, philanthropy, societal and community activities.

Knowing the client or guest

Who are your clients or guests? What are their interests and passions? But, also their history and heritage – their journey with your brand; as well as their reasons for staying and/or dining with you and the context: who they are with, and more. Knowing this creates opportunities to deliver stories that are meaningful to them personally; are contextually, but also culturally, relevant.

Being able to tell stories

Stories need to be told with meaning and passion. They need to be natural and relevant to the situation. There is an art to storytelling, which requires training. And, all front-line staff need to have the ability to tell stories, to know when it’s appropriate to tell a story and what story to tell. They need to be knowledgeable and informed of the “facts and figures” as the basis for crafting or retelling a story; and, be empowered to do so.

Creating opportunities for story-living

Storytelling includes story-living. Immersing the client or guest in the brand and the brand experience. Letting them personally live the brand. It may be instructive – creating an opportunity to learn something about the brand; ideological – linked to a community effort, charity or cause that encourages participation; or social – within an enjoyable social context that creates opportunities for personal interactions and further building the relationship.


Example of storytelling in hospitality:

Stories from The Pig at Harlyn Bay in Cornwall, England

Brand storytelling at The Pig at Harlyn Bay made a memorable evening with my parents even more memorable. The opening of this Pig was particularly special to them as they have lived in the neighbourhood for years and knew the property when it was simply a country house. Stories told that evening revolved around the renovation of the property and surprise finds in the process; the menu, dishes, as well as particular ingredients and where in the local community they had been sourced from. Not forgetting the story behind an exceptional wine the sommelier recommended to us that came from a small estate in Uruguay.

Through storytelling we were more engaged with the staff – from the front of house to the waiting staff and sommelier. We learnt something new and interesting about the brand and its purpose, what we were eating and drinking. We left with a stronger connection with the brand and its people; with stories to remember but importantly also, stories to tell.


The Pig at Harlyn Bay - Dinner - Jake Eastham





So, what is your brand narrative? Where and how can you tell stories about the brand that will enhance engagement? How can you bring your story to life in ways that are relevant to the brand, as well as to the client or guest? How can you create brand experiences around stories and story-living that will create emotions and memories that are also worth sharing?