Why are Hoteliers Turning to Luxury Comforts Beds?
Hospitality brands are redefining the term “a good night’s sleep” using high-tech mattresses, feather-light pillows and a host of accessories that aid sleep. In the process, luxurious comfort beds have become a branding concept.
Circa 1990: Barry Sternlicht, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, gets every single mattress manufacturer across the world to send in their best products. Soon, Starwood’s employees are asked to spend time testing each product for comfort and better sleep. Complaints from guests about leaving the hotel tired rather than rested, proved to be a catalyst for this exercise. Not only did it help Sternlicht create the concept of ‘Heavenly Bed with Simmons’, which became Westin’s biggest selling point worldwide, it also transformed the way hotels looked at the one aspect that a lot of hoteliers failed to pay attention to, till then: the bedding
The innovation led to the introduction of custom-made haute beds, in which even the duvet cover was made-to-comfort. Sternlicht’s initiative, recalls Ekant Sabharwal, Director of Rooms, Radisson Blu, Paschim Vihar, “reset the rules not just for how hotels view room experiential, but also the mechanics of marketing rooms. Luxurious comfort beds suddenly became a branding concept.”
With his decision to change the way guests rest in Westin, Sternlicht also revolutionised the approach towards creating hotel bedding. Beds, says seasoned hotelier, PK MohanKumar (Comfort Leisure Private Limited), “is no more just about luxury—a bed in a hotel costs roughly about $800. It is a combination of functionality and comfort. It became a focus that not just defined a good hotel, but also drew the fine line in hospitality.”
A good sleep experience leads to high ratings says Acharya Javvaji, Corporate Executive Housekeeper, Rokeby Manor, or ROI in terms of better ratings and reviews online. “A hotel that provides with an almost home-like sleeping experience comes with its own perks.” At W Hotels, beds are all kinds of inviting. They are equipped with quilted toppers—either with a firmer pillow-top or softer plush-top, and each mattress includes a solid foundation and firm, pocketed coil core support to encourage deep, restful sleep.
At W Hotels, each mattress includes a solid foundation and firm, pocketed coil core support to encourage deep, restful sleep.
Creating a Perfect Sleep Experience
Over the years, the focus has been on creating a perfect sleep experience. This agenda has led to hospitality brands standardising their beds. Starwood’s Heavenly Beds boast a mattress set with 900 individual coils, three plush sheets with thread counts from 180 to 250, making them extremely soft, and a down-blanket, comforter, white duvet and five goose-down/goose-feather pillows. The design of the bed, says Umamahesh Rao, Executive Housekeeper, The Westin Mumbai Garden City, “is to promote restorative sleep. The nature of the mattress is such that it is aligned with people’s sleep pattern, and their spine.”
Ila Prabhu, Executive Housekeeper, ITC Windsor, Bengaluru believes that the secret to a good night’s sleep is the mattress and the bed base. “It is important to remember that a ‘bed’ is a mattress and a base working together. One should not consider them in isolation. There are all kinds of mattresses available these days—innersprings, foam, airbeds, futons, waterbeds—just to name a few. When it comes to choosing a mattress, it depends on what one prefers. While ordering a bed, the emphasis has to be on comfort. Unless the bed is comfortable, guests won’t enjoy sleeping on it. It should be soft enough to be comfortable, yet firm enough to give support to conform to the shape of one’s body.”
Four Seasons Hotel addressed the perfect bed conundrum by creating a customisable collection that allowed guests to choose the desired level of firmness by selecting from one of the three mattress toppers: Signature, Signature Plush and Signature Firm. What worked in their favour was the technology that allowed their selection to serve a wide profile of guests: Patented GelTouch Foam Center heat-absorption technology that keeps the guest cool and comfortable throughout the night, and pocketed coil motion separation, which provides optimal support when the bed is shared.
Ergonomics, says Devina Thapliyal, Executive Housekeeper, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, “is an important benchmark while selecting the mattress. Posturepedic mattresses and de-quilted plush tops that help reduce restlessness at night score over conventional spring mattress and the hard bed base.”
Javvaji strikes a different note when he says that choosing mattresses isn’t just about the technology; it has to suit the concept of a hotel and sit well with different bed types, such as wrought iron, sleigh, bunk, loft, four poster beds, and others. “This makes choosing not only the right mattress, but a functional one, the key to success. If you sink into the mattress, your pillow height requirement for optimal neck support will change accordingly. It is of paramount importance to choose mattresses that support a guest’s body weight or support the body weight of partners, who are sharing the bed. Selection of fibres for the mattress is important. You need to choose a mattress that breathes, maintains body temperature, prevents moisture, and also have anti-microbial properties.”
Different guests have different needs. Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity has a mattress menu, which, reveals Smita Rathod, Director of Housekeeping, caters to a wide variety of guests with minimal changes. Among them is the dual-side mattress in which one side is soft and the other, hard. “This made hardboards redundant and comes in handy when you have to make a bed look luxurious. With the extra layer of the hardboard gone, hotels can now concentrate on luxury layering like a cotton terry finished ultra-absorbent ones or gel infused memory foam comfort toppers that are thermo adapt.”
Layering It Up
While ergonomics, comfort and functionality are the three pillars forcreating that great sleep experience, hotels still have to ‘layer-up’ the luxury, without adding the cost of putting together a bed—and managing it. The cost, says Nivedan Kukreti, Director Operations, Radisson Agra, “of managing a bed—considering the life of a mattress is two to three years—could be quite a bit. Hence the solution has to be functional and sustainable.”
One way the hotel does it, says Rathod, “is by being clever when we curate our pillow, duvet and throws menu. We rely on the thread count that gives it softness and shelf life. In Pullman, we achieve functionality, comfort and class with our duvets and duvet covers that have a heavy thread count and are super-soft.” ITC works with linen that has a 300 or 600 thread count, duvets composed of 100% cotton sheet fabric and a 40’x40’ 200 GSM thread count silk ionised poly-fill in diamond quilting. The Taj Group of Hotels has a pre-fixe menu for all the layers, including the throws that hotels use to showcase their uniqueness.
Another way that hotels have cranked up their sleep experience is with pillows. Guests, says Kukreti, “often have a symbiotic relationship with the pillows they use at home. Having a well-designed menu for pillows has been one of the most effective ways to tackle sleep issues that guest experience while sleeping in unfamiliar beds.” Sleep science identifies this as the ‘First Night Effect’, in which the left side of the brain is on a super-alert mode and contributes to the feeling of restlessness in spite of an 8-hour shut eye time.
Fascinatingly, pillow menus that began as a selection of soft, hard, neck and body pillow have progressed to being more care intensive. An excellent example of this is, adds Rathod, “the beautiful, half-moon foot pillows that are placed in every guest room in Pullman and Novotel for its therapeutic benefits. Used to prop the leg, these pillows help reduce lower back pain, relax the spine, and achieve good blood circulation. Likewise, is the case of memory pillows in every room that are supposed to be zero headache, these are thin and offer an excellent neck support.” This is in addition to the foam and cotton cushions that are placed to ensure the bed looks comfortable.
The Setting is a Factor
Interestingly, the transformation of the sleep experience hasn’t stopped at pillows, mattress and duvets. The luxury of affording a great shut eye experience has made hotels revamp their settings as well. Most beds, adds Kukreti, “in our hotels face a window with sunlight floating in. This offers a sense of space and even relaxes the mind. Another thing that has changed are the light fixtures, which are now more soothing and can be controlled to encourage sleep.” The bedside control console, adds Sabharwal, “has been a great tech addition to ensuring that guests have a better sleep time, given that you can control everything—including drawing of curtains and dimming of lights—with one press.”
Hotels have also worked considerably on sound management within the room. Most rooms have optimised decibel level and effectively zone-out anything that is more than 40 decibel during the night. And this isn’t just an innovative present in star hotels, but in boutique resorts as well. Much like anti-stumble lights, the right shower pressure and the fragrance in the room are important. A few brands have also introduced iPods with sleep music and ear plugs to aid guests to a restful night.
In fact, Westin Hotels provide a lavender sleep balm to every guest in the evening, during the turndown service, to enhance their sleep and puts out an extensive pillow menu. ITC Windsor, Bengaluru offers a ‘Sleeep Menu’, based on the studies conducted by ITC Life Sciences Research Centre and guest testimonials. The Sleeep Menu features dishes such as Buttermilk Pancake with Bananas, Pavilion Caprese, Chicken Supreme, Lotus Seeds and Milk, all infused with the calming components of potassium, manganese, tryptophan, melatonin and Vitamin B6 that can help guests sleep better.”
Fortunately, it is an addition that many-a-brands have adopted as part of their in-room experiential. At Westin, says Rathod, “we have a list of superfood items that are especially designed to help guests sleep better, especially those that have travelled through different time zones and may find it difficult to adjust to the new surroundings.” Though there is no denying that hotels have outshone themselves in creating the perfect sleep experience, even elevating it to be better than the one at home, the real challenge lies in achieving ROI on such investments.