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What hotels can learn from Maslow's hierarchy of needs

09 March 2023
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is a theory of human motivation that suggests that people have five levels of needs, which are hierarchical. These needs include physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs.

Travel may not be considered a basic need like food, water, and shelter. Physiological and safety needs must be met before an individual can consider travel. These basic needs must be fulfilled before individuals can focus on higher-level needs such as social interaction, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Maslow's theories explain the explosion in travel. Since the 1990ties, life has been improved for more people worldwide, meaning their physiological and safety needs are covered, and they are ready to start exploring the world. Travel can fulfill higher-level needs such as love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Where do hotels fit in?

While traveling, hotels and other forms of accommodation can fulfill the physiological needs of guests by providing them with a place to sleep, access to food and water, and other necessities.
Travelers may not have access to their usual sources of food, water, and shelter while on the go, so hotels and other forms of accommodation play an essential role in providing for their basic physiological needs. Additionally, hotels can provide guests with amenities like air conditioning, heating, and clean drinking water, which further contribute to fulfilling their physiological needs while on the road.
Therefore, hotels and other forms of accommodation are essential to fulfilling travelers' physiological needs while away from home.

The basic hotel offering

Hotels can position their offering to potential guests by understanding the different levels of needs in Maslow's hierarchy of needs and tailoring their messaging and offerings accordingly. All hotels need to satisfy the guests' physiological and safety needs. Guests cannot stay in hotels that do not deliver the guest's basic needs.

Physiological needs

Hotels can highlight their comfortable rooms, quality bedding, and amenities like room service and in-room dining to show how they can fulfill guests' basic physiological needs. Physiological needs are the most fundamental needs in Maslow's hierarchy, and they refer to the physical requirements for human survival, such as food, water, shelter, and rest. Hotels can fulfill guests' physiological needs in many ways. Here are some examples that a hotel can provide for its guests.
  1. Sleep: A hotel can provide comfortable beds, pillows, and linens to ensure guests get a good night's sleep. To minimize disturbances, they can also provide blackout curtains, noise-canceling devices, and soundproofing.
  2. Climate control: Hotels can provide climate control systems like air conditioning and heating to ensure that guests' rooms are at a comfortable temperature, regardless of the weather outside.
  3. Personal hygiene: Hotels can offer toiletries like soap, shampoo, and towels to ensure guests maintain hygiene while traveling.
  4. Cleanliness: Hotels should maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene to prevent the spread of germs and bacteria. This may include daily housekeeping, disinfecting surfaces, and providing hand sanitizers.
  5. Food and hydration: Hotels can provide guests nutritious meals and beverages throughout the day. This may include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, snacks and drinks in the room, or on-site restaurants and bars. Room service and in-room dining can offer added convenience for guests who prefer to dine in the comfort of their rooms.
  6. Physical activity: Hotels can provide guests access to fitness centers, swimming pools, and outdoor recreation facilities to promote physical activity and overall health.
  7. Relaxation and stress relief: Hotels can offer guests access to spas, massage services, and other relaxation activities to help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  8. Medical attention: In case of emergency or illness, hotels can provide medical attention and assistance to their guests.
These are just a few examples of physiological needs that hotels can provide for their guests. Ultimately, hotels should strive to create a comfortable, safe, and welcoming environment that meets the basic needs of their guests.

Safety needs

Safety needs are crucial for hotels, as guests need to feel secure and protected during their stay. Here are some safety needs that hotels can provide for their guests.
  1. Security measures: Hotels can have a variety of security measures in place, such as 24-hour front desk staff, CCTV cameras, security personnel, keycard access systems, and secure entrances and exits. This can help deter criminal activity and ensure guests feel safe and secure.
  2. Fire safety: Hotels should have fire safety measures, such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinkler systems. They should also provide clear instructions for guests on what to do in case of a fire.
  3. Emergency services: In an emergency, hotels should be equipped to provide prompt and efficient emergency services. This may include access to first aid equipment, trained staff, and procedures for contacting emergency services such as the police, fire department, or ambulance.
  4. Room safety features: Hotels should also provide safety features within guest rooms, such as deadbolt locks, peepholes, and safes to store valuables. They should also ensure that all electrical equipment is properly installed and maintained to prevent accidents.
  5. Information and education: Hotels can provide guests with information and education on safety procedures, such as how to use the keycard access system or what to do in an emergency. This can help guests to feel more prepared and secure during their stay.
  6. Food safety: Hotels should ensure their food and beverage offerings are prepared and stored safely to prevent foodborne illness.
These are just a few examples of safety needs that hotels can provide for their guests. Hotels can create a comfortable and secure environment that promotes guest satisfaction and loyalty by taking appropriate measures to ensure guest safety.

The extended hotel offering

If the hotel is less generic, the hotel could add products and services to satisfy needs higher up in the hierarchy.

Love and belonging

The love and belonging need refer to the human desire for social interaction and companionship. Here are some ways a hotel can provide for its guests' love and belonging needs.
  1. Social spaces: Hotels can provide common areas such as lounges, cafes, and bars where guests can socialize and interact. These spaces can be designed to promote conversation and connection, with comfortable seating, communal tables, and entertainment options.
  2. Personalized service: Hotel staff can provide personalized service that makes guests feel valued and appreciated. This can include greeting guests by name, offering recommendations for local activities or restaurants, and chatting and connecting with guests personally.
  3. Welcoming atmosphere: A hotel can create an inclusive atmosphere that makes guests feel at home. This can be achieved through warm and friendly decor, comfortable furnishings, and attention to detail in guest rooms.
In addition, loyalty programs can be a part of addressing guests' love and belonging needs. Loyalty programs are designed to reward and incentivize guests for their continued patronage of a hotel, which can help to foster a sense of loyalty and belonging. Loyalty programs often provide discounts on future stays, complimentary upgrades, exclusive access to amenities, and personalized service. By offering these benefits, hotels can create a sense of community and belonging among their loyal guests, who may feel a sense of pride and satisfaction in being part of a select group of customers.

Esteem and self-actualization

Esteem and self-actualization needs refer to the human desire for achievement, recognition, and personal growth. Most hotels never reach this level in their offerings and care for guests. On this level in the hierarchy, the intentions of the hotel must be authentic. Here are some ways a hotel can provide for its guests' esteem and self-actualization needs.
  1. Personalized experiences: Hotels can provide personalized experiences that cater to their guests' unique interests and preferences. This can include recommendations for local activities or restaurants, customized room amenities, or tailored experiences such as cooking classes or guided tours. To accomplish this, hotels need to know more about their guests and collect extensive data about them. Most hotels cannot simply get this right.
  2. Recognition and rewards: Hotels can provide recognition and rewards for guests who achieve certain milestones, such as repeat visits, referrals, or positive reviews. This can help foster a sense of accomplishment and pride in guests and a sense of loyalty to the hotel brand. Hotels must focus on high-quality data management, which is also challenging for many hotels and difficult to achieve.
  3. Sustainable and ethical practices: Hotels can practice sustainable and ethical values that align with the values of their guests. This can help to foster a sense of purpose and meaning in guests who care about social and environmental issues. These practices need to be authentic and not just greenwashing.

Final thoughts

By understanding the different levels of needs in Maslow's hierarchy, hotels can position themselves as fulfilling guests' needs at multiple levels. This can help hotels appeal to a wider range of travelers and create a more meaningful and fulfilling experience for their guests.
The most important lesson when applying Maslow's theories is that a hotel cannot move up in the hierarchy unless they have fulfilled all needs on the lower levels. There is no way to satisfy a guest by adding something on the love and belonging level as long as the hotel has not fully satisfied the guest's physiological needs. My message to most hotels is to continue improving the products and services catering to the guest's physiological and safety needs before even considering moving higher up the pyramid.