Why Luxury Hotels Spend So Much Time Choosing Bathroom Amenities

by Laura Powell

The general manager of Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris once told us that “the bathroom says everything about a hotel.” We agree. Focusing on the bathroom amenities — the soaps, lotions, and potions — provides a valuable insight into the brand story.
Let’s face it, you often judge a hotel by the amenities it keeps. If you find a bar of Cashmere Bouquet soap and some flimsy unbranded, unopenable packets of shampoo, you know you’ve arrived at an ultra-budget hotel.

On the other hand, should the likes of Acqua di Parma or Le Labo populate the counter, it’s likely you are paying a pretty penny for your room.

The process behind selecting bathroom amenities is an exercise in brand alignment, especially in the luxury space. Top hotel companies have been known to get themselves in a lather about choosing the perfect product line.

Skift spoke with product development and brand management pros at Four Seasons and Sofitel about the selection process. Coincidentally, both hotel companies are in the midst of changing up their amenity lines, both processes years in the making.

Four Seasons was looking to make a change from primarily using L’Occitane and Bulgari products, while Sofitel wanted to modernize its approach beyond solely Hermès and Lanvin. In both cases, the companies wanted to update the amenity offerings, while ensuring the labels chosen were in alignment with the luxury image both brands convey.

According to Isabelle Laroque, director of product development at Four Seasons, the reimagining of the company’s amenity program has had a couple of different iterations.

“At first, we had the idea of capturing a sense of place in a literal way, by finding local products. But as the process went along, we decided that luxury transcended place,” she said. The local tie was not as important as an affiliation with a luxury brand that resonated in the market.

That’s when Laroque “started scrubbing the luxury market – not just in hospitality. I went to Paris, London, and other big markets and looked at the higher brands on the retail side.” It was important to look at the retail market, she said, because “people react better to products they actually buy.”

Next, Laroque and the procurement team reached out to amenity distributors and cosmetic lines. In all, Four Seasons saw 170 contenders. According to Laroque, it only considered 120. Those then went through a vetting process with a strict list of considerations.

One factor was gender neutrality. “We think about gender purposefully,” Laroque said. “We want something with a wide appeal… that not only is unisex but doesn’t have an overpowering scent.”

Then, there’s packaging. “We prefer packaging that is more reflective of the actual retail product. We also consider how bottles feel, how the product flows out of the bottle, how easy the screw cap is to open … every aspect. Can you read the label without putting on your reading glasses?”