Hotel.com recently published its results from its online poll about the amenities that guests most value when booking a hotel, guesthouse or bungalow. The list makes a good point from which to discuss the value placed on amenities in Koh Phangan.
1,000 respondents in December 2013 rated the following hotel amenities in descending order of importance:
1) Complimentary breakfast
2) Restaurant in hotel
3) Free wifi
5) 24 hour front desk service
6) Smoke free hotel
7) Swimming pool
10) Tea and coffee in the lobby
There are a few oddities in the list that clearly does not reflect Koh Phangan. The most obvious of which is the low priority to air-conditioning. For the tropical island air-con is the most basic luxury item for a room or hotel (in the list for room amenities air-con still only rates the 5th most important thing).
However, what does chime with Koh Phangan is the value placed on a complimentary breakfast. Most of the mid-range and luxury resorts on Koh Phangan include a buffet style breakfast, typically with an egg chef. This is basic stuff learnt from Koh Samui many years ago. The importance of the free breakfast for guests is clearly a point for psychological speculation. I suspect people want to feel pampered for their 7 day break on a tropical Thai island. What sounds better than rolling out of your bed to the pool side breakfast buffet? Also a free breakfast is like free postage – people clearly see it as a saving on costs.
Following on from the psychology of having the security of breakfast being only a few steps away, is the value people place on the hotel having a restaurant. What people essentially need is a room with a bed and food. Since room is covered in the definition of ‘hotel’ the next most cherished amenities are food related.
While guests value the convenience of a restaurant in a resort in Koh Phangan, most people are keener to be on the beach where they know they will find a selection of bars and restaurants nearby. Part of the fun of a beach holiday is trying out all the restaurants along the beach in search of that perfect spot. Security, especially at night, varies dramatically around the world. Koh Phangan is lucky to be a peaceful and safe place even with a Full Moon Party. It is an island where people don’t fear to leave the resort in the evening.
In the previous poll (December 2012) free wifi topped the list. For Koh Phangan visitors it is probably only second to air-con in terms of importance. Everyone has a mobile device, tablet or laptop. Although the shops with public computers for rent by the minute are dying out in Koh Phangan and all over Thailand (like video rental shops before them), there is a huge demand for bandwidth on the beach. After all, what is there to do on a paradise beach? Swim, eat, sunbathe, read and surf the net. It is all about unwinding. The internet offers personalized entertainment as well as communication. For many they need it as much at home as they do on holiday.
It must also be said that when you are paying $100 a night for a room you expect free wifi connectivity, as well as a lot more of course.
While all places in Thailand are officially ‘non-smoking’, the righteous shouldn’t get too excited. People smoke in bars and restaurants in Koh Phangan with impunity. Many smoke in their room or on their balcony. And heaven forbid, a few still smoke weed. A non-smoking hotel in Koh Phangan is an irrelevance. I find it hard to believe that the average visitor to Koh Phangan would value a non-smoking hotel over one that has a swimming pool presuming the two hotels were the same price and the smoking ban was enforced.
The same is true of parking. Most people use taxis and so don’t need a parking space. Motorbikes take up very little space: it is never a problem to find a spot to park your bike. Many of those who rent private villas will also hire a car. Virtually all the villas on the island have off-road parking available.
Finally, several hotels have tea and coffee making facilities in guest rooms. Rasananda rooms include an espresso coffee machine. This is the exception – the rest have sachets of instant coffee. It really isn’t great coffee or tea. One wonders why it should be valued so highly. Better to try the fresh fruit shakes and smoothies in Koh Phangan.
It would be great if Hotel.com made more of an effort in the future – interview more people and introduce area specific polls. Until then we can only guess the true scale of values for hotel amenities in Koh Phangan.