For many hoteliers, providing unique amenities can help drive differentiation and long-term guest loyalty. While many luxury brands tend to focus on things like private cycling guides, VIP shopping assistants, even a “soap concierge,” the simplest of amenities can sometimes stand out.

For example, a recent Cornell University study found that offering free bottled water translated into a the highest ROI for returning guests, when compared to Internet access and fitness club use. One of the interesting aspects of this report is it focused more on upscale and luxury brands.

While this study is limited to just high-end brands, it speaks volumes about what guests actually want, and provides insights into the drivers that motivate guests to return. In addition, the many publications that covered this study were more interested in one key data point: that hotel gyms actually don’t get much usage.

From a larger perspective, this report reinforces how illuminating it can be when we actually mine hotel guest data. We often make assumptions about guest preferences, which can only be truly validated by the data itself.

Based on this study, we imagine that many hotel brands are now focusing on providing more free water in guest rooms, which is a sound data point. However, the real motivator should be “how can we glean these types of insights on guest preferences”? On top of this, if hoteliers are mining guest data, are they using this knowledge to quickly develop the right amenities that truly resonate?

Of course, providing bottled water is important, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. When taking a deep and analytical look at guest data, hoteliers may find something surprising. This new-found knowledge could then ultimately be used to develop amenities and offerings that are truly wanted.