Return to a Home Away From Home


Home away from home: Puerto Rico’s Royal Isabela is one of many resorts hoping for a happy return

“Auld Lang Syne” is the most popular song on New Year’s Eve, but another Scottish traditional tune, “Will Ye No Come Back Again,” is in the hearts of the hospitality professionals who’ve hosted so many travelers this holiday season in hotels and restaurants. Many “happy returns” by guests are sought after and prized, so varying methods and strategies are used.

“Studies show that 68-percent of people who don’t come back choose not to because of a human interaction,” says Jose Luis Mogollon. He, therefore, provides a complimentary on-site psychologist and generous incentives for the 2,500 employees throughout his four Pueblo Bonita Resorts, in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. “We make sure everyone on staff can speak English and we educate them with extensive training. They can’t give what they don’t have.”

The Musser family, owners of Mackinac Island’s historic Grand Hotel, has been teaching their seasonal employees similarly for generations, says managing director Ken Hayward. “They encourage staff to make eye contact, smile, greet guests by name and show people they care. You cannot say ‘thank you for coming’ enough.”

Spaniard Oscar Garcia, general manager at Texas de Brazil, a unique steakhouse in Detroit, has worked in restaurants around the world and recognizes the common denominator. “I try to welcome diners in and send them away with the same warmth I would if they were visiting my home,” he says, even suggesting a special glass of port following the extensive, dazzlingly diverse meal. “We’ve had guests so relaxed they’ve settled in for a good part of the day.”

Sometimes convenience is more essential, and a speedy check-in is the goal of Karl Knieling, the director of sales and marketing at the Crown Plaza Hotel near Grand Rapids Airport. “We provide a warm and sincere check in and tell our guests a little about our amenities and the location of their room, but through our rewards program we keep track of their preferences so we know what they like and provide it automatically when they return,” he explains. “Do they like a king bed? Maybe they prefer a room near the pool?”

In Puerto Rico, Royal Isabela’s returning guest program offers guests, upon check out, the chance to book their next stay at the luxurious seaside resort two-hours outside San Juan, with a special discounted rate. “Most of our guests come to relive their last vacation experience, to enjoy the privacy of the casitas, the challenging game of golf or the organic restaurant menu that changes on a daily basis, plus to check-out all of the activities they weren’t able to do the first time around,” says reservations manager Angela Torres.

The word of mouth – in its modern form – generated after a stay may be the determining factor for choosy travelers, according to East Lansing’s Steve Wickens, who owns the Courtyard by Marriott and, in Novi, the Baronette Renaissance. “The online reviews ‘millennials’ post are very valuable to attracting guests. The switch to mobile booking and the influence of social media will change the landscape for hotels.”

Michigan-based travel writer Michael Patrick Shiels may be contacted at or via   His talk show may be heard weekday mornings in Lansing on 92.1 FM and seen on Fox 47 TV.

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