Hotels and Dopamine
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
When I was younger, I thought staying in any hotel at all was good enough. My first ever hotel stay experience happened when we had a blackout in our apartment. My parents and I took refuge in a hotel nearby. It was nothing spectacular except for the bit when I found them having sex when I walked out of the bedroom … I was 5 at the time so that kind of thing is memorable.
As I got older, I soon had my mind set on five-star hotels. Big brands like St. Regis, Four Seasons, or Anantara were the names that released my dopamine.
After a while though, like lab rats scrolling down social media feeds over and over in search of rewards, I failed to find the same excitement. Novelty can trigger the dopamine hit, but the same old hotels just didn’t do it for me anymore. I started to see hotels as just a place to sleep and they were all the same to me. I came, I conquered, and I left. I just needed my basic needs met: good sleep, good breakfast, clean, and space to work.
I was getting bored. But imagine having a relationship with someone or something if you no longer find it attractive, or interesting, and it doesn’t stimulate your brain to release that all-important dopamine.
Dopamine is a chemical produced by our brains that plays a starring role in motivating behavior. It gets released when we take a bite of delicious food, when we have sex, or after we exercise. A lack of dopamine leads to procrastination, self-doubt, and the absence of enthusiasm.
I started to wonder if I was lacking that dopamine buzz because it didn't seem to give me that original kind of satisfaction. From being addicted to hotels, everything suddenly felt flat - hotels that would have previously buzzed me have stopped doing so. That dopamine release is missing.
I never would have thought I would one day develop a liking for small boutique or funky / edgy hotels - but I think I must be evolving.
For “hotel travelers” – the people who travel in order to ‘see hotels’, or people who pick their hotel first and the destination second (these kinds of travelers often work in hotels themselves), my question to you is what still gives YOU that buzz? What WOWS you? How can known hotel brands still wow you? What do you think our next evolution in the industry will be?
My latest dopamine stimulant is ‘Attention to Detail’. This is something that doesn’t only happen at the big, traditional hotels. Service and hospitality should be free. This is why I think everything at Ovolo Laneways Melbourne is free, from the minibar that is re-stocked each day, to the loot bag which has all kinds of snacks inside. So far I’ve found attention to little details even on things like quirky messages on the desk, shampoo bottles, and at the breakfast buffet. Even the little gifts that they had left for me have been very creative and very stimulating to the brain.
I know now that ‘funky’ and ‘edgy’ can still be professional and best of all, by putting new spin on all of those older, traditional ‘standards’ that we expect to get in our hotel experience, those dopamine hits still keep on coming.