Pushing the Boundaries for Guest Experience

By Eric Rahe Principal, BLT Architects | June 08, 2014

Co-Authored by Donna D. Lisle, AIA, LEED A and Kevin Aires, AIA, LEED AP, BLT Architects

We are introduced to the concept of sharing in childhood, and we are taught to incorporate this into our daily lives both personally and professionally. Sharing is not a new notion, but over the last few years the simple idea of sharing has become a major international economic trend that is having an impact on how hotels are designed and run.

“The Sharing Economy” is built around the sharing of human and physical assets. But the ways it has been realized recently can be surprising. People in every income bracket are sharing everything from homes to cars to umbrellas to nannies. Ask the people at Zipcar about sharing and they will tell you a story of growth and profit. According to Forbes, the revenue flowing through the sharing economy directly into people’s wallets will surpass $3.5 billion this year, with growth exceeding 25 percent. It is a major opportunity for businesses, including hotels that are willing and able to take advantage of it.

The sharing economy is not only transforming how we live, it is also informing our built environment

Space sharing, as we know it now, started in workplaces with the concept of “co-working,” which emerged in San Francisco in 2005. This idea was employed by places like Citizen Space and its precursor, The Hat Factory. Both housed technology workers who left their homes, cafes, and corporate offices in favor of rented desks in open offices shared with other independent workers. The recent recession reinforced the trend. In many cases, the economy forced smaller businesses and one-person owned companies to embrace this option as a way to save money while creating their own jobs. Open offices have also been seen in a variety of corporations with innovators like Herman Miller and other Silicon Valley technology companies leading the way.

In the past few years, our firm has been helping multi-family residences adapt to the changing demands of renters. A higher value has been put on amenities and, in turn, these shared spaces have become community staples. One recent luxury residential property we designed in Philadelphia features a shared living room with a fireplace and piano, shared wine storage, and a shared outdoor area. “These shared spaces are designed to promote social interaction and have become the norm when renovating or building new residences,” said Kevin Aires, a BLTa senior associate. All were priorities of the building, with less of these features available in the individual apartments.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.