Partnerships Bring Local Flare to Hotel Design

By Hans Van Wees General Manager, Hotel Vermont | November 06, 2016

While home-sharing companies capture attention for truly immersive local experiences, and brands respond to the movement with sub-brands touting authenticity, independent hoteliers have long appreciated the localized approach to business. In Burlington, Vermont, such local partnerships build and bond communities, and through their contribution to the hotel design, product and programming, ultimately enhance the overall guest experience.

The current state of the travel industry suggests the sharing economy is here to stay. These home-sharing companies are rapidly increasing in popularity as travelers crave – and ultimately, trust – their hosts to serve as sources of information for where locals really go to eat, explore, shop, etc. While brands have taken notice and are creating sub-brands to serve as their authentic, immersive answer to this consumer shift, in Vermont, our approach to hospitality is neither contrived nor fabricated; our localized approach to community is simply who we are.

At Hotel Vermont, we operate under the belief that partnerships are about building community, not just one individual entity. Stronger communities create not only a stronger business environment, but a better place to live, work and enjoy as a visitor. The partnerships have contributed not only to our hotel product, but to the overall guest experience, making our entire team trusted local hosts.

When we first started this project in downtown Burlington almost seven years ago, our goal was to create a hotel experience that offered true local flavor. We identified that there was a need in the market for an upscale, modern spin on the traditional Vermont getaway. Owned, developed, and designed locally, keeping everything close to home allowed us to hone in on the aesthetic provided by Vermont’s natural beauty and sense of community to create partnerships that bring the very best of the state to our guests.

Often in hotel design, architects and designers are steeped in the heritage of their destination, so we were fortunate to have such a talented team locally who could grasp our vision. Starting from the ground up, we contracted Burlington-based Smith Buckley Architects and TruexCullins Interiors to spearhead all of the hotel design elements. Throughout the planning process, we wanted to capture the essence of Vermont to create a clean, minimalist design. Drawing on Scandinavian influence and Vermont’s rich maker history, we were able to marry the two to create a warm, inviting and modern, yet rustic space.

The location in Burlington had more of an influence on public space and design of exterior of the building in how it fits into fabric of city and waterfront. The main level uses all local materials, such as furniture built from white oak indigenous to Vermont, polished concrete flooring made with pebbles from the beaches of the adjacent Lake Champlain, and flooring in the restaurant made from antique red oak reclaimed from an old farm barn. A statement wall of slab granite speaks to the state’s history as a haven for stoneworkers, with granite shipped all over the world from the tiny town of Barre.

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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.