Making the Lobby a Destination by Using Creative Retail

By Bobby Martyna President & Chief Executive Officer, Tradavo | August 13, 2017

The hotel lobby of recent years has hardly been a place for congregating. The business traveler has tended to check in at the desk and beeline to the elevator, remaining sequestered in the room until lights out, only perhaps going to a dinner meeting before returning again to the room. The leisure traveler might check in, but immediately head out on the town to start the occasion. And in urban locations, few locals would ever think to drop into the lobby to work or socialize, lest they be ill-considered by a uniformed bellman. This has tended to make the lobby a pass-through rather than a destination.

But that all changed when brands and owners more fully embraced the social aspect of hospitality and lodging, prompted by social media sites, the millennial mindset, the experience economy and perhaps influenced to some degree by the success of Airbnb. The draw of the privacy of the room has been supplanted for many by the excitement of social interaction. Watching scheduled shows and movies on the big screen in-room television has been very ably replaced by streaming on the device at hand and genuine human interaction. And since room service and mini bars now are few and far between, not to mention being notably unprofitable for operators, guests are being encouraged to hit the lobby.

To the lobby, All!

The “New” Lobby

The “new” lobby concept is not completely new – like many new concepts, there have been innovators and creative types who have been ahead of their times. Select urban luxury hotels have encouraged the lobby stay with beautiful artwork and vibrant sounds such as the Morgan’s Hotel in New York. In chain luxury, the W hotel brand by Starwood is another striking example of lobby innovation. And the Ace Hotel in New York and Los Angeles has featured communal lobby spaces since the early part of the decade by catering to the in crowd.

By and large, and particularly in select service hotels and upper mid scale to upper upscale full service hotels, there hasn’t been a genuine focus on encouraging the lobby stay, with the only real draws being free coffee, WiFi and the quintessential hangout, the lobby bar. Not very engaging, to say the least. And very rarely did the lobby convey anything about the locale other than a few framed prints on the walls and in the restrooms. Even lobby restaurants tended to be disconnected and somewhat dreary.

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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.