The New Hotel Lobby: Combining Technology & Culture

By Saeed Kazmi Chairman & CEO, Vertical Systems, Inc. | April 22, 2012

A French proverb says "The more things change, the more they stay the same."

That certainly is true of the hotel lobby, which in the 1800's was a place to see, to be seen, and to enjoy the pleasure of being in public. At the time, hotel rooms were small and plain while public areas – like the lobby, dining rooms, and bars – were spacious and beautifully decorated. Hoteliers worked hard to make those spaces comfortable, where guests could linger and be sociable.

This all changed dramatically in recent decades as hotel lobbies became sparse and sterile – they served as little more than "waiting areas" for people who wanted to go to their ultimate destination, whether that was their room, the airport, a restaurant, or a local appointment.

Today, the lobby has again become an important gathering spot and a destination in itself – and at many hotels, it is the most exciting, most glamorous space in the entire building. Now, just like a century and a half ago, hotel owners are spending enormous amounts of money on furniture, draperies, flooring, artwork, and other elements of decor that attract people to the lobby – and that are turning the area into a hub for social and business activities.

It's a trend that's been called "the Facebooking of the hospitality industry" and it's happening at all types of hotels, from lower-priced to higher-end to boutique.

Certainly it has savvy hotel owners asking two questions: (1) what's driving this trend? and (2) how do I respond properly? This column provides some of the answers.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.