Beyond the Ordinary: Historic Hotels and Unique Event Venues

By John Tess President & CEO, Heritage Consulting Group | December 16, 2018

Events can take many forms, from small intimate gatherings to blockbuster conventions, from a business meeting to weddings and soirees. Regardless of the size and form, in an increasingly competitive hotel marketplace, the role of the event as a value-added component to the bottom line cannot be underestimated. Events have a significant direct and positive impact on a hotel's bottom line, but also indirectly in exposure and positive reviews, whether formally in publications or informally through social media and word of mouth.

As in other segments, the marketplace has come to expect quality service and products and is increasingly demanding more. In today's marketplace, patrons seek authentic and unique experiences. The good news is that they are generally willing to pay for it.

In delivering the authentic and unique, by definition, historic hotels have a leg up. They are properties whose bones are decades old. They are properties that when built featured designs, materials and workmanship of generations past. By definition, they are unique, they are authentic.

There are two basic kinds of historic hotels:

The first are those buildings built originally as hotels. Our mind first goes to the grand dame properties constructed and maintained to be the premier hotel property in a community. The product of superior architects, these properties are defined by grand spaces with high end finishes. The sequence of space is dramatic, from the design of the exterior and a grand entry, to the sense of arrival in the lobby and upwards through a secondary elevator lobby, corridors and finally the guest room. These grand dames were planned for and are social centers with opulent ballrooms and meeting rooms.

Examples abound across the country. A couple worth mentioning here are the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington, D.C. and the Hotel DuPont in Wilmington Delaware, both considered some of the most beautiful venues in the country.

The Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center in Buffalo, New York was built in 1872 as part of the Buffalo State Asylum for the Insane, designed by renown architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
As part of creating Hotel Henry, a glass enclosure with winged stairs was built on the north elevation form a dramatic hotel lobby that features the historic Medina sandstone exterior.
Hotel Henry includes 100 Acres: The Kitchens at Hotel Henry, a hall-like setting in the historic footprint of the building's first floor. The hotel offers locally-sourced and chef-selected ingredients for a true “farm-to-table” menu.
The Gray can be found in Chicago's West Loop. In 2016, Kimpton Hotel adapted the historic 1894 New York Life Building, designed by Jenny & Mundie, into a 293-room hotel.
The Gray features a dramatic two-story building marble clad lobby with paired marble stairs leading to hotel reception on the second floor.
On the top floor of the Gray is the Boleo, a South American inspired bar and event space that offers a unique open air venue with a fully retractable glass roof.
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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.