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 June 2019...

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.