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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Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.