National Identity and Local Flair: Creating an Authentic Experience for Today's Hotel Guests

By Brian Murch Principal, DLR Group | November 04, 2018

As a hospitality designer, I spend a great deal of time considering what it means to have a meaningful guest experience. It is a complicated question with multiple solutions, but an overarching concept I see is the growing demand for an authentic, local experience. Many hotels flags have, for a long time, utilized identical branding across all locations, giving guests a "same hotel, different city" feel. However, guests have increasingly become fatigued with feeling as though they could be anywhere in the world when they stay in these hotels. More and more, travelers want to feel welcomed in, they want to feel connected to the locale or the community – and this desire for a sense of place is driving an evolution in the way we design hotels and the experiences that make them great.

Today's guests have a strong desire to connect with their environment and be an integral part of an authentic destination when they travel, and hospitality designers are responding by creating unforgettable hotel experiences that reflect the surrounding community. And authenticity is more important than room size, finishes, and brick and mortar. Authenticity means tasting local food and beverages, being able to walk to city landmarks, and ultimately bring a unique story back they can share with family and friends.

What Does It Mean To Be "Local?"

Hotels that reflect a neighborhood and community give guests a unique sense of travel and adventure. But creating a sense of place can be tricky. Today's consumers prefer real over packaged, and this preference extends from the products they use, to the experiences they seek out, to the places they frequent. By creating a local experience, hotels and designers are striving to make sure guests do not feel as though they are being "sold" to, that their experience is an authentic one rooted in the local culture.

When the hotel experience reflects its context, it feels like a natural part of the landscape rather than an artificial creation, adding to the fabric of the community. Consumers and locals are more likely to have a positive impression if the hotel feels like it is working in tandem with the community, rather than against it. Whether it is the exterior architecture, the interior aesthetic, or the food and drink offered, guests should feel like the hotel is born from the city and everything they experience is part of or inspired from its innate locality.

Infusing Local Elements in a National Brand

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.