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 March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.