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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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.