Art + Operations: Experiential Design at its Finest

By Anna Kreyling Interior Designer, Baskervill Hospitality Studio | November 04, 2018

It's a booming and beautiful and challenging time to be in the hospitality industry; new hotels and brands are hitting the scene at a frenetic pace to woo a growing segment of experience-seeking travelers. Deloitte's 2018 Travel and Hospitality Industry Outlook report reveals a significant shift in how people are spending their money. Rather than splurging on cars, clothing, or other common durable goods-consumers are going all-in on recreation, eating out, and travel.

So if this is the moment, how do hoteliers actually seize it? And how can strategic design help properties rise above the sea of competitors vying for guest loyalty (and dollars)?

As an interior designer born and raised in hospitality, I wholeheartedly believe that it's never been more important for hotels to tap into their identity in a holistic way-amping up authenticity and evaluating not only how a property looks but how it delivers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. This takes reframing how you approach the design process, and most importantly, the hotelier's role in it.

Just ask Vice President of SMI Hotel Group Robert Reed. I worked closely with him and the hotel's ownership and management team to reimagine the guest experience of The Commonwealth, a historic boutique property located in Richmond, Virginia. Since the transformative renovation, the property has seen a 15% uptick in occupancy. That's a clear step ahead of the downtown Richmond market's 3.5% increase within the same time period. I'll throw out another impressive stat: combined revenue from The Commonwealth's restaurant and catering is up a whopping 282%.

Those numbers aren't dumb luck; they're a result of a strategic shift in thinking on the part of the SMI Hotel Group team. From the beginning, they understood that the transformation was going to renovate more than a gorgeous property steeped in history. It would also renovate operational programs-sparking new strategies for staff-to-guest connection.

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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.