The world of travel, both for leisure and business, is evolving and so must the hospitality industry with it. The rise of the sharing economy, in the form of home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb, is ushering in much of this evolution for hoteliers. So too is the ongoing generational transformation, which is taking place in regards to what constitutes the demographic of the average traveler.
The young Millennial Generation traveler is seeking an immersive experience with destinations and their cultures, rather than merely being a “tourist”, which is considered anathema to many younger travelers. Airbnb and others emphasize the local surroundings of their listings and urge guests to “live like a local” at each destination. Hotels must find ways in which the local experience can be incorporated into each brand and property.
Much of what has made the hospitality industry so appealing to the traveling public for quite a few decades has been the promise of no surprises. A chain hotel offers its guests a standard in which they can count on finding when they arrive on-property. Many travelers find this standard comforting and reassuring. However, the trend in travel for the younger hotel guest often is to seek different experiences at each destination they travel to. Even if traveling for business, younger travelers are looking to experience local surroundings and taste the local flavors, however fleetingly.
Making a hotel guest experience unique to a specific locale begins with the property itself. Incorporating design elements, which are particular to the surroundings of the hotel property, makes a great starting point to offer guests the local experience they are expecting. Colors, fabrics, materials and textures can subtly convey a sense of place and culture without being overly conspicuous, for example. Architecture itself is more directly explicit, but must also be suitable within the context of branding. Brand identity must also be considered when bringing local artists and their works on-property, however nothing evokes a sense of place and culture more than artwork.
Hotel properties can make guests feel as if they are, to some degree at least, a product of their location rather than a piece cut from the corporate cloth. By doing so, hotels can more effectively endear themselves to the sensibilities of the 21st Century traveler. In part two we will look at how hoteliers can bring the local experience onto their hotel properties through the food and beverages they serve, services they provide, and partnerships they form with local businesses.