In today’s world, where travelers are willing to invest in whatever is remarkably authentic and local, boutique hotels are coming out on top.
Comfortable tried-and-true hotel experiences offered by the world’s largest brands aren’t as appealing as they once were. Nor is their generic décor (meant to appease all tastes), predictable amenities, or restaurant menu of American “favorites.” In fact, those familiar big brand experiences are now seen as mundane, and travelers (including business and “bleisure” travelers) are more than eager to break out of the boring.
Travelers want to be immersed in the destination. They want to do, see, savor and explore everything that makes your region amazing, unique and unlike anything they’ve ever experienced. This is what makes their travels meaningful, memorable and worth bragging about.
Now’s the time to get creative and get bold in how you connect your guests to your destination. Here are some of our suggestions to transform your hotel into a genuine destination experience focused on the people, food, and local culture that define your region:
1. Gather All the Local and Cool Experiences In One Place
Authentic experiences usually fall in these major categories:
- Interacting and tasting the local food and drink, including farmer’s market visits, tastings, restaurant tours and cooking classes with local chefs.
- One-on-one, personal interactions with local residents.
- Visits to off-the-beaten path places or activities that usually only locals know about, instead of overcrowded and already-famous tourist attractions.
Take stock of all the offerings in your region, including those who you can partner with for experiential packages and promotions, such as a family-run vineyard or a mom-and-pop-owned niche tour company.
Promote these local experiences on your hotel website, instead of the major attractions that are already heavily advertised by every other hotel in your city. Write blog posts about each one, tout them on social media and educate your staff (not just the concierge team) about these. Stop over-promoting your property and start celebrating your destination.
2. Go Hyper Local: Focus on Small Amazing Moments Nearby
Whatever neighborhood your hotel is located in, own it. Too often we see hotel staff recommending whatever is the well-worn path and least likely to offer a bad experience – even if it requires a cab ride – instead of suggesting something within walking distance. We can see the virtue in only telling your guests about what’s most stable, but today’s travelers are bolder and more willing to get out there for the sake of adventure.
So, if a guest asks for a recommendation on where to grab some coffee, don’t simply usher them to Starbucks. Instead, point out your favorite locally owned coffee shop that serves your favorite concoction. Instead of suggesting the tried-and-true restaurant that offers commissions to your concierges, give guests the names of a couple hole-in-the-wall eateries that the locals swear by.
3. Invite Locals and Guests to Mix and Mingle
Don’t fret if your hotel doesn’t offer crystal chandeliers, premium Egyptian cotton sheets or custom-built furniture. A majority of today’s travelers look past these frills for something more appealing – community building. Guests want to feel as if they’re part of the local community and landscape.
Some visionary boutique brands have already started capitalizing on this by turning their lobbies into gathering spaces for locals and guests alike, such as the Ace Portland and Ace New York. Instead of leaving their lobby simply as a place to pass through, they created opportunities for co-working via large community tables and lounge-like spaces for people to hang out for drawn-out discussions. Plus, they hold events that are open both to guests and the public. Other brands have created rooftop bars that locals flock to or playrooms, such as Hotel Zetta’s in San Francisco, where locals and guests can get together to play larger-than-life Plinko or Nintendo Wii.
4. Get Real About “Personal Service”
The term “personal service” used to be an overused cliché that hotels and every other customer-driven business would throw around, but not really commit to. Guests want a personal connection to your hotel, not just an empty suggestion to “ask anyone at the front desk and they should be able to help you!” Prior to visits, consider new marketing automation and hotel CRM tools that reach out to each guest via email, signed by an actual member of your staff with a direct email/telephone number to contact them in case of any questions.
Similar new tech tools enable you to text guests after check-in to make sure everything is okay and remind guests that they can text any requests personally to them at any time. Have staff update guest profiles as much as they can with personal preferences they catch on to. Greet guests by their first names (Mr. and Mrs. is much too formal, and sounds awkward and stiff). Remember, to your guests, YOU are the local, so make them feel like treasured friends with every opportunity.