If there’s one buzzword for the hospitality industry this year, it’s “connectivity.” Hoteliers are helping travelers feel more connected than ever to their destination, from food and beverage programming to design to the brand itself.
Here are three ways hoteliers can give their guests a truly special and authentic experience in the coming year, and beyond.
Fresh & Beautiful F&B Hotel restaurant and bars have long since evolved from the bland watering holes of yore. Today, they are gathering spots for the whole community, where guests can meet one another and locals alike, forging new friendships and memories.
Programming in the restaurants and bars can go a long way toward fostering those connections. Last year, Marriott’s Four Points brand kicked off its “Best Brews Around the World” program, which presents a local craft beer at each property. The beer is selected based on taste, popularity, quality, and proximity to the hotel, giving guests a taste of the destination that they might not be able to find anywhere else.
An exclusive offering can be just as appealing as a local one. Earlier this year, Halekulani, an independent hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii, launched its Legacy Collection of Spirits developed exclusively for the hotel by France’s Delamain Cognac and Kentucky’s Heaven Hill Bourbon. While cognac and bourbon are certainly not native to Hawaii, the chance to sample beverages not available anywhere else can attract a wider range of guests to the bar.
Connected Design If guests are going to share the story of their trip on social media, they’ll need to be able to charge their phones wherever they are, and designers are finding lots of ways to add outlets and USB ports without affecting the aesthetic of a space. For example, Gjemeni’s mid-century-modern-inspired couch has four USB ports and two 110-volt sockets as part of the furniture, making it easy for guests to charge up while they socialize.
At the latest BDNY conference, Samuelson Furniture introduced the Smart chair, a traditional-looking armchair (think antique leather and high-back wings) with a charging port hidden on the inside of the arm. The chair is also bluetooth-enabled that transmits sound using directional sound resonation rather than a conventional speaker system, so guests can listen privately to music without headphones.
Legrand, a specialist in electrical and digital-building infrastructure, recently launched table umbrellas with solar panels on top and USB ports at the base. These devices let guests recharge their phones while relaxing outside — and, since the units are solar-powered, hotels do not need to install additional wiring to hook them up.
Of course, while technology may make it easier than ever for guests to connect with the destination when they travel, one-to-one connectivity is still the best kind. A hotel with plenty of sofas and chairs in its lobby can help forge new friendships among guests and locals alike.
The Growth of Soft Brands By their very nature, it’s easier for an independent hotel to stay authentic and to reap all the benefits of those buzzwords. On the other hand, corporate brands offer powerful support that make a hotelier’s life much easier.
Soft brands are a happy medium, offering the support of a powerful corporation but much of the freedom of an independent. Nearly every major hotel company has them now, representing everything from luxury (such as Marriott’s aptly named Luxury Collection) on down (like Red Roof’s Red Collection, which focuses on the upscale-economy to midscale). Soft-branded hotels are gaining ground in a wide range of destinations, from beaches to city centers, making it easy for guests to have an authentic, local experience wherever they go.
By joining a soft brand, an independent hotel can get all the support it needs back-of-house, including participating in the company’s rewards program, managing billing and expenses, and achieving higher rankings in search engines. At the same time, the hotel must live up to certain standards in order to maintain the relationship, so incoming guests will know that while their accommodation will not look like any other, it will still be something that suits their tastes.
The soft brand relationship with a major hotel company is much less restrictive than a traditional franchise deal, and the fees the brand receives are much lower than what a franchisee pays. The growth of these soft brands across the spectrum is a good sign of their appeal for travelers and hoteliers alike.
Guests want to feel connected to their destination, and a hotel that provides an “only here” experience can count on repeat visits. Personalized and local experiences combined with a sense that the hotel actually cares about their well-being will keep them coming back and generate positive word of mouth.
How are you partnering with local businesses to create special experiences? How are you helping your guests stay connected? And what do you think are some other trends we’ll see in 2019?