Lights, Camera, Local: Designing a More Authentic Experience
Many hotels have become known for providing guests with a standardized experience, regardless of the location. In today’s travel industry, it’s no longer enough to provide comfort, service and convenience. Travelers want to experience their destination “like a local,” as evidenced in part by the overwhelming popularity of Airbnb. Travelers want to feel immersed in the fabric of the local culture. They want to enjoy the entertainment, attractions, food and art in ways that help them forget they are only visiting.
It’s a challenge that the hospitality industry needs to confront: How can we provide a more authentic local experience within the hotel or resort property? We see some hoteliers attempt to solve this problem by hanging photography of local landmarks or adding a signature local dish to the restaurant menu. Yet these techniques only scratch the surface and unintentionally miss the real opportunity for success.
Consider approaching the design of a new hotel property or brand as if you were producing a movie. Like hotels, great films have the power to transport people to a different place. Every detail plays a part – the music, art, staff, materials and colors. The guest is the star of the hotel and the designer is the director, who is responsible for pulling these elements together in a way that exudes authenticity.
Achieving a heightened local experience in such an all-encompassing way sometimes requires a shift in business processes. For example, the research phase is an important step that should not be overlooked. Developing an understanding of the local area and potential contributors is key to getting it right. Decision makers should build this step into the timeline; the insights can help inform decisions that are made later in the creative process.
Thinking more strategically about certain amenities and retail partners can be helpful in hitting the local mark. For example, consider providing services or experiences that are bound to attract the area residents. In doing so, you’ll be creating an organic local experience right on the hotel property where locals and guests converge. We did this recently with The Lone Palm Bar at the Hollywood Beach Resort in Florida. The bar is designed to serve the public strolling down the famed Hollywood Broadwalk, as well as the resort guests who access it from the Pool Deck.
What’s more, when seeking a retail partner, always go with a local company. Partnership with a homegrown coffee roaster, artists or chef, for example, helps demonstrate that a brand is in touch with the community.
Figuring out how to give guests a more local experience is crucial to our clients in the hospitality industry, so we continue to develop ways to get closer to the solution.