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5 ways a hotel can be more than a place to sleep

When designing hotels, it’s important to prioritize the customer experience by creating memorable moments

Stantec drew on local inspiration to create placemaking elements for this under-construction hotel in the center of Boulder, Colorado, creating an authentic experience for visitors and locals.

By Daniel Aizenman, Senior Principal (Boulder, Colorado)

In the hospitality industry, the juxtaposition of tradition and timelessness with trends and technology is required for success. New hospitality trends are emerging all the time, and the industry must respond to these trends without losing the fundamental components that make up the customer experience.

How do businesses in hospitality (and beyond) respond to trends without losing the timeless values that make them everlasting?

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Hotels in the current age strive to be more than just a place to spend the night. Guests expect them to be the doorway into the local community and a place to connect with a new destination in an authentic way. By turning an overnight stay into an experience, hotels are connecting with their customers in new and unexpected ways. For example, The Maven is one of Denver’s newest hotels, and it features more than 400 original art pieces created by Colorado artists. It also has an Airstream trailer in the lobby that serves breakfast and coffee. Not only are these elements that people remember, these are moments that encourage sharing with others through the art of story.

Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of experts and visionaries in the hospitality industry as part of Bisnow Denver’s Retail & Hospitality discussion. The panelists included a variety of perspectives, including an industry veteran who held leadership positions with Vail Resorts and Fairmont Hotels before being named CEO of Silverwest Hotel Partners, and a craft cocktail pioneer who opened his first cocktail-oriented speakeasy more than 10 years ago at the age of 24.

CitySet was designed as Denver’s first blended urban gastronomic village. It integrates popular dining options with comfortable and friendly lodging to create a new type of experience for guests and visitors.

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Over the course of the panel it became clear that there are plenty of recipes for success in creating memorable customer experiences. Ultimately it all tied back to one theme: creating places where people want to spend their time through memorable and unique experiential elements.

Here are five examples of these experiential elements:

1.     Creating analog moments in a digital world. We live in a fast-paced world, and it’s easy to forget to slow down and enjoy the moment. For this reason, hotels (and other businesses) must create reminders and opportunities for people to relax and indulge in the experience. How do they accomplish this? By paying attention to the details guests experience from the moment they walk in the door to the second their head hits the pillow.

2.     Face-to-face connection in the age of faceless technology. For years, technology has connected people. But has it pushed us to the point of disconnecting with each other? If you look around, it seems like most of us would rather stare at our screens than converse with the person sitting next to us, but this is not the case when interacting with a new place that we visit. People would much rather hear about hidden hot spots or the culture of a region from the locals that inhabit it instead of reading about it from their phone. Panelist Ryan Diggins of Gravitas Development spent months researching the best software for hotel check-in so that his staff can spend less time typing on the computer searching for the guest’s reservation and more time interacting with the guest face-to-face.

The grand entrance at the Hampton Inn & Suites helps to welcome visitors and establishes a sense of warmth and hospitality from the moment that guests arrive.

3.     Insta-Wow! In the age of social media, peer-to-peer marketing has become increasingly important to the success of any brand. Hotels want to encourage people to take pictures and tell stories of their experience to their friends. It is important to create “shareable” moments by establishing a sense of place, starting with the signature craft cocktail at the lobby bar all the way to the pattern of the floor tile in the guest’s bathroom.

4.     2041: A Place Odyssey. Perhaps one of the most important and challenging aspects of hospitality is thinking about how people will respond to the place 20 years in the future. While we’re all still searching for that mythical crystal ball that can show us what’s to come, hospitality brands use a combination of timelessness and adaptability to respond to advancements in the industry.

5.     Audience-specific spaces. It may seem backwards but establishing authenticity in the world of hospitality is about first knowing the audience. Once you know your target customer, it’s easier to create an experience that is true to them and their interests. Different types of hotels attract different audiences. Each must offer experiences that are genuine. A deluxe, all-inclusive resort will attract a different type of customer than a vacation rental found on Airbnb. Different types of hotels must offer different experiences, while still being authentic to the people who stay there.

Daniel Aizenman moderates the panel discussion during Bisnow Denver’s recent Retail & Hospitality discussion.

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While these trends are important, function is still vital. When a guest stays at a hotel, basic amenities like a comfortable bed and working WiFi should be inherent, but it’s elevating their experience that makes them want to stay again and again.

The panelists for the Bisnow event included:

  • Edward Mace, President & CEO, Silverwest Hotels
  • Keo Frazier, VP Marketing, McWHINNEY
  • Ryan Diggins, Partner, Gravitas Development Group
  • David Kaplan, Co-Founder, Death & Co. and Proprietors LLC

Related item: Daniel Aizenman named top young retail design professional

Daniel brings his creative vision to the visitor experience for resorts, retail, mixed-use development, healthcare facilities, sports and entertainment, urban districts, and corporate offices. He leads a multidisciplinary design staff of 30 with projects in more than 35 countries.

By turning an overnight stay into an experience, hotels are connecting with their customers in new and unexpected ways.

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