A revolution for hotels & hospitality: How to be one-of-a-kind
What could be more fun than staying at an amazing hotel? We exchange our homes for these unseen places, seeking sanctuary and new experiences, the chance to be transported from the sameness of our daily lives. The best hotels are unforgettable destinations that immerse us in everything we don’t have back home.
Back when I was touring as a dancer, I had the opportunity to be a guest at hotels all around the world. They became my own oasis, places of inspiration, culture and memorabilia. Later on, one of my first big projects as a director was to conceptualize live entertainment and all experiences for Iberostar and their newly acquired brand of hotels on three Greek islands. Dream job! Since then, I have continued to travel, frequenting countless escapes on all continents as I created more shows, curated artistic programs and exhibitions and consulted for the hotel and hospitality industry.
Drawing from my vast well of first-hand immersion, I’ve provided ideas on everything from interior design, decor, art, entertainment, food & beverages to multi-sensory experiences and cool innovations that defied any existing department or category (which we have since come to call momentscaping).
Perhaps the only thing I enjoy more than staying at an extraordinary hotel is being part of the team that designs one. Below is my take on the future of travel hospitality, and the transformation needed now to stay memorable amidst unprecedented competition.
What makes a hotel legendary?
Is it the history, culture or scenery that surrounds a place? The inviting rooms and standout spaces within? Exciting cuisine and vibrant nightlife? Or is it the small luxuries, stellar service, personal touches that make you feel like royalty?
Becoming iconic requires an alchemy of all of the above touchpoints, and more. Laddering up to a vibe, an overall feel. And I cannot stress this enough: Prioritizing how design, amenities and attractions make your guests feel must always be the end goal.
The biggest problem is that most hotels are not bad – they are good enough – but they are forgettable, without any moments that set them apart. Good hotels are the polar opposite of extraordinary hotels whose charisma stays embedded in your memory.
You cannot compete with an iconic hotel by copying them. Nor is it enough to copy your own signature touches from one property to the next. The departments of standardization that developed in the early 1980’s to ensure brand quality and consistency have their merits, of course, but a resulting by-product has been uniformity at the expense of individuality.
When a resort in France feels the same as a resort in Greece, all we remember is the ubiquity. Now more than ever, there is an opportunity to dramatically differentiate your brand by thinking local, rethinking the distinct strengths and authenticity of each place and space, counteracting corporate monotony with creativity and culture.
Forget being forgettable and focus on forging that which is one-of-a-kind.
Invest in emotion & experiences
All the data shows that travellers are trending toward experiences over materialism, most notably Millennials and Gen Z. Guests want unique environments and memorable moments – and they’re willing to pay more for them.
This presents a huge opportunity for hotel and hospitality trendsetters who invest in experiences that appeal to human emotions. ‘Wow’ moments are the new amenity, and they can be infused in ways big and small. Yes, people are moved by wildly original aesthetics, cultural immersion, lobbies that house landmarks, culinary adventure, original entertainment. But we also remember those extra touches and tiniest details, from personalized services to thoughtfully executed lighting, music, scents. Go back to beautiful, timeless rituals: real coffee cups at the lobby coffee bar, the newspaper delivered to guests’ door, staff that greet everyone by name.
All of these ingredients add impact, layering together to create a vibe, the “it” factor that sparks emotional engagement, place attachment and brand obsession. Orchestrate each element and space within your hotel so that your visitors feel with all senses and walk away wowed. You’ve done your job if they are reluctant to leave.
Connect everything and everyone
Connection is more than just a buzzword for the twenty-first century. It’s the way forward for brands that want to create extraordinary impact, and a crucial strategy for the hotel and hospitality sector.
At home we are isolated, our surroundings, monotonous. We venture beyond our four walls to be engaged in the greater world, to see, feel and share something new – and in Post Covid times, these cravings are stronger than ever. Hotel innovators are quickly evolving to capitalize on this trend.
Properties must take a community-integrated approach, becoming cultural meccas and “social hubs” where hotel guests and locals alike can sleep, eat, meet other people, attend live events and otherwise gather, all while being immersed in the authenticity of that locale. The most memorable experiences are the ones that are shared, even when we are “alone together,” sharing them with strangers.
Focus on creating an inviting and open environment inside and throughout your property – that’s step one to fostering connection among guests as well as between guests and the hotel itself. Many of the hotels I consulted for had forgotten or unused spaces, they didn’t even realize the opportunities within, how they could transform rooftops, gardens and streets to be something welcoming and completely unique. And of course, the lobby is the heart of your hotel. Make it beat with life!
Think social – the new “togetherness” – reinventing your public areas to be flexible, multi-purpose communal spaces. Offer guests places to co-work, host events, hang out, chill, grab a drink and a bite. Build landmarks, provide libraries, wellness areas, attractions, art, consistent social opportunities and unexpected entertainment they can’t find anywhere else.
Another overlooked but integral piece to elevating the hotel experience is connecting every department. To be extraordinary, room design, Operations, Front Office, Food & Beverage, Housekeeping, Events & Entertainment, Reservations & Marketing, even Information Technology all must be aligned with your brand essence, consistent with the culture you’re creating. Everyone on the team should care about the culture within the hotel. The culture is everything! Standalone wonders are wonderful, but if they don’t fit with the overall theme of the hotel, it’s a missed opportunity to connect your guests to your brand and inspire loyalty.
Being one-of-a-kind means exactly that. All parts synchronized as ONE, with a unique kind of character all your own. That can only happen when every touchpoint, element and entity is aesthetically and experientially aligned. And when it does happen, staying at that hotel is magic.
In my next newsletter, I share design-forward ideas for how to be the cool hotel of today… and tomorrow!
Creative Revolutionary / Aesthetic Innovator
Renaissance of Cool
Toronto – New York – London – Milano – Worldwide