Today’s travelers aren’t interested in cookie-cutter hotels. When they’re on the road, they want to feel like they are truly in a destination. Whether or not a hotel must adhere to brand standards or a certain budget, there are plenty of ways to bring a bit of the community into the space. Here are a few examples of what different hotels, both branded and independent, have been doing to make sure guests get a true sense of place.
The Living Stage
Red Lion Hotels’ upscale boutique brand Hotel RL has a dedicated platform for local artists. The “Living Stage” hosts a wide range of performances and interactive activities – from public speakers to musical performances to hands-on demonstrations. In March alone, Hotel Rl Baltimore Inner Harbor hosted a painting event with local visual artist Kris Diggs, Hotel RL Spokane at the Park hosted local writer Kate Poitevin, and the Olyimprov team performed at the Hotel RL Olympia. Because there’s always something different on any given day, guests and locals alike can come back and see something new and interesting.
Classes are a great way for guests to learn more about the area, especially if many of them are international. On Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, the wellness-focused Chablé Resort & Spa hosts classes on Mayan cuisine where participants make their own tortillas from fresh corn as well as peel and roast local chilies to make salsas. The resort’s Temazcal Ceremony recreates the traditional Mesoamerican version of a sweat lodge, part of a curative ceremony thought to purify the body after exertion, to heal the sick, and improve general health. The ceremony is guided by a local shaman.
Rooms for Writers
In Miami, The Betsy-South Beach emphasizes arts and culture in its programing, displaying work from local and global artists, hosting musicians, and bringing in thought leaders to talk about their expertise with guests. Thanks to a dedicated “Writers’ Room” that offers residencies to up-and-coming wordsmiths, the hotel also hosts poetry readings and meet-and-greets with the writers.
In Nashville, guests can get a taste of the city’s powerful music scene in the Hutton Hotel’s two “Writers’ Rooms,” where guests can play custom Martin guitars in the vocal booth. Artist-selected custom Gibson guitars and an antique writer’s desk invite guests to compose their own songs and write their own lyrics. Each room has modern and retro-style gear ranging from premium tube amps to handcrafted microphones. A “Pic Jar” encourages guest artists to snap a photo and leave it behind for the next aspiring musician to find.
Technology is making it easier for hotels to display local artwork. San Francisco-based Daylighted partners with artists, galleries, museums, and other associations to bring artwork to large and small screens alike, anywhere in the world. Hotels can display a curated collection of work from local and global artists on large screens in public spaces or in guestrooms, rotating the images as needed. Best of all, guests can easily purchase any pieces that they like with a few clicks. Daylighted has curated artwork for Marriott, Sofitel, and Hyatt properties, among others.
There are also low-tech ways for hotels to promote local artists. The upcoming boutique Sophy Hyde Park in Chicago has partnered with Hyde Park Academy High School to install an exterior mural as an outdoor art gallery in front of the under-construction building. The mural will serve as a fixed exhibition wall that will remain on view throughout the construction phase, displaying 60 original works of art by the young art students.
What You Can Do
While not every hotel can have a full theater or be attached to a museum, these examples can help any property give its guests a taste of local flavor. A hotel lobby can easily become an art gallery for local talent (contact nearby art schools to see what’s available nearby), and rotating artwork makes sure that repeat guests always have something new to see. A digital display can be an eye-catching way to show off the work of numerous artists at once, and to help connect the artists with potential buyers.
Even hotels with small footprints can host musical acts for guests and locals. Lobbies (and lobby bars) are a perfect venue for area musicians to entertain guests while they socialize in the evening. In good weather, set up a space outside and encourage guests to linger by a fire pit and listen to the music (and, of course, order a few drinks). The bands will value the opportunity to build up a fan base, the guests will appreciate the music, and everyone will leave happy. Best of all, the guests will have had an experience that they could not have had anywhere else.