What do guests want from a modern city hotel?
To keep up with modern trends and preferences, hotels must identify new ways to keep guests checking in year after year
If you flip through your grandparents’ old photo albums, you’ll notice that their vacation pictures look very different to yours.
While they may have captured the moment they sat down for a themed dinner in a hotel restaurant, your snapshots are more likely to show off your best food truck finds.
It’s just one of the many ways that travel and tourism have changed in recent decades. To keep up with those modern trends and preferences, hotels must identify new ways to keep guests checking in year after year.
“What guests want during their hotel stay is constantly evolving,” notes Geraldine Guichardo, Head of Americas Research with JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group. “A robust loyalty program and spacious guest rooms were once top of mind for consumers. Now, they crave more bespoke experiences influenced by local culture.”
Hotels that already benefit from a great location and good transport links in small and large cities have to think more creatively when it comes to giving guests things they can’t get from another hotel. And it goes way beyond offering multiple charging sockets and fast, reliable Wi-Fi to upload all those holiday pictures onto social media before you fly home.
Travel nowadays is all about the experience. Consumers want to immerse themselves in other cultures and live like locals when they visit new destinations. Modern hotels embody the best parts of their city in everything from design to food and beverage offerings.
Take Nashville’s Urban Cowboy hotel for example. Comprised of eight experiential suites in a Victorian mansion, the hotel offers communal gathering spaces for whiskey connoisseurs and budding musicians alike. Located in between farm-to-table restaurants and plenty of live music options, the hotel allows guests to experience the best of the country music capital whether they’re on the property or exploring the neighbourhood.
Appealing to specific interests is another selling point for consumers. Hotels are creating experiences that attract groups of people that share a specific interest — foodies, art lovers, and even fitness fanatics can book a room at a hotel that feels like it was built just for them.
For food-focused guests, the Zero George hotel in Charleston, South Carolina offers cooking classes with local chefs. Guests can treat themselves to gourmet cuisine and learn how to cook a new meal without even leaving the hotel. Health-conscious guests at the Thompson Seattle can do yoga on the hotel’s rooftop lounge while enjoying breathtaking views of the city.
Why stay in a run-of the-mill hotel that can easily be replicated in any city, when you could stay in unique spaces that come with an equally unique history.
Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery in New Orleans is located in a former a coffee warehouse turned general wholesale business that sold goods to ships preparing for long voyages. Today, the hotel’s lobby features exposed brick and painted signage from the property’s days as a bustling warehouse.
“Many travellers, especially younger generations, vacation with social media at top of mind. They want to capture interesting photos of beautiful spaces and then share those photos with their friends and family,” explains Guichardo. “Hotels in unique spaces encourage this organic sharing, which provides them additional brand exposure via user-generated content.”
It’s a design style that many other hotels across the U.S. have used to great effect. Take, 21c Oklahoma City, which took over the former home of a Ford Motor Company assembly plant and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In a nod to the building’s industrial heritage, the hotel designer kept many historical features — think large steel windows, high ceilings and open spaces.
With today’s travelers increasingly keen to support sustainable and socially responsible projects, more hotels are aligning themselves with non-profit organizations and philanthropic causes from choosing suppliers with high ethical standards to fundraising for their chosen charities. Hilton, for example, lets HHonors reward members donate their loyalty points to a number of different charities, and they match each donation with a cash contribution of their own. Research shows that younger consumers are more likely to buy products and services from brands that contribute to charity and are more likely to recommend those businesses to a friend.
Moreover, many hotels across the U.S. are now directly working with charities to build better relationships in their communities whether running training schemes for local teenagers from impoverished communities or donating unused food from hotel kitchens to local homeless shelters or food banks.. Others opt to support local causes; The Chatwal, New York City has partnered with Children of Promise, a New York-based charity that helps children with incarcerated parents by providing academic support, recreational activities and one-on-one mentoring.
There’s no standard checklist for meeting all the criteria for being a modern city hotel. However, those that get it right have one big thing in common; they all offer guests something different, whether it’s a cultural experience or a unique place to rest their head at night. Their strategy is working — each hotel was featured on Travel + Leisure’s list of top city hotels in the U.S.
“Hotels that embrace their local culture and offer guests memorable experiences are carving a unique space for themselves and garnering lifelong customers,” says Guichardo. “As travel habits change over time, hotels that adapt to the modern consumer will be poised for long-term success.”