Creating Indigenous Experiential Design

By Ronald M. Lustig Design Architect/Principal, Earl Swensson Associates, Inc. (ESa) | June 08, 2014

For those who travel as much as I do, you have probably lived "Groundhog Day" more than once when you wake up in a hotel room and experience a moment of panic. The bed, desk and TV screen are placed in the same spots of the room as that of the last hotel you were in. Familiar bed covering patterning. Same upholstered chair. Same lamps. The art on the wall is generic for Anywhere USA as are the rest of the finishes throughout the room. "Where am I and which city am I in?"

If you are really desperate, you can always pick up your iphone and ask Siri, "Where am I?" or flip on the TV to catch the local news. There may be a local sightseeing guide on the desk. Without the electronic help and subtle clues, your guess is as good as mine. You could be on the West Coast or East Coast. Nothing in the room immediately provides a visual reading of the city or region.

Renowned writer, poet and playwright Gertrude Stein once said when referring to Oakland, where she grew up, "…there is no there there." This succinct summation can also apply to hotels, chain and otherwise. When there is no distinguishing sense of place to set a lodging venue apart from those in other parts of the country, the guest experiences are not particularly memorable or positive. Quite simply, there is no there there. Sure, the groundhog-day similarities of a popular chain may reinforce the consistencies that one can depend upon of a brand, no matter the locale. But wouldn't the lodging experience be enhanced and more memorable as a place to which you would like to return if it became a seamless extension of its location instead of a time/place-warp product with more commonalities than unique attributes?

Include the Senses

When creating a destination venue, catering to the senses is essential. Many chain, boutique and other types of hotels are already utilizing this approach.

  • Visual – The interior environment should be pleasantly, not overly, stimulating, and, at the same time, relaxing. The design of spaces for intuitive wayfinding, the use of colors, textures with mixtures of materials and views to the out-of-doors help transition the traveler to check-in, locating needed services and in finding the assigned guestroom. Such amenities as a fireplace and comfortable seating arrangements project welcoming warmth in a lobby.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.