Let’s face it, the word authentic has been thrown more around cuisines than anything else but it has moved past the phrase “is this Chinese food authentic?” and has made a sharp right to become the buzzword for the hospitality industry. Why is it that all of a sudden guests are demanding authentic experiences? It’s that thing…you know… that changed the game and drives everything nowadays, SOCIAL MEDIA! Yes, thanks to social media we have all this access into other people’s experiences which make us want our own “Eat, Pray, Love” experience and want to share our story through things like “My Story” on Snapchat. People are heavily influenced by social proof, and hotels are taking advantage of this by creating social hotpots encouraging guests to upload photos at certain spots which highlight the uniqueness of the property. But are guests only craving authentic experiences just so they can share their “Into the Wild” type stories on social media? Take a look at the competitors such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Trivago, Expedia. These companies are giving guests control over their own adventures and its proof that guests really are looking for a one-of-kind experience.
With all these strategies floating around to make your hotel less cookie cutter and more exotic, Marigold Hotel-esque, how do you know which strategies are keepers? We have gone through and found five strategies that we feel should be incorporated into your hotel to have a more genuine feel.
- Authentic guest interactions- Communication is key and if you’re just responding to get the job done rather than actually listening to the guest, are you actually satisfying the customer’s needs? According to Mitch Patel, President & CEO of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Vision Hospitality Group “It’s very important to understand we’re not in the real-estate business,” he said. “We’re in the people-service business. That’s a differentiator between other businesses (such as Airbnb).” So skip the script and talk to them - have an engaging conversation. Just simply talking to guests helps you meet their needs by listening to them and responding. As an employee, empower yourself with ensuring that your guest has enjoyed their stay. And stay away from those string of clichés that sound robotic and predictable.
2. Technology- It always comes back to technology doesn’t it? It’s time to let the guests have a whirl with the back end operations. According to Hoteliers Embrace the Age of Hoteliers, the technology aspect is an integral piece of the authenticity puzzle too. For example, Hilton’s digital check-in process allows the guests to choose their own room with the brand’s app, that’s decision making power that only the front desk had and now that control is being passed on to guests like a spirit stick. Allowing guests to pick and choose parts of their stay through ONLY the hotels app is good way to remember that “this hotel gave me what I wanted” - now that’s authentic.
3. Neighborhood- Location! Location! Location! This has been the mantra for hospitality but it should be: Neighborhood! Neighborhood! Neighborhood! “Guests want to stay in a hotel that’s connected to the neighborhood, connected to the locale,” said Cole, HVMG’s president and COO. Integrate with your local community. Go off the beaten path! Everyone visits the Statue of Liberty, but what does your neighborhood offer that no other place does? Partner up with the local tour guides and create packages for unique experiences around your area. This way, you as a hotel are giving your guests exposure that they would not have experienced otherwise.
4. Hire Locally- You’re trying to set a tone for your hotel and the type of culture you indulge your hotel in is what makes it authentic. According to Mitch Patel “Culture trumps strategy”. You want to hire a staff that can help guests experience the local culture in the best way. They can name sites at the drop of a hat, that you wouldn’t be able to find yourself or they can name that hole in the wall restaurant that only locals really know about.
5. Homegrown Food- Organic this and organic that…it’s everywhere! But it’s so good for you too. Hotels growing their own food lessens the amount of food being wasted, saves money, reduces hunger and greenhouse gas emissions linked with farming and transport. According to the article How the Travel Industry Can Thrive Through Authenticity, sustainable travel is a growing trend, and hotel chains that make good on their promises of operating ethically inspire trust from their guests.
In order for hotels to thrive, they must continuously to seek ways to improve the guest experience. Social media has played a big part in opening the door for people to see more one-of-kind experiences and to want it for themselves, And to be able to give guests that authentic experience is not only good for guests but it’s also good for business.