Skift Take

Hotel Indigo's interactive Neighborhood Guys won't point you toward the Empire State Building or Radio City Music Hall, but may direct you to Blue Smoke Jazz Standard for "urban barbecue where live music lives." For a hotel brand that prides itself on local, and digging roots in the neighborhood, this is a very nice touch.

Hotel Indigo is installing 42-inch HP plasma TV in the lobbies of all its properties in North America, but don’t expect guests to be gathering around the screens to catch the latest basketball telecast or Girls episode.

No, Hotel Indigo, in keeping with the sensibilities of its tech-savvy and arts-oriented clientele, as well as its own penchant to dig into the local scene, has angled these TVs vertically and turned them into interactive touch screens filled with maps, directions and staff recommendations on the best things to See, Taste and Hear in the immediate environs.

“The reason our guests stay with us is they want to be able to explore the local neighborhood,” says Mary Winslow, Hotel Indigo’s director of brand management. “You want to find the real local haunts.”

Hotel Indigo calls these touch screens Neighborhood Guides, and each revolves a neighborhood story. [For a closer look at the Neighborhood Guides take a look at the gallery above.]

I stopped by the Hotel Indigo New York City РChelsea on a Friday afternoon, and found the Neighborhood Guide in a corner of the ground floor lobby. There were only a couple of staff members and an occasional guest in the lobby, and there was no wait time to use the screen.

In a Q&A interview in the Neighborhood Guide, the property’s general manager makes reference to the hotel’s location.

“Being in the flower district make you the best-smelling street in New York by far,” the general manager says.

Asked if the hotel’s art work would have been giant sides of meat had the hotel been locating in the city’s meatpacking district, the general manager says:

“I am really glad we don’t have to worry about that one.”

Winslow says “everything in the hotel is wrapped around the neighborhood story,” which actually became the impetus to creating the Neighborhood Guide touch screens.

Meanwhile, the hotel staff from the New York City – Chelsea property recommends that guests See the Museum at FIT;¬†Taste Raymi, a Peruvian restaurant and Pisco bar; and Hear the tunes at Blue Smoke Jazz Standard, which describes itself as “urban barbecue where live music lives.”

You can then just tap to get a map of the venue and the distance from the hotel, and can send the information to your mobile device by scanning a QR code or via email.

Among the popular elements of the Neighborhood Guides are the fact that guests can upload photos, and there’s a camera to take a seeming gigantic selfie, and you can then post it on Facebook, and make comments in a status update.

The Neighborhood Guide grew out of a 2012 pilot program at Hotel Indigo properties in Atlanta-Midtown, San Diego and Chicago.

The hotel, which is part of InterContinental Hotels Group, says the Neighborhood Guide is now available at Hotel Indigo properties across the Americas, and will be introduced to properties in Mexico and Latin American this spring.

Most information in the Neighborhood Guides can also be view on the chain’s mobile website.

Among the Neighborhood Guide metrics so far, guests have taken more than 12,000 photos, and there have been 250,000 guest interactions with the large touch screen devices.

So have the Neighborhood Guides put Hotel Indigo’s concierges out of business?

No, because Hotel Indigo never had them.

“All of our team members are really hosts of the neighborhood,” Winslow says. “The Neighborhood Guide has become another team member, or a virtual concierge.”

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Tags: local, social media, technology

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