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Unless you’re at an airport hotel, a clean bed and warm shower aren’t enough to attract guests anymore. Travelers today are looking to form deeper, more emotional connections to the destinations they visit, and lodging becomes an integral part of that experience.
While sites like Airbnb let travelers literally live like a local, hotel brands both large and small are integrating elements of the local culture into their offerings. For example, 21 Museum Hotels adorns its walls with local art and Ace Hotel offers local Portland roasters Stumptown Coffee in many of its properties.
Provenance Hotels is looking to bring the Portland experience directly to its guests in another way.
By teaming with local vendors from ice-cream shops to bee hive specialists, Provenance tells a story about the locals and thriving businesses in its Seattle, Portland, and Nashville properties by placing products directly in the room, as well as restaurants and bars.
“We strive to tell a story throughout the hotel experience,” says Kate Buska, Provenance’s director of public relations. “It’s not just a bed and a cool design. Guests get a sense of the location.”
Provenance also designs each hotel around a certain theme and element of the location’s history and culture. For example, Hotel Max has an entire floor dedicated to Seattle’s indie record label Sub Pop, credited with discovering Nirvana, in honor of the city’s grunge past.
Marketing via Experience
Finding and forming relationships with local vendors is a collaborative effort.
Although Buska says it is usually marketing and social executives in the field who find new vendors, both of the business owners we talked to had personal interactions with the CEO and on-site chef that led to their products’ integration in the hotels.
Steve Smith, founder of Smith Tea and previous owner of Tazo Tea, explains how he left a sample at the hotel’s front desk. He never heard back, but some time later Provenance CEO Gordon Sondland stopped by his Portland shop after tasting the tea at the nearby Allison Inn & Spa.
Smith was upfront about the higher cost of his tea and how much more of it the hotel would need to satisfy guests.
“It’s going to cost a hotel twice as much as generic tea and the hotel will go through triple the amount that it does now,” Smith says. “That’s worth it when it adds to the experience.”
Provenance now features the tea in 527 rooms throughout Portland.
Buska points out that Provenance actually saves money by using Smith Tea.
“It’s produced locally so there’s minimal shipping costs. Plus, we’d be using a premium tea product, not something generic, so the cost is comparable,” she says.
Smith Tea also has partnerships in place with other hotels including Trump and Ritz-Carlton properties in Florida. These high-profile placements serve as the intimate tea company’s only form of marketing — one that it finds more substantial that traditional advertising despite the difficulty in quantifying the exact return.
The hotel also approached Damian Magista, founder of Bee Local.
Chef Vitaly Paley approached Damian two years ago while working on the menu for the Imperial Restaurant at Hotel Lucia. Paley was excited by the prospect of integrating local products into his dishes, but it wasn’t until last year that the timing was right to put Bee Local’s hives directly on the hotel’s roof.
Bee Local makes more money through the hotel’s honey purchase for the restaurant and bar than the small jars available in the honor bars; however, Magista says its placement in the rooms helps raise awareness for its products as well as aiding in a greater mission — educating consumers about the bees, pollination, and the environment.