As hotels have increasingly realized travelers are seeking destination-specific experiences, major brands in the industry will continue to play up the local angle to their offerings, which could be an enormous boon for their bottom lines.
Skift Research reported in 2013 that the role of hotels had evolved along with a booming interest in experiential travel. A growing number of hotels were promoting themselves as a travel experience instead of simply a place to sleep.
The “Rise of Local in Hospitality” report examined how hotels were partnering with popular businesses to establish a deeper relationship with communities. In addition, hotels were organizing more special events on and off their properties.
Here are some of the ways hotels are using local themes today to appeal to travelers.
Emphasizing Culture Through Art
Featuring local artists is one key way. “(Hotel art) can be an essential way to celebrate what is going on locally, especially for travelers, who get an entry point into what’s happening locally,” said Mia Nielsen, the art curator at The Drake in Toronto, in an August 2018 Skift article. “There are real opportunities to build audiences at a local level through art.”
The Hotel Dryce, in Fort Worth, Texas, is using art to give a platform to overlooked communities. It displays artwork featuring Black and Hispanic ranch hands, two groups that represent more than a quarter of U.S. cowboys.
“I’m looking for opportunities to build voices for those who haven’t always had them,” Hotel Dryce co-owner Jonathan Morris said in a June 2022 Skift article.
“Historically in Fort Worth, I don’t think people of color — people like me — have always been represented or felt included or welcome. I want to be a space for those people.”
The Kimpton EPIC Hotel in Miami has gone even further, launching an artist-in-residency program that showcases works and is open to the public. Each exhibitor commits to a platform linked to diversity and inclusion.
General Manager Ericka Nelson said the hotel — as well as Kimpton’s other Miami properties — has launched similar campaigns with local artists and musicians for other occasions, including Black Music Month in June, in partnership with the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
How does Kimpton select the artists and musicians?
“We want to make sure that they represent diversity,” Nelson said. “Then when we’re looking at artwork, we want to see what matches the design of our properties and see what engages best with those personalities. And we match them up with whichever property seems to make the most sense and the local community that’s surrounding each one of those properties.”
It’s tough to measure the impact on the business, but Nelson sees the benefit: “People in our communities like knowing that we’re supporting local.”
Hotels Emphasizing Local Food to Attract Guests
Skift highlighted Kenya as a destination where hotels are increasingly promoting the opportunity to eat local food at their restaurants, with hotel food and beverage becoming a more important consideration for travelers.
“Food … boosts revenue as every guest (is interested in trying) the local cuisine,” said Shivram Gangadharan, the general manager of the Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence, Nairobi Arboretum, in a August 2022 Skift article.
“By preparing and presenting the local cuisine in line with the latest cooking techniques, we have seen lots of guests come in because of that.”
Meanwhile, more than 20 Hawaii-based hotels and restaurants have signed the O’ahu Good Food Pledge, a commitment to collaborate with local farmers and use more locally-sourced food. Roughly 85 percent of all food consumed in the state is imported.
Guillaume Maman, Honolulu’s regenerative tourism manager, said the city’s hotels are enthusiastic about using more locally sourced food, which they believe is a win for both visitors and local residents. A survey by the University of Hawaii’s School of Tourism Industry Management revealed that visitors from the continental U.S. are willing to paying more for local foods while vacationing in the Aloha State.
Appealing to Local Communities as Expansion Strategy
Standard International, the company behind The Standard Hotels and The Peri Hotel, has launched an international expansion in recent years, with new properties in Ibiza and Bangkok. But Standard International hasn’t been simply looking to attract guests from overseas — it wants to be a focal point of the destinations.
“We’re not going to take our brand and say, ‘You’re just going to love this New York or California version of Standard,’” CEO Amber Asher said at Skift’s Future of Lodging Forum in May 2022. She said the company extensively searched Ibiza to find local DJs prior to opening a property on the island.
“We get in with local designers, chefs, musicians. We moved people to different places to be part of the community.”
Roseate Hotels and Resorts, owned by India-based Bird Group, views local themes as a crucial part of its expansion strategy. The company, which announced plans in November 2022 to buy the Edinburgh, Scotland five-star boutique hotel The Dunstane Houses, says one of its main tenets is to emphasize the features of a hotel that capture its hometown vibe.
“People want more localized experiences,” Ravi Birdy, Roseate’s executive director, said in a November 2022 Skift article. “You want to feel like you’re in Scotland, and not in a hotel room that could be in any city in the world. People want to create memories with their families in that specific location.”
An Economic Boost from Local Products
Hotel executives believe developing more local products would provide their businesses a major boost. Robin Russell, the president of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association, has urged the country’s travel industry to create more products that will motivate visitors to the Caribbean island to spend more locally.
“I challenge each and every one of you to find that product that will (make) one more dollar (from the) four-point odd million tourists (per year),” Russell said.
Travel executives in Cambodia have also been vocal about using more locally-sourced products to help prevent “tourism leakage.” The government has estimated that the country loses between $300 and $400 million in revenue annually because of the inability of local hospitality businesses, including restaurants and hotels, to source their products locally.
So Cambodian officials established a working group to increase the amount of agricultural goods and handicrafts the country’s restaurants and hotels could use.
“It is an important initiative to increase people’s incomes in the tourism sector, reduce imports, add value to local products, and minimize losses in revenue to imported goods,” Minister of Tourism Thong Knon said.
“If we can reduce 10 percent of the leakage, we can earn $300 to $400 million more in revenue.”
Photo credit: More hotels are viewing art as a way to convey as a sense of local to guests. Source: Flickr/Pure Salt Luxury Hotels Pure Salt Luxury Hotels / Flickr