No man is an island, and unless you are on this list, it’s likely that your hotel isn’t one either. It’s not just hard for a property to operate in isolation from its community, it’s nigh on impossible. Properties rely on their local communities in so many ways — from sourcing suppliers, to hiring staff, to encouraging word of mouth. And, by actively participating within the community at large, properties not only further tourism and help local causes, but help themselves in turn.
People are drawn to locations & communities, not properties
When was the last time that you heard someone say they’d gone to New York just to stay at The Plaza? It’s a magnificent hotel, but not even the best hotel in the world is attracting guests whose sole purpose for travel is to stay with them.
People are drawn to locations, to communities, but not to properties. Travellers look to explore new cities, or to experience new cultures, and by engaging with your local community, you not only help your guests to achieve those goals, but you can become part of the experience and attract more guests in the process.
Imagine, if you will, a guest house in a small seaside village in Italy. People who visit it are unlikely doing so because they want to visit the hotel itself, but because they want to experience small-town-Italian life for the week that they are there. But, unfamiliar as they are with the area, who are they to turn to when looking for the best meal in town? Why, the property that they are staying with, of course!
Now picture the other side of the coin, when travellers stumble upon a picturesque seaside town in Italy and stop for a meal at a local restaurant, and ask where they may be able to stay for the night – who will the proprietor be likely to recommend? The hotel that has sent him business in the past, naturally.
By familiarising yourself with local offerings, and being a part of a local community rather than simply operating on your own, you have the opportunity to become a source of knowledge for your guests, and a resource within the community in turn.
Prospects value knowledge
Benjamin Franklin once said, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Now, Mr. Franklin may have been a man of many interests, but hospitality was not one of them. Nevertheless, when it came to the benefits of knowledge about your local community in the hospitality industry, he knew what he was talking about.
When it comes to providing an excellent guest experience, knowledge is one of the best resources at your disposal, and it can come at the relatively low cost of engaging with your community. Knowing about what’s happening around you — nearby events being held, local businesses that are opening, specials that are being run — and taking an active interest in the success of these events, openings and specials will provide you with the knowledge that you need to be able to advise guests when they approach the front desk with the question of what they should experience in your area. Better still, being an authority on the memorable experiences your area offers can place you in a strong position when prospective guests consider booking at your property.
Imagine, for example, that a festival is taking place nearby. It could be the Edinburgh Festival, Hay Festival, or Carnevale. If you were to receive a booking during the period that the festival is occurring, your prospective guests may be planning to attend the festival, or may know nothing about it. In either case, you have an opportunity to put your knowledge to good use — by advising on the best shows to see, the best stalls to visit, or even the best routes to take to avoid the chaos. You can situate yourself as a source of information in prospective guests minds, so that you’re not simply the hotel where they rest their heads at night, but the hotel who made their experience an exceptional one.
You won’t be able to offer everything under the sun. But your community might.
No property is able to cater to every traveller, nor should they try to. Knowing your strengths and the areas that you excel at can be the difference between attracting the right guest, and one who will leave disappointed. However, not catering towards a traveller doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t help them.
As David Brudney points out in his lesson on Keeping Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer, not catering to every guest means, in turn, that not every property is your competition. “Your competitors are your enemy, but also your neighbors. Do what’s necessary to cultivate established relationships.“
A local backpackers in Brooklyn will not be competing with the Plaza. But if a backpackers receives a request from a traveller looking for a bit of luxury, there is nothing to stop them from recommending The Plaza. After all, they would not be losing business — the guest would not have booked with the backpackers in any event if luxury is what they’re after — but they can situate themselves as a source of knowledge within the community.
And while the likelihood of a guest contacting a backpackers when meaning to contact The Plaza is slim-to-none, this is taking the example to the extreme. Perhaps, instead, your hotel’s restaurant specialises in Italian, but your guests are looking for Asian cuisine. Or perhaps you receive a booking for three nights, but are fully booked on one of the nights in question. Knowing your limitations, recognising your competition, and familiarising yourself with the establishments in your community can see you being able to cater to guests’ needs by proxy, even when you are not able to do so directly.
As Hotel News Now explains, “Not every hotel is a boutique, is in a hip neighborhood, or has an in-person concierge to guide guests to those experiences after which they lust. So in order to compete, owners and operators of hotels of all stripes need to staff their properties with managers and associates who know their neighborhoods and have an affinity for customer service. In short, everyone at the hotel — from the GM to the housekeepers — needs to be a concierge.”
Create your own community around your hotel, and between guests
Sometimes it’s important to be involved within your community, and other times opportunities present themselves for a property to become an integral part of the community. Take, for example, Good Group. “It’s in our DNA,” GM of Good Hotel London, Liutauras Vaitkevicius explains, “to take spaces, existing spaces, and convert them into something good, something that is community driven, something that becomes a centre of meeting spaces, place for people just to be together and meet each other and be happy.”
It’s not just in providing a space for the community to meet that sets Good Hotels apart — they are actively involved in the betterment, not only of local businesses and individuals, but of the world. A seemingly impossible goal, to be certain, but that does not stop them from contributing towards projects that build schools and create educational opportunities for young children in Guatemala, or creating social training programs that provide unemployed individuals the opportunity to find jobs in the hospitality industry.
“We are a social business,” says Liutauras, “which means that whatever profits we make in our business we put to good causes.”
And while Good Hotel London takes their social responsibility to lengths that few hotels would be able to replicate, creating a community around your hotel and between your guests does not require an all-or-nothing approach. Sometimes, as Herbert Laubichler-Pichler of Vietnam’s The Anam points out, it simply requires embracing your community and surroundings and incorporating them into your property. “The best thing you can do,” Herbert suggests, “is bring the culture, in an authentic way, to the five-star accommodation… Get out there amongst the community, find out what’s happening and make connections. Find out what’s currently on offer and what new and fascinating experiences you can introduce to your guests.”