With smartphones replacing impromptu interactions, the way guests behave with each other in public hotel spaces is changing. Emerging tech innovations - from self check-in to robot butlers - are also minimising human touch-points, providing fewer opportunities for travellers to casually strike up a conversation and engage with fellow guests.
In a bid to facilitate more meaningful exchanges, and create a lasting impact, hoteliers are coming up with creative ways to enable social connections.
Connecting guests with locals
Designing an exciting events calendar is an obvious way to encourage guest connections - especially if the activities are interactive. To differentiate, LINE Hotels created various art programmes to stimulate conversation between visitors as well as locals.
“The art programmes vary at each of the properties in response to the specific needs of each community. The underlying goal that unifies them is to showcase and support local creative talent and to create a conversation between those who live in a place and those who visit,” says Sana Keefer, Global Brand Director at LINE Hotels. “Our hotels in LA, DC and Austin have ongoing events on the calendar, many of which are interactive and immersive. At LINE LA, we hold recurring Poketo Workshops that teach travellers and locals a new craft. For those who prefer to look on, there are pop-up studio sessions with artists in residence.
“Locals are our co-hosts for all of these activities and programmes - we offer the backdrop in the form of a gathering place, and our art partners bring their unique talents,” she continues. “Our guests want to have a sense of where they’ve been when they visit a place, and the best way to experience that is through the eyes of the people who are shaping the culture of the city.”
Face-to-face interactions aren’t the only way for guests to form strong connections during their stay, Kimpton Hotels discovered. Through the creation of a social experiment dubbed ‘Room 301’, the brand set out to uncover whether people can make meaningful connections - even if the only thing they had in common was the space they once occupied.
“We filled Room 301 with multiple interactive activities designed to get to know our guests more deeply, while challenging them to share and discover more about themselves,” says Kathleen Reidenbach, Chief Commercial Officer at Kimpton Hotels. “We found that the activities and choices guests made revealed that there is a duality to the human experience and we all have more in common than we think. Most importantly, we found that guests are craving more heartfelt and deeper connections that go beyond the surface level of online interactions, which has allowed us to deliver even more personalised care for our guests.”
Room 301 was so successful that an additional 20 Kimpton hotels across the US launched activations inspired by the experiment - now collectively called the Kimpton Stay Human Project. “Each participating property has transformed one room that honours the city it is located in; however, all Stay Human rooms have the sole purpose of connecting the guests who stay there.”
“[Both initiatives] are a result of Kimpton’s ‘Stay Human’ campaign, which was inspired by our heartfelt approach to hospitality,” continues Reidenbach. “It’s grounded in the idea that in a world of rapid innovation and constant technological evolution, we’re craving more connections, personalised experiences and touches of humanity. With all the ways we’re able to connect, we’re still somehow disconnected from each other. The Stay Human Project is a way for us to do our part: by connecting strangers through a shared space over time.”
Targeting tech-savvy travellers, CityHub recognised that encouraging guests to disconnect in order to form connections isn’t always the most realistic option. Instead, it created an app designed to connect guests with city locals - offering travellers a tailored insider’s guide to each destination.
“The CityHosts are a vital element of CityHub,” says Sem Schuurkes, Founder of CityHub. “They are local heroes who take travellers by the hand and are ready to go the extra mile to give them an experience they will remember. The app is a way to take your CityHost in your pocket once you leave the hotel to go exploring. It’s a way to expand the customer experience beyond the doors of the hotel and make it a real local experience.”
“Travellers love the app. It’s constantly mentioned in the reviews and perceived as an extra amenity,” he continues. “The chat feature adds to the human experience. When we travel we’d all like to have a local friend, someone who’s in the know. At CityHub, we give everyone a local buddy, 24 hours a day.”
- Guest interactions are becoming less spontaneous and tech innovations are increasingly replacing human touch-points
- As a result, hoteliers are coming up with creative ways to encourage guests to connect with each other
- Face-to-face interactions aren’t the only way for guests to form strong connections during their stay
- Somewhat ironically, hotel apps are also helping to grow meaningful connections