It’s not enough to just offer hotel accommodations anymore. These days people are looking for experiences. The trend was there before COVID-19 but was amplified due to travel restrictions. When more people than ever are partaking in staycations by being a tourist in their own town, they’re looking for more than a home away from home. As people yearn to travel but may not yet be up to longer hauls, it’s more important than ever to appeal to your local market by offering something different to entice guests out of their homes and into your hotel. Don’t worry—even the most ordinary hotels can offer extraordinary experiences with a few easy tweaks. Don’t believe us? Don’t take our word for it. Keep reading for real-world examples to inspire your own extraordinary hotel experiences.
This summer, Hyatt Hotels launched their Explor-cations with more than 40 unique and immersive experiences to re-launch the joy of travel at their various properties. Examples include on-property tomahawk and archery classes (Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa), an orchard walking tour complete with storytelling (Grand Hyatt Singapore), a traditional sweetgrass basket weaving class (Wild Dunes Resort), and even a magic of beekeeping experience (Carmel Valley Ranch). While it’s true that these Hyatt hotels are in extraordinary locales, inspiration can be taken from their approach. In cases where they have amenities on-site, they maximize those offerings. But in other cases, they consider what is unique to their region and highlight that by bringing the experience onsite.
Support the Arts
Many hotels support local artists by featuring their paintings to enhance their lobby, restaurants, and other shared spaces. It’s a great way to beautify your hotel while supporting your local arts community.
Take this one step further with an artist-in-residence program. The Fairmont Banff Springs in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains sponsors artists to come stay and create in 5-star luxury with majestic views overlooking the Bow River Valley. Guests are invited to visit with the artist and watch creations take shape before their eyes.
A paint-in experience is a wonderful way to serve your guests and your local community alike. Led by an artist, these paint classes feature all the supplies plus a glass of wine (or two) and end with your own work of art. The Disney resorts and hotels are well-known for their paint-in classes, such as the Wild About Painting at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. While the property features giraffes and flamingos viewed from balconies, they’re not essential for your hotel to run your own paint-in program. Lobbies, event spaces, lounges, and just about anywhere outside can be transformed into a creative experience.
The Betsy Hotel in Southbeach has run a famous writers-in-residence program since 2012 that would be easy for any hotel to adopt. Writers are invited to stay for free in a specially appointed room complete with writing resources and a comfortable desk. In exchange, writers are asked to contribute to the hotel blog, participate in a community event to discuss their work, and donate a recent publication to their library. As is customary with writers in residence programs, you could offer a meeting space for writers to meet with the public to review their writing, host readings, or conduct social media takeovers of your account. While not a hotel, the airline WestJet once had a poet-in-residence that flew the skies and wrote on-the-spot poetry requests for passengers. Imagine a roaming poet in your lobby!
Over the years, the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and Spa on Vancouver Island has offered a host of culinary experiences that attract visitors from near and afar. Even locals pair their evening out with an overnight stay for a special, sumptuous treat. Their events calendar frequently offers dinner theatre, movie and cocktail evenings, and culinary experiences such as their Winemakers Dinner Series, which features gourmet plates paired with local wines, prepared and poured by the winemakers themselves. It’s a wonderful way to highlight their region, support local, and boost their bookings.
Anything you can offer that’s out-of-the-ordinary for your hotel can be used as an opportunity to build community and promoted via your various digital and PR channels. Invite a well-renowned chef to build a special menu one evening, offer different evenings that feature a specific cuisine, pair book readings and signings with a meal that compliments the book, cooking demonstrations complete with samples, special occasion dessert buffet…there are many ideas that don’t require a huge investment yet provide unique experiences that make guests talk! And word-of-mouth recommendations (especially online) are everything.
Weird is Wonderful
The weird factor can go a long way when it comes to unique hotel experiences! Highlight the quirkiness of your property and turn it into an experience. Is your hotel haunted?
The charming 1905 Basin Park Hotel in downtown Eureka Springs offers well-appointed guest rooms in addition to onsite paranormal investigations! Guests are provided with tools and escorted to the hotel’s hot spots in search of ghost activity.
Perhaps your hotel is older but not antique; highlight what’s vintage and ramp up your style like Hotel Zed, which features rotary phones, bright color decor, and a rumpus room for playing records and pool.
A pet package is relatively common nowadays for those who can’t leave fido at home but Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong has levelled up the pampered pooch (or feline) experience. Starting at $500 a night, pet lovers can leave all the pet planning to the hotel in a package that includes a pet bed, custom dog tags, pet wipes, bottled water, food dishes, complimentary pet-stroller rental, pet costume rentals from The Pawfect Wardrobe, plus pet sitting and pet photography for an extra cost—plus much, much, more. Pet lovers tend to go that extra mile to pamper their pooch, so this kind of package is a real PR winner.
By no means the strangest or most imaginative, one of our favourite hotel experience ideas we’ve seen as of late is Seattle’s Palladian’s Healthcare Hero package. Offering first responders and their families a 30% discount for any room at their property, this package has a lot of potential for extras as a goodwill gesture toward first responders. At your own hotel, consider a discount, self-care amenities, room-service vouchers as part of a package that says thanks to our first responders.
The Do Good Hotel in London is a modern hotel made from a floating repurposed Dutch detention center. Upcycled decor, views of the Thames, and a rooftop bar make for a comfortable stay but the best part is that it’s part of a chain of hotels in the business of doing good. As a social enterprise, all “excess profit” goes to support social causes around the world. They have also set up a hospitality training program that combines classroom study with paid work experience to help people launch their careers. It’s safe to say The Do Good Hotel offers a real feel good experience. There’s a significant customer base (largely Gen Z) that chooses brands that do social good. Whether it’s giving back to communities, contributing funds, hosting fundraisers and the like, you can provide guests with the experience of knowing they’re making a conscious choice for good.
There are so many wonderful ideas to elevate an ordinary hotel experience into an extraordinary one for your guests. While yoga with flamingos or ghost hunting may be out of reach for your hotel, let these examples inspire your own hotel’s experiential initiatives for two main reasons: 1) to attract guests to your hotel and increase bookings, and 2) to inspire you and your staff! Providing an extraordinary experience can be a boost to your bookings and to your spirit with something fun to focus on during these times. There’s lots of life to experience and your hotel can be at the heart of it.