By: Julie Littman
Bay Area hotels are no longer taking just fine as an answer. Viceroy Hotel Group CEO Bill Walshe said hotels should no longer accept, “OK” or “fine” from a guest explaining how their stay was. Creating a well-branded experience with staff that take pride in their work and service is what helps hotels stand apart, he said.
“Bland doesn’t get you anywhere,” Walshe said during Bisnow’s Bay Area Hospitality and Lodging event on Thursday. His company’s latest renovation, for example, will turn Hotel Rex into a 96-room Hotel Emblem, which will capture the experience of the beatnik generation, he said. Experience and branding are overtaking the Bay Area’s hospitality scene. Instead of just focusing on style or a rating, hoteliers and restaurateurs are tuning into what consumers want out of their experience. That may mean providing better lighting in a restaurant so that customers can take photos of their food to post on social media, or offering unique, off-the-beaten-path recommendations of where to visit in San Francisco. During Thursday’s event, panelists discussed what it means to offer guests an experience, how restaurants are changing within the hotel space and how design is adapting to enhance the experience. Experts also discussed what makes the Bay Area an ideal market for investors and the risks and opportunities of investing in this market.
Creating A Personalized Experience
Personalization and the little things that surprise guests are fast becoming differentiators in the hotel industry. “Particularly in the Bay Area and over the next year or two, for individual guests, it’s all about tailoring and personalization and experiential,” Knowhere Holdings Chief Operating Officer Shannon Shackerley-Bennett said. She said the business traveler is becoming just as important as the destination traveler. “The business traveler is the foundation upon which hotels are founded,” JMA Ventures President Todd Chapman said. He said these travelers come in at odd hours and want direct room access and an easier check-in process, whether that be using a smartphone to check in or other technology, without enduring a bunch of pain points along the way. “A lot of what you design should be based on who you identify as your customer,” Chapman said. “If you’re trying to be everything to everyone, that’s not going to work.”