The demand for the proverbial “local authentic travel experience” pervades every sector in hospitality and tourism. That demand is now driving large hotel companies to develop new brands and more sophisticated partnerships, new marketing and branding initiatives, and new business models to differentiate themselves and deliver experiences that immerse guests in local communities.
Within the last year and a half, almost all the major legacy hotel chains have brought new hotel flags to market under the “lifestyle” segment, which connotes a broader, more experiential kind of hospitality than the “boutique/design hotel” positioning that was popular from the mid-1980s through the 2000s.
In what is now considered a seminal exploration of the topic before it exploded into the mainstream, the Skift trend report—The Rise of Local in Hospitality—launched in October 2013. Back then, the idea that a hotel could serve as a portal into the local community, and be marketed as such, was ignored by the big box hotels. The concept was primarily the domain of a select group of trendsetting hotel groups, which has since proved to be the catalyst for the shift in hospitality strategy around the business value of localism.
Today, local travel is well on its way to defining all travel for all demographics. That is the primary hospitality industry shift in less than two years between the first Skift report and this one, where delivering a local experience in hotels has evolved from being innovative to expected.
The trend is further developing due to the reurbanization of major cities that are seeing aggressive redevelopment in their urban cores, fueled by rapid population migrations led by Millennial-age professionals. With that, hotels today have much more opportunity to partner with their local communities undergoing so much creative disruption and innovation.
However, if it is now considered the norm for hotels to position themselves as an integrated part of the local travel experience due to rapidly changing guest expectations, how does the hotel industry evolve from here? The answer is more storytelling and personalization. Moving forward, hotels are becoming more sophisticated and creative when it comes to customizing and promoting local travel experiences—based on their specific hotel guest psychographics—by partnering with more local community businesses and events targeting those guest preferences.