Art can boost guest experience, rate expectations
Art can boost guest experience, rate expectations
12 DECEMBER 2017 9:34 AM

Hotels increasingly are instilling flavor and stories through curated art exhibits, but sources said hoteliers can’t just go with what is immediately attractive. Rather, a hotel’s art should spark a conversation with guests.

GLOBAL REPORT—The connection between average daily rate and hotel art and related design is subjective, but hoteliers are constantly looking at artistic mediums to further express their properties’ DNAs and add to the guest experience and price point, according to sources.

Charles Clark, GM of the Jumeirah Creekside in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, said lifestyle and art go hand in hand.

Clark’s property has approximately 480 pieces of art that have been curated for the hotel from regional, commissioned artists from such countries as Algeria, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. He said the hotel art changes constantly and employees conduct regular tours.

“When clients book luxury hotels they expect an aesthetic component,” Clark said. “If you want to say you are serious about art, you have to back that up. Show the right intent.”

Aimée DuBrule, director of corporate communications at Kempinski Hotels, said the hotel-artist collaboration evolves in various manners, sometimes in partnership with owners, other times with local art collectives.

Art is a facilitator of engagements with guests, DuBrule said.

“Hotel culture is inexplicably linked to the brand, and as a leading European hotel chain, for us, that culture harkens back to the grand day of the lobby lounge, which is what we are looking to recreate,” DuBrule said. “Some guests planning to go out tonight will now say, ‘No, let’s stay at the hotel.’ It is about the guest experience … offering something memorable in every little detail of the hotel.”

Ivanhoé Cambridge, which reopened its Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth hotel in Montreal in July after a renovation valued at 140 million Canadian dollars ($108.9 million), showcases art —with 37 artists represented in 123 works spread over 21 floors—in collaboration with MASSIVart Collection and Sid Lee Architecture.

The 982-room Montreal hotel also contains the John Lennon and Yoko Suite, where the former Beatle staged a bed-in. It was repackaged with new “peace-related” art as part of the refurbishment and already is seeing higher ADR, according to Philippe Demers, CEO of MASSIVart.

“I think there is a direct correlation in between the rates a room can be rented and the art and culture strategy of the hotel,” Demers said.

He added that hoteliers should be encouraged to spend on quality artwork for their properties.

“Beyond increasing the price point of rooms, the acquisition of artwork is an important investment opportunity, not only as a way of contributing to the cultural heritage, but also the identity of our cities,” Demers said. “It strengthens the customer experience and creates additional value for the acquiring brand.”

Rent or buy
Hoteliers have help understanding and curating art in their assets from such agencies as ARTIQ, which consults on and curates gallery projects for hotels.

Patrick McCrae, CEO of ARTIQ, said in recent years he has seen a real trend for experimenting with how art is displayed in hotels and other hospitality venues, as well as a shift in preference toward unique and interactive works.

“From the ‘salon hang’ trend, where either themed or deliberately eclectic artworks are grouped together, to bespoke installations, clients are increasingly passionate about exploring art options,” McCrae said, who has worked with such London hotels as The Great Northern Hotel and London Heathrow Marriott and with such Scottish assets as the Gleneagles Hotel and Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square.

McCrae said hoteliers are increasingly thinking “outside of the frame.”

“Truly effective art programs need to have real stories, with inbuilt rhythm and punctuation points, amplifying the endless questions and answers art provides,” he said. “Good art is also palpably human.”

McCrae said hoteliers need to think beyond what they see as merely pretty.

“Art is a powerful tool and, through thoughtful curation and strategy, can be used not only to enhance a guest’s experience of a space, but to showcase an owner’s patronage and taste, reflect the history and identity of a building and the local area or to embody a very particular tone of voice to help express a venue’s precise personality,” McCrae said.

He noted there are financial benefits to art ownership some hotel owners might not normally consider.

“Art can also be a business investment if the artist is collectable, or can demonstrate a commitment to a particular artistic demographic—regional artists, for example, or young artists,” McCrae said.

He added hotels can keep their artwork fresh by renting pieces instead of buying them.

“Art can also be rented, allowing for an updateable program and a space that’s refreshed regularly,” McCrae said. “With the possibility of adding in further temporary exhibitions, the regular touchpoints and change offered by art become a means of connecting with new or returning guests.”

Jeremy Robson, owner-operator of The Great Northern Hotel, said he uses art to create an emotional connection between guest and his hotel, which he refers to as a “dignified icon that sits at the center of the cultural and transportational crossroads that is King’s Cross St. Pancras.”

“The art … complements the grace and timeless elegance of the hotel, whilst giving a playful nod to its origin amongst other Victorian industrial London landmarks, and being ever so slightly provocative,” Robson said.

Charlie North, design director at Ennismore, the firm that owns the Gleneagles Hotel, said the hotel is equally historic. Thus, the art choices must be harmonious with the heritage of the building and nod to the Art Deco influences of the architecture, while also responding to and intriguing the “evolving guest profile.”

“The result has transformed bedroom corridors and guestrooms into characterful spaces, which celebrate the history of the hotel and tastefully enhance the guests’ experience,” North said.

Not just luxury
Art is being displayed prominently in all segments of the industry, sources said.

“There is no science around this … but thinking about art, you create a much more cohesive brand promise for guests, and it supports how you are trying to promote the brand,” said Brian Watson, VP of architecture, design and construction for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Wyndham Hotel Group. “Guests do look at what designers do and are more likely to stay with you if they like what they see. That improves occupancy and can improve rate.”

Watson and his team are working with architects LXA on a new artwork package for Wyndham’s roughly 850 Ramada-branded assets.

“It goes further than just popping down the shops and adding it by the yard. It’s important to have a connection,” Watson said.

Dave Rooney, creative director and founding partner of LXA, said when it comes to the significance of art, he thought back to the One Aldwych hotel, which opened in London in 1998.

“The art they introduced, it was iconic and became synonymous, sort of its Instagram moment. It really was pivotal,” Rooney said.

Rooney’s directive from Watson was a familiar one: Make art local but also global. That in itself presented challenges.

“Not every town has iconic references, so what we developed was a motif that works wherever you are,” Rooney said.

The new Ramada design incorporates a theme around a word search, Rooney said, with, as an example, all the hotels’ destinations in Europe represented in a matrix with the name of the market any individual hotel is in highlighted in red.

The new onus on public spaces has those areas more representative of design and art, with the guestroom design deliberately being quite intimate.

“We have something very iconic that speaks to the location, hyperlocal imagery, and with artwork is the room tying guests to the specific location … and where you get the opportunity to refresh public spaces, that us where there will be more interactive media, perhaps changing the message on a daily message,” Watson said.

“We did not want a revolution, to turn everything on its head,” Rooney added. “We wanted a continuum with the history of the brand, not throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Three Ramada properties have being transformed in 2017, and Watson and Rooney are eager to do more.

“We’re shifting up a gear, being more sophisticated,” Watson said. “We still want to have something interesting even at a lesser price point. Art should play across all aspects of the hotel experience.”

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