Use this guide to craft the one-of-a-kind experiences your guests crave.
I am sure all of you remember the phrase “location, location, location” as the most important factor for the success of a business, meaning being in a prime, well-known place with high traffic or footfall in order to thrive.
While this in some cases is still relevant in the hotel industry, lately this quote has evolved into “experience, experience, experience” where storytelling and the actual final experience of the end user is the new top factor.
I cannot agree more on this. Particularly in the luxury segment of hospitality, the “why,” the “who” and “how” generate a lot more curiosity than the “where.”
Are we not seeing more and more new, unknown destinations coming up all the time? Who heard of Namibia, Belize, Ethiopia, Tajikistan or Albania five years ago as tourist spots, and how many times do we hear of startup companies launched by completely inexperienced young people starting a new venture in a completely new market?
Travelers are continuously researching and exploring new places, seeking to learn about the culture and live like a local even if for a short period of time. So how do you give guests these memorable experiences?
I will not say unique, authentic, etc., because this is basic and common sense. At the resort I manage, for example, we do not encourage our guests to visit certain places if they are full of tourists and not really what they would take away as authentic. As controversial as it may sound, our guests appreciate the advice and follow our indications.
These are some recommendations I suggest—and you should not feel limited to this—but I feel they cover much of what’s trending right now.
Even when traveling for few days, guests are interested in the history, literature, art and archaeological sites of the destination they visit. They want to know about interesting museums, libraries, places of interest and people who know the real history. But not those where you must queue for an hour or places full of vendors trying to sell you a souvenir. Guests want the “Indiana Jones’’ experience.
The rise of awareness in gastronomy—from the most traditional and more recently with the more exotic cuisines like Indian, Peruvian and Mexican—have awakened an increased interest in learning how these master chefs became famous. In my resort, we have seen an incredible interest from the ingredients we use in our cuisine, to cooking demonstrations, liquor degustation and even visits to local markets to discover the local lifestyle. The success of televised culinary competitions, Netflix documentaries, Michelin-starred chefs and 50 Best yearly awards, have positioned chefs around the world like Hollywood stars.
This is the link between ancestral and modern history, and not many countries have a rich base in folklore. I am fortunate to have lived and enjoyed the folklore in my home country of Italy many years ago, but modern times and generational changes have influenced so much that most of the folklore is nearly dead in many parts of Europe and remains alive in few places and performed only to tourists. But countries like Colombia, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Mexico and Lithuania keep their folklore alive with dance, music and “rituals,” which stimulates the curiosity of the travelers and engages them with the experience.
In the past few years, there is an increase in approach to alternative medicines. My past five years working in the wellness industry opened a new world to me in which people are willing to “experiment.” Faith is losing ground in religion while alternative medicine, shamans and healers are taking over. Just investigate the Ayahuasca or the Temazcal ritual and how many people are looking to or have tried it as a life-changing experience or to cure depression and other illness.
Travelers are looking to rediscover ancient traditions and old customs. Just look at the tea ceremony in Japan, some religious pilgrimages like the route of Santiago de Compostela that runs from France to Portugal, and the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Even bull and cock fighting are still very much alive in several parts of the world. These are some traditions which one can still enjoy and are very much part of the fabric of the local communities where they are celebrated.
Watching how the locals spend their time and stay together as family or in group is an incredible opportunity to learn and enrich an experience at the same time.
Now more than ever, we are understanding the importance of respecting nature. We have witnessed recently some huge disasters like fires in Australia and the Amazon rainforest, oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, and the continued effects of climate change. This is giving us a wake-up call to do something about our planet. Conservation groups, WWF, individuals and companies are moving toward sustainability and are all working toward gradual changes.
The tourism industry is playing a huge part in it and we have seen a U-turn on everything we do—from the use of local ingredients to house farming—to reduce if not eliminate plastic or packaging that can pollute the environment. Experiences include focusing on nature like tree hugging, forest bathing, watching migration of birds and the monarch butterfly, to witnessing the blossoming of certain trees such as the “jacaranda’’ here in Mexico or the cherry in Japan. Nature is everywhere and is everything.
The days of copy and paste are basically counted. No individual is identical and so are the experiences each one wishes to have. Boutique hotels in particular are bound to provide such customization. Their customers are choosing small hotels exactly for such service.
Imagine bringing an expert of a specific country with you while traveling as a personal guide, or planning a honeymoon which has a different theme every day and a crew with a photographer and a script writer following the newly wedded couple so that the entire experience can be recorded. Or how about flying Elton John and his piano to Venice for a private concert for a milestone birthday party?
I am not inventing that; it has happened to me and I have countless examples to share. Indeed, the UHNW segment is the one who not only can afford it but also expect such personalized experiences.
It’s a fact that being different will set you apart from the rest. And when I say different, you cannot just be in the small details of the product like design for example, but also in what the customer can take away with them. Needless to say, involving your team members to create incredible and indelible experiences is necessary. Ultimately they are the ones who will deliver it.
Rocco Bova, an Italian-born hotelier, is a passionate, energetic and enthusiastic professional, with experience from classic hotels to cutting edge design, from business city properties to resorts operations and from golf resorts to destination wellness with over 25 years of experience. Currently Mr. Bova is the GM of Chable' Resort & SPA, a luxury wellness resort set in the Yucatan jungle of Mexico.
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