Hotel design that differentiates: Why local immersion is the answer

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by Staci Patton

How do you transform a hotel from a place you stay on the road to a place you never forget, and even better, one that you want to revisit again and again? This question is one many designers in the hospitality industry experience. Hoteliers are looking for innovative ways to differentiate their hotels from all the others on the market. They’re looking for ways they can create unforgettable hotel experiences that inspire a sense of authenticity and connect guests to the brand.

Today’s guests are looking for something deeper – when they stay a hotel, they want that stay to feel it’s an embedded part of the story of a place, especially with boutique brands.

While it seems like a complex problem, the answer is actually quite simple.

Differentiation begins and ends with thoughtful design. Often it means more than just creating a structure that can house great Wi-Fi or a suite of standard amenities. While working with hoteliers to create unique spaces, looking for ways to drive local context that supports and is inspired by the local community is essential. And simply looking at pictures online to make an educated guess about what will or won’t work is not sufficient. In order to create an experience reflective of a particular place and way of life, we must take a deeply immersive approach by approaching local shop owners, visiting performance theaters, interviewing local style makers, gallery curators, and witnessing firsthand the passion people have for their city. Creating a foundation that then informs decisions and allows hoteliers and designers to create homegrown experiences that reflect the rich history and artistic identity of a community.

But it’s not just about offering guests these unique amenities – it’s about offering guests unique amenities that also feels genuine and provide an exceptional sense of travel and adventure.

What does all of this look like in real life? One example is The Elizabeth Hotel located in Fort Collins, CO, designed by DLR Group and operated by Sage Hospitality. DLR Group’s approach to design at The Elizabeth began with gaining a deep understanding of how the culture and aesthetic of the city of Fort Collins was inspired by the Colorado landscape. There was a focus on pairing aged wood and metal materials to create a space that feels handcrafted and rooted in the city’s identity. The hotel offers three signature suites – the Beer & Bike Suite, the Music Suite, and the Ram Suite – each of which embody a different aspect of Fort Collins’ culture and heritage, connecting locals and visitors to the fabric of the city. One of the most unique offerings in this hotel, and something that is deeply treasured by guests and locals alike is the lending library. Here, music lovers of all kind can check out a variety of musical instruments and equipment. The lending library also offers a wide selection of vinyl records guests can check-out and play on personal record players found in each of the hotel’s guestrooms.

Constantly pushing to discover more about the locale and what the hotel will bring to it, rather than what the community will bring to the hotel. It’s a stewardship and storytelling approach to design that often necessitates time to let the cultural approach marinate. And the results of this approach are often ones that feel distinct, calling guests back time and again.

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