by Mark D. Kuhn IV
With locations dispersed across the globe, Marriott, Hilton, Wyndham, and Best Western are among the biggest hotel chains in the world. But aside from competing with each other, there is another less-talked about consideration involved in designing individual hospitality experiences: connecting a specific hotel with its geographic location.
Hotels increasingly are using the modern technology of today to create unique environments that align directly with a specific hotel’s city, town, and state. They are using lobbies, communal areas, bars and restaurants, and turning these spaces into memorable experiences that not only distinguish their hotel from others, but their own hotels from each other.
Telling Stories with Signage
It’s no secret that hotels are increasingly investing in different kinds of digital displays to perform necessary tasks, like wayfinding, event notification, and marketing. What is new, though, is using this technology not just as a means to display information, but as a design element that allows hotels to more deeply identify with their location. Displays are being used to evoke a mood, tell a story, and, in many cases, immerse guests in their unique city and state.
Hotels use signage content to display location-specific imagery. For example, a hotel in Santa Monica, CA, may invest in a video wall display that shows vivid content of waves breaking in the lobby – a visual unique to their region.
And, in addition to the content shown, there are various types of signage that hotels are investing in to recall their past and create a unique experience in the present. For example, Moxy Hotels’ newest downtown Chattanooga location invested in a modern take on an old-school Split Flap train station-style display by Oat Foundry to pay homage to Chattanooga’s railroad-rich past.
The display, unique to Moxy Chattanooga, creates an element of anticipation as the flaps turn – like those felt by 20th-century train travelers – captivating the new generation of guests and making for the perfect ‘Instagrammable’ moment in the present.
What hotels display – and how they choose to display it – is becoming a unique differentiator among different places.
Engaging in Real Time with People and Places
In today’s digital climate, linking two people in separate locations is simply a matter of connecting to Wi-Fi. Hotels are increasingly leveraging this interactivity to showcase people and places within their venues to create an experience that could only be had at that particular location.
There is nothing more specific to a location than its people. That’s why hotels are beginning to showcase real-time social media updates through various types of projections and displays. Digital guest boards have the ability to pull directly from social media feeds like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, in real time, and broadcast them in their lobbies, expanding the possibilities of engagement.
Hotels can follow a location tag, hashtag, or location-specific event. For example, a Chicago hotel can follow and display real-time updates from the Lollapooloza music festival to create excitement for the city’s big event. They can pull real-time weather data in their city and display it, and display interactive city maps with social media posts from those places.
Similarly, Moxy’s recreation areas include a live update board, where guests and non-guests can share their experience, through imagery, with everyone staying in the hotel. This gives visitors a firsthand glimpse into the life of a local, creating an experience that can only be had at that location, at that moment.
The opportunities are endless for hotels to use this real-time interactivity as a design element that roots the hotel deeply in its geographic location.
Expanding Outdoors with Wireless POS Systems
Designing a hotel indoors is one thing. But many hotels are looking to bring the same indoor hospitality experience outdoors, whether that’s within the city they’re based in or on the beach outside of their resort.
One such technology that’s allowing them to do this is wireless point-of-sale technology such as Square software. This tech is increasingly being used in unique spaces that further distinguish their location and engage guests with new experiences.
Imagine a hotel in Hawaii with a tiki bar quite literally on the beach. This outdoor bar area has limited functionality because of power and data constraints. But with a wireless point-of-sale system, it becomes easier for the staff to tend to guests as they roam about the hotel’s outdoor bar area. Hospitality venues can leave the wires inside, focus on the aesthetics of their outdoor space, and take the hospitality experience outdoors to truly create a local experience without interruption.
Additionally, hotels can integrate multi-purpose check-in systems with this same technology to allow for check-in anywhere. This helps hotels get creative: Check-in can be outside, in a gallery, or even behind the bar.
The remote flexibility of integrated check-in systems and wireless point-of-sale systems allow hotels to expand beyond their physical walls – and constraining traditions – to fully utilize the space and location they’re in.
Fusing Technology and Design
We’re entering the age where technology is not just functional. Designers are increasingly using the technology available today – whether it’s social media, sales software with remote capabilities, or nostalgic split-flap signage – to tell more location-specific stories.
Gone are the days when technology isn’t considered an integral part of the unique hospitality experience that significantly distinguishes one hotel from the next.
Mark D. Kuhn IV is the co-founder and CEO of Oat Foundry, an engineering agency that designs and builds cool stuff for hospitality venues. From Split Flap displays to an industrialized cold brew plant, the company is a fully capable engineering design studio in a prototyping and lightscape manufacturing facility. Oat Foundry has become the world’s leading provider of Split Flap displays, with displays in operation domestically and internationally, and installations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, Hong Kong, and Azerbaijan.