Forget your rooms, show me the city

My wife, Anj, and I stayed in a Kimpton hotel recently and I was struck by how much money the hotel spends making your time in your room perfect — and how little impact the hotel has on the entire rest of your trip.

The rooms are decked out with all sorts of fancy soaps, decorations and stylish furniture. The lobby even more so: wood paneling, custom furniture, and tons of artwork.

But if I’m visiting a new city (for pleasure or work), the parts of my trip I’m going to remember are the things that happen outside of the hotel—my visit to a neighborhood bar or coffee shop, the restaurants I try, or the sights I see.

And yet most hotels act like the city around them doesn’t even exist.

Yes, there are some small concessions. I’ve seen hotels do a nice job providing products made locally. And some of the lifestyle hotels do a good job of matching their design to the theme of the neighborhood. And if you feel like talking, there’s usually somebody in the lobby who will answer your questions about where to go.

But still… I’m willing to bet most people choose a hotel based on the city, rather than choose a city based on the hotel. Hotels should play up this connection rather than running from it. Clearly, Airbnb gets it.

Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Tell me about the history of the neighborhood and why it’s unique
  • Give me a better way to explore than a cheap map covered in advertising
  • Tell me about the neighborhoods the staff live in and invite me to chat with them about it
  • Tell me what’s going on this week and why it’s cool
  • Give me a discount at a local coffee shop (not a chain) instead of or as well as the in-room Nespresso
  • And above all else, stop trying to keep me on site to eat in your over-priced restaurant

Hotels have an opportunity to put their fingerprints on all those magical moments I have while I’m in town. And once I view my hotel as a facilitator of life-changing experiences instead of just a place to sleep, you better believe I’ll be less likely to leave nitpicky reviews about the thread count.

Airbnb has made big strides here. I’d love to see what hotels could do if they put their minds to it.

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