Bringing Culture into Hotels

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One of the public spaces at Virgin Hotel in Chicago.  This showcases great integration of materials in various personalities.
One of the common spaces at Virgin Hotel in Chicago with great integration of materials in a host of personalities.

With travel comes experience; an escape away from home, an unknown setting oozing culture and adventure. At least, that is often what is hoped for as we venture to an unfamiliar destination.  But, what if the culture and experience extended beyond the destination and over to the hotel as well?  As new generations of travelers demand authenticity, and as we venture over to an economy focused on experience, hoteliers are redefining the designs of their hotel environments.

Where hotel design is trending is toward a lifestyle promise and a broad cultural experience. No longer is the hotel merely a place to sleep. It is an authentic continuation of the destination and the journey.   Consider this; as stated by Gordon R. Beckman, principal and design director at John Portman & Associates, in an interview for the article Storytelling Design Adds to Guest Experience, “The millennial target market, especially, seeks more emphasis on local experience and location… They want an authentic experience. They want to be in social settings. Even when they are interacting digitally, they want to feel a connectedness. They appreciate the exposure to new art, local microbrews, etc. This trend reflects a generation and a need for hotels that meaningfully connect guests with the urban environment.”

Connecting with guests on a cultural level helps to create a bond with the surroundings and each other. Adding local touches, like artwork by local artists, authentic food and multi-sensory enhancements, helps to reflect the character of the destination. Today, travelers are expecting more from the hotel. They want to feel like a part of the local culture.

Here are a few ways hoteliers are bringing culture into the hotel experience:

Artistic Detail

The personality of a destination can often be experienced through local artistry.  Therefore, it is becoming more common to see the artwork of local artists within a hotel.  More than mere prints hanging on the walls, the artwork installations reflect the cultural personality of the destination through artistic interpretation.  Some hotels are even going as far as hosting art and photography shows while others are developing full-on galleries within the hotel itself.  These actions open the door between guest experience and community while offering a cultural retreat in the downtime between excursions. 


An aspect of culture that is often overlooked during the hotel experience is socialization with local people.  Veronica Waldthausen, stated in her interview with Hotel News Now in the article Millennials Redefine Hotel Luxury, “They want to feel part of the local culture. They want to try the local cuisine. They want to meet local people…”.  To accommodate to this desire, hotels are trending toward open doors and amenities that cater to guests as well as locals.  Larger shared spaces with bars and restaurants, rooftop lounges, and even movie nights are open to the public, bringing locals and tourists together.

Brand Enrichment

It is easy to become so enamored with the culture of the destination that we forget that the hotel has a personality of its own as well.  While localization qualities tie into the over-all experience, brand culture will ultimately make or break the connection that a guest feels.  Dana Kalczak, VP, Design and Construction, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Toronto, gave an interesting perspective in her interview for The New Face of Public Spaces at Hotels, “There’s always a strong positive emotion in guests, and people in general, when something has pleasing geometry and beautiful materials.”

Material selection has a huge impact on brand connectedness.  Textiles offer an effective opportunity to create mood and enhance the brand story, through the integration of color, pattern and texture.  Unique textiles can add captivation to feature areas or charm guests by way of accent pieces.  The tactile personality of textiles can engage the senses of guests, deepening the brand connection to the hotel.

The modern guest wants to stay at a hotel with a sense of personality where they feel connected.  By reflecting the character of the destination, hotels are enhancing the authenticity of the journey and creating a sense of place for guests.  Engaging local culture within the hotel environment offers an enhanced experience that ultimately drives a strong connection to the hotel brand.

Allison Pocewicz

Allison Pocewicz

Allison has had a lifelong interest in multiple facets of design. Growing up between a sewing machine and a sketch pad, she went on to fine-tune her skills through studies in fine arts and fashion design. Upon entering the design/build industry, she continuously researches trends in various markets, including retail, hospitality, exhibitory/events, interiors and architecture in order to provide valuable educational and inspirational resources to clients.

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