Greg Champion, president and COO of Benchmark, shares his thoughts on how independent hotels can better capture authenticity.
THE WOODLANDS, Texas—Experience and authenticity seem to drive much of the discussion around travel these days, and hotels have a lot of heavy lifting to do to make those experiences go as guests want.
The push has recently garnered attention in the sharing economy space with Airbnb’s launch of its Experience platform, designed to connect users with experts on things like sports, food, arts and entertainment to help curate a specific travel experience.
So just how do hotels go about that, assuming that the traditional concierge might no longer be enough to connect guests with their desired travel experiences?
Greg Champion, president and COO of Benchmark, a Global Hospitality Company, shared his thoughts on the subject with Hotel News Now.
HNN: Beyond the traditional concierge who gives recommendations to guests, what are other ways hotels can connect guests with their surrounding communities?
Champion: “We do our best to help guests get a good feel for the local community and destination from the moment they visit one the property websites. Every website features our “Wanderlust” section, which provides extensive insight into the community under the headings of ‘Live Like a Local,’ ‘The Weekender,’ ‘Flavor of’ and ‘The Adventurist.’ It’s all very engaging and informative content that provides guests with a really intimate perspective on the local area.”
HNN: Everyone in the hotel industry is fixated on the idea of “authenticity,” so how do you find things for guests that read as authentic as opposed to contrived marketing partnerships?
Champion: “One of the most unique aspects (about) our properties is they all have their own respective personality and are located in some extraordinarily distinctive destinations. Much of our consumer engagement is dedicated to encouraging immersion in the local community and to ‘live’ like a local. We do everything possible to help our guests derive a rich and memorable experience during their visit, whether they are with us for a pleasure getaway or for business.”
HNN: What are some of the most common requests/recommendations guests seek? Do your hotels have any unique ways they try to meet those requests?
Champion: “With so many unique destinations and properties, the requests can definitely vary. Our property service teams are skilled at helping guests fulfill the purpose of their visit and any special requests, but also try and make recommendations to discover interesting and engaging elements of the local area they may not be aware of. It’s all about personalization and getting to know our guests.”
HNN: Do you ever develop partnerships with experts in music, arts, other activities within communities to help curate and enable experiential travel?
Champion: “Engaging with the local communities at this level is at the very heart of what we do. Depending on the destination it can be the arts, an historic venue or a unique adventure identified with the destination. We also take great pride in supporting and being a valued member of our communities. Just this week we hosted our very first guests at our new property in Orlando (The Grove Resort & Spa). It was a deserving family (getting a vacation) brought about through our partnership and valued relationship with our friends at Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.”
HNN: Do you worry about/learn anything from the approaches sharing economy platforms like Airbnb take to connect people with experiences and communities?
Champion: “We like to think we do everything that these platforms might provide, but better. The best part is when you arrive as our guest, we are there to personally make you feel at home and to help you create unique and memory-making experiences.”