We’re living in a time where we are more connected than ever before, but we are also more isolated than ever. At worst we restrict our reaction in social media channels with an emoji rather than commenting or encouraging.
We have access to information and information-sharing at our fingertips, but we’re all still dealing with the same challenges: stress, anxiety, and depression. And those problems come from us being stuck in our own heads—from not being able to escape our constant need for distraction. We are constantly bombarded with noise in internet and also on social media.
Case in point, I was following the commentary from the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference commonly referred as COP27. While demands for all fossil fuels to be phased out did not survive, some countries used COP as the platform to promote new oil and gas initiatives. On the sidelines young activists were show casing signs ¨fossil fuel out¨, ¨We are watching you¨. These side remarks leads to the topic of the blog of reducing the distraction, and to travel and find mindfulness.
When you travel, though, you can do something about distraction. You can leave your house behind and get out into the world, put the mobile device on mute, and only use it only in emergency. Better yet you can experience new things and connect with a community and people who are different from you—and that will help you learn to see things from their perspective as well as your own.
Today’s travelers specifically the Millenials are seeking destinations and eco-resorts where the facilities and services are conducive to de-stress and learning about, as the means by which we can achieve a broader perspective that comes with self-transcendence aka mindfulness and flow.
So how could hotels and creative consultants design experiences and curate stories that embraces the travelers that set the tone for their stay?
From hotel development point of view it is complex enough to develop and open hotel and moreover create the culture and the story that resonate with the today travelers. Putting a brand flag on the roof does not automatically set the hotel up for success.
I have opened few hotels, where the primarily objective was to create operating manuals, ensure that brand standards were in place and then open the sales channels.
Today my approach would be different, I would put a team together well in advance, starting with a hotel concept story.
If I would take my first hotel opening experience on Cheju Island, South Korea, a picturesque volcanic island, with wealth of culture. I would start with the hotel concept story weaving in the beauty of the island, and the amazing people. I would include the stunning sculptures made of natural lava stone, called ¨Dolhareubaeng¨ or Grandfather. Dolhareubang statues are considered guardian deities. The odd shaped lava stone fences typical to the island would surround the hotel area. We would invite the ¨Haenyeo¨ the incredible women divers community to show case their amazing diving skills and learn about their history dating from 1629 and culture. With these accents you feel you have arrived to a place like no other.
The hotel concept story defines the role of a hotel as well as its aspirations. In other words, your story should convey why guests should stay at your property, beyond just getting a room and breakfast. Having a good story presents a number of clear advantages:
To create an engaging – and lasting – story, it is important to make it the starting point of your concept building process. The story is like a golden thread connecting all the components of your concept, hence the importance of having a clear picture of it before working on the rest. A story should consider
It’s important not to confuse story and theme. Themed hotels try to recreate a set universe (mainly through design), but few of them take the time to work on their story. A fashion brand themed hotel might appeal to some onetime guests, but how often would you want to visit ? A good story does not have to be literal, but it must be engaging. Over time and with the passage of guests, it will ripen and evolve.
The hotel concept story development ideally start by getting the designers on board at the start.
I had the opportunity with our team of designer architects of traveling to a hidden valley deep in the Troodos mountain range in Cyprus. The valley was earmarked for a resort development. We spent a week and absorbed the beauty of the stunning, surroundings, and the flora and fauna. We learnt about the science of artisan honey production, , organic gardening and met community members from the area. All the important things that eventually the hotel guest may experience during their visit.
We were fascinated and inspired and started to craft a hotel concept story of experiences, sketching the beautiful accommodation units that blended well into the nature, that eventually became the master plan. Here are some learnings from the project and the importance of a good story.
Each of us had something that touched us whether it was star gazing, exploring the national park by foot, picking fresh figs in the garden for breakfast, creating an honesty gin bar, where one can pick some wild herbs to mix in with the gin or joining the artisan beekeepers for the day, and learn about the art of artisan honey.
We summarized the hotel will tell the story about ¨leading people to better wellbeing¨. The hotel will partner with medical professionals, academic researchers, yoga teachers, meditation teachers. In addition a wellness professional who will create a holistic wellness approach that is infused in every aspect of the hotel, ranging from restaurant offerings to in room experiences. Finally the resort aims to take in account the local community, and action plan how the project will add value to the locals.
In this way we aim to make the moments last longer – to turn a vacation into an experience that helps the traveler achieve flow and mindfulness, which can help them to see things from a broader perspective.