🍍 How The Local created a digital-led guest experience

Plus: Marriott Bonvoy’s foray into NFTs

This newsletter is sponsored by Mews Unfold 2021 - a free digital event for hospitality providers that took place last week. Watch the sessions now on-demand to hear from leaders at companies such as Accor, Pandox, Life House, and The Student Hotel on how to make the most of your property’s potential and consider the new technologies shaping our industry and altering the guest experience.

How The Local created a digital-led guest experience

When Leila and Adam Bedoian set out to open a 20-room motel, The Local – St. Augustine in Florida, they knew they wanted to create a guest experience that removed all the things they didn’t enjoy about hospitality, leaving only the things they loved.

“We first thought a bed and breakfast would be cool, but that’s a lot of work,” Adam says. “I researched trends in hospitality, and digital apps and keyless entry from big brands was something that appealed to me. I know that if a hotel doesn’t have a virtual key, I won’t stay there. I just want to go to my room, and I don’t want to see anyone.”

“The people who are visionaries don’t look around them at what’s going on; they look at what’s not happening and make that happen.” - Adam Bedoian

This insight became the foundation for building a seamless, end-to-end digital guest experience—but one that had to be done on a “smaller” scale. And, it had to go beyond just the digital key. While the Bedoians loved the idea of investing in and developing a boutique hotel, the thought of working 24/7 wasn’t as appealing. The goal was for a better work-life balance and a desire to push the industry forward.

The first thought for this husband-and-wife team was to purchase an eight-room property and open an Airbnb, where guests are a little more used to never seeing their hosts and entering their rental with the help of a lockbox. The deal fell through, but it sparked a fire in them. Shortly after, the Bedoians came across the Island Shores Inn, an exterior corridor motel that exudes a retro feel.

“We shot from the hip, and here’s where we are. We just knew we could do it. Adam said let’s do everything digital and run this as a contactless experience, and everything snapped into place,” Leila says.

They partnered with Mews and Virdee to provide an experience that is truly contactless. Check-in happens via a mobile app, and hotel staff doesn’t need to be present. Guests can scan their ID to verify their identity before a digital room key is issued. Of course, if there’s an issue, guests are able to contact a team member.

“We recognize that the hotel may not be for everyone, and we’re OK with that,” Adam says. “If the concept scares anyone away, then maybe they aren’t ready for this experience. You have to be a little open-minded to try new things.”

Guest satisfaction flat in 2021

The J.D. Power 2021 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index study noted on a 1,000-point scale, overall hotel guest satisfaction this year was 830, which is flat compared to 2020.

The survey said 36% of hotels removed buffet-style services in response to the pandemic's focus on social distancing, which caused a decline in satisfaction.

"It's through no fault of the hotel. They tried to do their best, but it was that variety that guests were missing, the quality guests were missing," said Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at J.D. Power. "What hotels were able to do with a small grab-and-go lunch bag of food, it just wasn't what guests were used to."

I’m curious: how can you introduce change in a way that guests appreciate? Is this an opportunity for explaining more of the why behind the changes?

Marriott Bonvoy’s foray into NFTs

Bonvoy has teamed up with three up-and-coming digital artists – TXREK, JVY and Erick Nicolay – to create three NFTs at Art Basel. Each of the NFTs created for the Marriott Bonvoy brand is an interpretation of travel from the artists’ own unique experiences, illustrating how travel has an unmistakable impact on the human spirit.“We are excited to bring our extraordinary portfolio of hotel brands and endless experiences into this growing platform,” Brian Povinelli, Senior Vice President, Brand, Loyalty, and Portfolio Marketing,” Marriott International, said in a statement. “We continuously seek opportunities to defy what is conventional and, with our entry in the digital goods space, we are further igniting the transformative power of travel in the virtual world while supporting this growing community of incredibly talented artists.”

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