How To Apply Creativity To Stand Out In Hospitality

with Stefan Merriweather, Head of Creative, The LINE

Together with

Today, we're learning from one of the most creative people in hospitality about everything from developing new projects to collaborating with artists to empowering team members. You're going to be inspired to use art, design, and creativity as a powerful way to delight your guests and grow your business.

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How Hotel Brands Are Using First-Party Data to Drive Revenue & Build Stronger Relationships

Finding and appealing to travelers online means getting to know them, and that's why first-party data - the information you have about your guests - is so important to providing hospitality today. We did a study on how hoteliers are using this data to drive revenue and build stronger guest relationships, and you can see what we found in this report for free (no registration required).

Using Art, Design, and Creativity to Delight Guests and Grow Your Hospitality Business

with Stefan Merriweather, Head of Creative, The LINE

Stefan Merriweather / Credit: Josiah Mackenzie - Hospitality Daily

Today, Stefan Merriweather, the Head of Creative for The LINE hotels, shares his insights on developing new hotels, collaborating with artists, and empowering team members. His role involves overseeing the creative vision for the brand, from tangible elements on the property to digital experiences. Through his work, he uses art, design, and creativity to delight guests, empower team members, and drive business results.

The Role of Hospitality in Neighborhood Transformation

We're only as strong as the community we're in. So we have to be part of the betterment of it.

Stefan believes that engaging with the community and responding to its needs is crucial for the success of a hotel. By hiring from the local community and supporting local organizations, hotels can contribute to the betterment of the neighborhood.

He shared the example of working with Hospitality House, an organization that provides space for artists who are experiencing homelessness.

Sometimes we don't even realize how it impacts an individual. I was having a conversation with one of the directors at Hospitality House after we commissioned a piece of art and licensed it in the hotel from one particular artist, and it was the most money he's ever seen in his entire life. It literally changed his entire life.

Developing New Hotels

Stefan has been a part of some of the coolest new hotel openings in the US, so I wanted to get his insights on what it takes to develop hotels that become iconic.

He highlighted the importance of creating thoughtful food and beverage experiences that contribute to the local community. The team works hard to identify the right talent and offerings that will resonate.

Tenderheart restaurant // Credit: The LINE San Francisco

Stefan also believes that the success of a hotel lies in its people, and creating a strong internal culture is essential. He does something a bit unusual in that he invites his staff to experience all the amenities and programming that guests usually experience - which helps them in turn better understand and communicate these things to their guests.

The Process of Commissioning Art

For Stefan, commissioning art for hotels is all about aligning with the values and vision of the brand.

The first step is to research and understand the visual aesthetics that work together and fit into the broader narrative of the hotel. Stefan personally visits artists' studios, listens to their stories, and evaluates their passion and dedication to their craft. The goal is to find artists who reflect the local community and can contribute to the unique experience of the hotel.

Finding the right artist by understanding their story, what they're creating and why they're creating it is the first step. Then the next step is how does this all fit together as a story? I think what's really special about hotel spaces as it relates to art is when you visit a city, you might be in town for a day or two, you might not have an opportunity to go see every single museum or see works from different artists that are building and creating that city. I feel like a hotel is a critical opportunity to be able to showcase the community to people who are traveling there.

An example of this was the installation at the hotel’s entrance…

The LINE Hotel San Francisco // Credit: Josiah Mackenzie - Hospitality Daily

…which I found to be beautifully detailed:

The LINE Hotel San Francisco // Credit: Josiah Mackenzie - Hospitality Daily

We found this artist, Sasinun Kladpetch. She's a Thai artist who has been living and working in San Francisco for over 10 years. And her work with concrete and resin and sculpture really resonated with us because the concrete aesthetic is really a core element of the design of the LINE brand. So that was the first thing that sort of captured our attention. She does these incredible sculptures that include organic elements, bark, moss, and she mixed it with concrete, dirt, resin to create these incredible sculptures.

We commissioned her to do this installation, and we really wanted some way to pay homage to what came before. And so we had her come to the site when it was under construction and collect pieces from the rubble, rebar, pieces of metal, dirt from the foundation. And she included that into her sculptures which adorn the walls now. It spans probably three or four walls long. It's over 300 pieces. And just to watch her work meticulously through that as an artist, when I went into her studio I was like, wow, the work that she's doing, the attention to detail is incredible. And she must have spent two months just like trying to figure out what the layout was going to be that was going up on the wall. So like that type of passion and energy to be able to have that reflected in the hotel was amazing for us.

Stefan and his team created a great short film showcasing this here if you’d like to check it out:

The Business Case for Creativity

What is really special about brand and creative is this is where your true DNA comes from. And it's how you differentiate in a very competitive market.

By defining the brand's unique characteristics and values, Stefan believes hotels and hospitality businesses can attract the right guests and create memorable experiences.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy! He noted the challenge of balancing creativity with operational efficiency and budget constraints. Prioritization and collaboration across different functional areas of the business are essential to achieve the most creative and operationally efficient outcomes.

I think what's critically important in the process is really prioritization, right? So when we're establishing initiatives, we need to also know where is this on the priority level? Is it high importance, moderate or low importance?

Once we’ve done that we can be more flexible with budgets. If our finance team says that isn’t going to work, we're going to be able to understand what can go. Prioritization is very, very important.

I like to come up with the big idea first. Figure out what it's going to cost and then back down from there and pick it apart if need be.

The Intersection of Art, Design, and Hospitality

Stefan emphasizes the importance of integrating art, design, and hospitality to create a holistic guest experience.

He believes that hotels should be responsive to all facets of a guest's lifestyle, offering art and culture, music and entertainment, and health and wellness experiences. By creating an environment that enriches guests in various ways, hotels can differentiate themselves and provide a unique and memorable stay.

Stefan Merriweather / Credit: Josiah Mackenzie - Hospitality Daily

Talking with Stefan showed me the power of art, design, and creativity in delighting guests and driving the growth of the hospitality business. By engaging with the local community, commissioning art from local artists, and creating unique experiences, hospitality providers can transform neighborhoods and provide guests with memorable stays.

We have to be more than just like a hotel bed. How I like to look at it is we need to be responsive to all facets of someone's lifestyle. So when they walk into the space, we're able to fulfill them and enrich them in various ways. The bed's going to be comfortable, but that’s just the starting point.

You need to think about arts and culture, what you’re experiencing and seeing hanging on the walls. You might be able to attend an artist talk that's happening that week, music and entertainment. Usually a little low hanging fruit for most people is inviting a DJ in to the space, but how can we challenge ourselves to rethink and reimagine how an experience related to music can be?

And then a big one is health and wellness as well. I think that's something that's top of mind for people, especially post pandemic. And so when you think about like an amalgamation of all of those elements together surrounding where you're sleeping, it becomes like this sort of symbiotic environment that is connecting you in so many different important ways.

I highly recommend listening to my full conversation with Stefan for all the details:

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