Hotels are becoming modern interactive theatre


And done well, this can achieve more than most sales strategies

There is a real change happening, and it’s fascinating to observe. Hotels are becoming homes for reward, for theatre, for an experience that is more than the norm and how a hotel delivers this emotional need is becoming increasingly important.

The best way to describe the development is that hotels are not only modern theatre, but interactive theatre. Good service traditionally has been focussed on a person or group. It is in the moment. An experience is something deeper; an emotion that a guest leaves with. One can train service; an experience is about the whole and stands beyond training. A theatre show or cinematic experience leaves the consumer with an emotional feeling, and as strange as it may seem, hotel service is moving towards achieving the same emotional experience.

Is this all rather exaggerated? It is certainly worth considering, because, as the world becomes increasingly digitalised and automated, the one true differential in life will be people and the experience.

Maybe the concept of theatre is not quite correct; it is about creating interactive environments and in truth not too far different to how you would host a dinner party at home. How many times have you walked into a hotel and not been sure where to go, who to ask? Research shows that 60% of people feel uncomfortable when entering a hotel. It cannot be healthy when 60% feel anxious entering a property. In addition, some 70% of people also said they feel anxious staying in a new hotel.

It is all for natural reasons and often due to the welcome received. When a friend comes to your home for dinner, it is unlikely that you would show them into the dining room and then not return to play host. If you did, it is unlikely they would return. It is no different for hotels. Hospitality is about making the guest feel at home and how they are welcomed is crucial. Research shows that a great welcome can lead to an increase in spend that equates to around 15% of a bill. Most sales targets are around 20% increase, but if the welcome was invested in, and was exceptional, then most of the increase in turnover is met before sales start work.

However, it also needs to be deeper. Hotels are about how you make guests feel while they are staying at the property. It is about a mix of design, service and set – hence the theatre context. The design and the actions that go on around the customer are the theatre set and how they happen will or will not impact more on the customer than many realise. This impact on the customer will also impact on their spend.

Take another perspective; everyone works harder than ever before. Most executives have stressful lives and one-in-four people today suffer from some level of mental illness. The work environment is intense from morning to night and the one real escape and relaxation is food. People drink less and smoking has fallen, leaving food to fill the gap. Food and hospitality can be the escape that allows people to have a moment of relaxation and for that, indulgence is the aim.

Again, this is not a new trend. During the Great Depression years, the counter was the glamour, luxury and excitement of the era’s nightclubs. The 1930s and 1940s saw nightclubs possibly at their height in terms of style and sophistication. In any era of economic uncertainty, hospitality can act as an escape outlet during tough times.

In the 1930s, times were hard and arguably both the US and UK societies became deeply split and two tiered. The 1930s Jarrow marches, which travelled to London did not target the Houses of Parliament, nor Buckingham Palace. Instead, the Ritz Hotel was the target and some of the marchers entered the lobby to silently observe high society dining. In the 1940s, hotels were often the escapes during war and every great hotel has its own war stories.