In today’s world of lodging, the industry is often talked about in worldly terms. With the difficulties in development in the United States plaguing growth, interested observers of the hotel industry often find themselves reading or hearing about an industry going global. Growth in Asia-Pac, international travelers, and emerging markets are terms we hear often. But for all of the talk about global growth, success in the hotel industry is still largely a street corner issue. Community outreach, service, and creativity still rule the day when it comes to building a guest experience.
For SpringHill Suites, such community connections took on a whole new meaning this past September with its new initiative called “Art Night.” Art Night is a program that supports local artists and communities throughout the United States. “Art Night started a little over a year ago as a national brand initiative we piloted in three different hotels,” explains Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand manager for SpringHill Suites. “We wanted to create an environment where we could connect to the community and connect to the local artists to increase their visibility, as well as expose our guests to the local art scene.”
With the success of the pilot program, SpringHill Suites decided to designate this past September as “Art Month,” encouraging the brand’s hotels across the country to host their own “Evening of Inspiration” or their own “Art Night.” And, the hotels jumped at the chance. “Many of them connected with local schools or local galleries and joined together to host an evening where we transformed our lobbies into galleries,” Nielsen says. “It was a way to open our doors to the local communities and offer our guests a little inspiration while they were on the road.
“Many hotels do customer events, but this is really a unique connection,” she continues. “We’ve heard great comments from hotels that have hosted this across the country.”
From glass sculptures to paintings to photography, SpringHill Suites lobbies featured art in nearly every form during the events. Why art as a way to reach out to customers and communities? “At the end of the day, the reason we really wanted to do this type of event for our brands is that it really does tie directly to our core elements of design and style,” Nielsen says. “Our hotels provide a more stylish and interesting experience to travelers while they’re on the road.”
Nielsen explains that the brands aims to deliver a guest experience through both the design of its properties and quality of its service. “When we look at our new prototype, we are very focused on the design, the style, the fabrics, the textures, really giving our guests an experience beyond an experience, if that makes sense,” she says. “Our target customer is really looking for something unique and different that they can’t find elsewhere in the marketplace today.”
Art Night is geared toward both the guest and the community. For example, in the Las Vegas event, Nielsen says she received comments from local community members praising the event for offering a place where locals get to connect with art and style outside of the mega-resorts of the Strip. “There are people living in Vegas beyond the travelers to the Strip. That hotels will continue with the event and they are fostering a strong relationship with those community members,” Nielsen says.
The events are also a place that can excite local artisans who get a showcase for their art—some even make sales.
With the success of the events this year, Nielsen says the brand will do "Art Night" all over again. “We encourage hotels to make it the signature event of the year at their properties,” Nielsen says. “We haven’t determined yet which month in 2012 will be “Art Month” but we will do it again because it’s been so widely received and successful.”