2023 Hospitality Trends: Immersiveness, Continuity, & Authenticity

The hospitality industry continues to experience significant technological and post-pandemic change. Guest expectations, in many ways, are quite different today than in years past. Hospitality operators are responding and evolving their guest experience accordingly to stay relevant. As we move onward in 2023, we see these three trends continuing to shape the industry.

1. Immersive Sensory Experiences

Guests want to be transported to a different world– your world. We see discerning hospitality brands increasingly taking into account all five senses to create immersive experiences that make a strong emotional connection with their guests.

Harmony Healing Centre's open air lobby embraces the natural sights, smells, and sounds of the jungle. (Harmony Hotel)

Music is a powerful way to create the perfect atmosphere and immerse your guests in the moment. Studies have shown that sound is the sense that triggers emotions fastest–  in fact, it happens subconsciously, before we realize it. When used wisely, music can be deeply inspiring and transportive, evoking strong emotional associations and conveying a story about your business.

Yet, an immersive guest experience doesn't happen on shuffle. In 2023, we’re seeing many operators take the power of music, experience design, and placemaking more seriously. What once was an afterthought for some, is now a crucial element of the guest experience.

One example of a brand taking the power of music to the next level is Harmony Hotel in Costa Rica. Harmony commissioned custom ambient compositions to soundtrack the treatments at the Harmony Healing Centre. These included field recordings of wildlife and nature sounds around the property, and created a deeply immersive experience that can only be experienced there, in that space.  Not only does it take the wellness experience to another level, it makes their wellness offering truly special, unique, and differentiated.

Tips for creating your own immersive experiences for your guests:

- Develop a cohesive sonic brand. Just like your visual branding, your sonic branding should be consistent and reflective of your brand identity. Consider creating a playlist or soundtrack that is unique to your property and reflects the mood and vibe you want to convey.

- Create thoughtful soundscapes. Incorporate on-brand music throughout the hotel to create a sensory experience for guests. This could include ambient sounds in the lobby and spa or “found sounds” in unexpected places, as well as curated music in different zones throughout the property.

- Consider your audience. Take into account your guests' demographic and preferences when curating your soundscapes and designing your immersive experiences. You want to create an experience that resonates with your guests and reflects the mood they are looking for.

- Engage all the senses. Music isn't the only sense that can be used to create an immersive experience. Consider incorporating scents, lighting, and tactile elements into your design to fully engage all of your guests' senses.
Collaborate with experts: Working with sound designers and musical experience designers can help you create truly unique and innovative experiences for your guests.

Benefits of leveraging sensory experiences:

- Enhanced guest experience. By engaging all of your guests' senses, you can create a more immersive and memorable experience that sets your property apart from others. Guests will appreciate the attention to detail and the effort put into creating a unique and enjoyable experience.

- Differentiation from competitors. By incorporating custom music and soundscapes into your property, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors and create a unique selling point that sets you apart from the rest.

- Positive impact on revenue. An enhanced guest experience can lead to increased revenue through repeat business and positive reviews. By creating an experience that guests remember and recommend to others, you can increase your property's revenue and overall success.

- Enhanced brand image and reputation. Increase positive word-of-mouth and social media buzz, enhancing your brand image and reputation.

- Improved employee satisfaction and retention. Creating an immersive sensory experience can also benefit employees, providing them with a more enjoyable and engaging work environment that can lead to increased job satisfaction and staff retention. Staff appreciate the multi-sensory experience too!

2. Continuity & Brand Storytelling

A video installation at 21c. (21c)

In 2023, brands are increasingly extending their guest experience beyond the physical space of their hotel. We are seeing increased attention to detail, as operators strive to create a unified brand experience before, during, and after their guests’ stay. Operators today are honing in on the values and stories their brand embodies, and finding ways to tell that story both online and offline. This can take many forms, including on-site experiences, thought-provoking social content, on-brand playlists, and more.

One leader in this type of cohesive storytelling is 21c Museum Hotels. The brand consistently leverages its connection to fine art across channels. This extends from the physical locations with rotating art shows, to pre-arrival and engagement emails, to social media strategy, and beyond. 21c tells a consistent brand story, which they then take into different areas of focus, such as their recent spotlight on African-American artists coinciding with Black History Month. With their commitment to a cohesive brand narrative, 21c creates a sense of community and belonging that stays with guests long after they’ve left their physical space.

Tips to ensure consistent storytelling for your brand:

- Clearly define your brand's point of view. Before you can effectively tell your brand's story, you need to have a clear understanding of what that story is. If you haven’t yet, define your brand's values, mission, and unique selling proposition, and find ways to weave them into every touchpoint of the guest experience.

- Pre-stay communication. By communicating with guests before their arrival, hotels can set the tone for their stay and build excitement. This can include personalized emails with recommendations for things to do in the area or a welcome video that introduces the property and its amenities. It might even include a playlist to share the brand vibe and get guests in the mood.

- Branded content. Hotels can create branded content that tells their brand story and reinforces their values. This can take the form of blog posts, videos, or social media campaigns that showcase the hotel's unique offerings and experiences. Pro tip: Make sure that if there’s music in these posts, they match your Sonic Identity.  

- Virtual experiences. In addition to physical experiences, hotels can offer virtual experiences that allow guests to engage with the brand from afar. This can include virtual tours of the property, live streaming events, or virtual cooking classes with the hotel's chef.

- Post-stay communication. After a guest leaves, hotels can continue to engage with them through post-stay communication. This can include personalized thank-you notes or follow-up emails that ask for feedback and encourage guests to share their experience on social media. Again, a great time to share a playlist, reminding your guests of great memories and encouraging them to come back soon.

Benefits of having a consistent brand story:

- Increased brand awareness and recognition. A cohesive brand narrative can help your hotel stand out in a crowded market and increase brand recognition.

- Improved guest loyalty and repeat business. A strong brand narrative can create an emotional connection with guests and encourage repeat visits and positive word-of-mouth.

- Increased direct bookings. A strong brand narrative can help drive direct bookings by creating a sense of trust and loyalty among guests.

- More effective marketing campaigns. Being clear on your brand narrative can provide a foundation for more effective marketing campaigns, helping to speak to the right audience and deliver a consistent message.

3. Authenticity & Culture

Bay Area artist Nate Porter performing at Stanly Ranch for their Patio Sessions live music series. (Nate Porter)

Today more than ever, guests want experiences that authentically connect them with the culture and traditions of the destination they're visiting. They are choosing hospitality providers who root them in an authentic sense of place, and who honor local communities in tangible ways.

Travelers want to feel they are somewhere, not just anywhere. They want to access unique experiences that can only be found at your destination. From sourcing goods and services from local providers, to cultural programs that showcase local communities, to including local artisans in design, operators are taking their cultural offerings to a new level of thoughtfulness to attract travelers.

For example, at Auberge Resorts’ Stanly Ranch in Napa Valley, they have embraced the local music scene with open arms. Their weekly “Patio Sessions” series showcases the local music community in Northern California, and supports local artists. This gives their guests a sense of authentic local flavor, and connects them with the people and the music who make the region so vibrant. Stanly Ranch also uses this as an opportunity to tell their story online with a Patio Sessions playlist that guests and community members can enjoy.

Tips for authentically connecting with local culture and community:

- Partner with local creatives. In our line of work, this means working with local musicians to feature their music at your property. Host live performances or incorporate their music into playlists that guests can listen to in common areas, guest rooms, or on hotel websites and social media.

- Highlight local events. Promote local events and festivals to guests, and include recommendations for nearby venues where guests can experience live music and performances. Consider offering transportation or discounted tickets to local shows.

- Engage with the community. Involve the local creative community in your programming and events. Offer workshops or masterclasses with local musicians for guests, or partner with them on charitable events that support local causes.

- Localize your background music. Use background music that reflects the local music scene and culture. Include songs by local artists and bands, as well as recordings that highlight the area's musical heritage as appropriate.

Benefits of leveraging authenticity and culture:

- Increased guest satisfaction and loyalty. By offering authentic cultural experiences, guests are more likely to establish lasting positive memories, feel emotionally connected to your hotel, and return for future stays.

- Positive impact on the local community. By supporting local creatives and communities, your hotel can make a positive impact and build goodwill, and foster the local creative community.

- Increased revenue opportunities. Guests are often willing to pay a premium for authentic cultural experiences, providing opportunities for upselling and increased revenue.
- Positive brand reputation. A hotel that is seen as authentic and committed to the local community is likely to have a more positive reputation, leading to increased word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews.

So, there you have it!

We hope that these trends have provided you with some fresh ideas and insights to help you navigate the ever-changing hospitality industry. If you'd like a partner in exploring any of these concepts, please reach out. We'd love to chat.

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