Cultivate ‘authenticity through culture’
The growth of experience-led travel has proliferated the market globally and is forcing everyone, whether developer, hotel operator or investor, to prioritize the provision of unique customer experiences and offerings.
As this competition heats up, especially across the Middle East, where mega-projects and ultra-luxury hotels are abundant; authentic, culture-oriented, and locally connected hotels provide an edge against the competition.
Take Diriyah Company as an example. Working with such a rich heritage and storied history provides us with an entirely distinctive identity, from which to attract visitors from around the world. From the unique architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage Site At-Turaif, which sits at the heart of the development and has guided its design, to the human-scale traditional building that incorporates locally sourced sustainable materials, Diriyah, The City of Earth, is truly a one-of-a-kind destination.
In a world of mega-cities and the replicable hotel chain, individuality and differentiation are becoming more valuable - culture is peerless
But how does this actually make you unique? Isn’t culture the draw and the hotels the facilitators for travelers to experience it? I would counter that this relegates hotels to mere stopover sites and ignores their contribution to the overall traveler experience. Think back to my opening point; guests want something unique.
Again, I return to Diriyah; guests who stay at a hotel throughout the development will be a part of the community. Our hotel portfolio partnerships are based on enhancing and positively contributing to the community, as opposed to disrupting or simply observing it. From the incorporation of Najdi architecture to the employment of Diriyah and Saudi locals, and the presence of local cuisine and entertainment offerings, these hotels enrich the local environment by offering guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in, as opposed to merely observing, the culture around them.
As I see it, this immersion serves two core purposes for both the destination Diriyah and the individual hotels, and this applicable more broadly.
First, those who visit Diriyah gain a deep understanding of the culture, traditions and heritage that makes the destination unique in the first place. This improves customer satisfaction and offers a more meaningful and personal experience.
Secondly, and possibly more importantly, this develops a deeper connection between guest and destination, that subsequently encourages them to return.
As with many things in life, when you understand something and can recognise the value in its novelty, originality and/or exclusivity, you are more likely to (a) pay more for the experience and (b) return to sample it again.
In a world of mega-cities and the replicable hotel chain, individuality and differentiation are becoming more valuable – culture is peerless.
No two cultures or communities are the same, each offer singular attributes and qualities. By harnessing that culture to create authenticity, a hotel becomes as exceptional as its destination and enters a league of its own.
Authenticity through culture – three words to live by if you’re trying to break away from the field.
* Jerry is Group Chief Executive Officer, Diriyah Company