The travel booking process has traditionally been fairly straightforward: deciding on a location, evaluating accommodation and travel options, making your decision, and then booking. However, as travellers’ behaviour changed and the pool of choices grew, the booking process became a bit more complex.
In 2022, a whopping two-thirds of travellers thought about sustainability and the environmental impact of their travels. More environmentally conscious than ever before, travellers now want to stay in places that align with their values, and they won’t budge. They’ve added the environmental impact of their stay on their mental checklist for booking hotels—and you need to meet their needs.
There are many ways for your hotel to become more sustainable. However, an essential part is your local community. Hotels need to engage with their local community to grow together sustainably and attract today’s eco-conscious guests. By doing so, not only will they provide more authentic experiences for their guests, but also help the community grow. It’s an all-around win-win situation for the hotel and the local economy.
If you are not yet convinced, here are 5 reasons why your hotel should engage with the local community. Moreover, we’ll look at some tips for hotels to make the best use of their local partnerships.
Why you should engage with your local community
1. Partnerships with the local community support your sustainability efforts
There’s no way to achieve true hotel sustainability without developing a relationship with your local community. It is one of the stakeholders you need to care for to improve your corporate social responsibility—much like your guests and employees. On top of that, investing in both your hotel and your local environment shows your interest in the long-term sustainability of local tourism.
Shorten your supply chain with local purchasing
Sourcing locally helps you cut down on fuel consumption, air pollution and shipping costs. And as hotels are massive resource consumers, you can introduce local purchases all along your supply chain. Think about food, bedding, decor and even entertainment. Further on, we will explore some more specific ways to engage local businesses through purchasing locally.
As you purchase from local suppliers, you help the local economy grow. On top of that, you’ll develop beneficial partnerships for the future, resulting in more sustainable, long-term growth.
2. You can provide guests with a more genuine and authentic experience by engaging local businesses
Guests want personalised and unique experiences when they travel. Even more so, half of them want to be immersed in local culture while travelling. As a hotel, you are best positioned to bridge the connection between your community and your guests. Particularly by developing partnerships within your community, you can help your community grow and offer guests the unique, authentic experiences they are seeking.
Source goods from local suppliers
Partnering up with local farmers and traders can ensure that your community’s culture, history and roots are found at every touch point of a guest’s experience.
Think about cuisine. Guests that see a line-up of authentic dishes on the menu will feel that they are experiencing the area through food. Moreover, the hotel’s support of local agriculture will benefit the entire community and local economy.
Columbus Hotel Monte Carlo’s Tavolo Restaurant is a prime example of using local produce to serve their guests sustainable and authentic dishes. They have a Mediterranean-style seasonal menu and a daily special made with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. Along with their commitment to waste reduction, recycling and fighting food waste, their local supply chain creates a strong unique selling point (USP) for the hotel. As a result, the high quality of their food increases the guests' satisfaction and positively contributes to the local community.
But purchasing local produce is not the only way to support local businesses. There are plenty of ways in which hotels can use local goods to provide more authentic experiences:
- Purchase locally-made hand soap, shampoo and conditioner for your rooms. You won’t only support the local businesses, but also give them the exposure they need to grow.
- Think about what your area is known for. For example, if your area is known for weaving, cotton or silk, consider purchasing your bed linen or towels locally.
- Use local products to improve your amenities. If you have a spa, you can source your candles, oils and creams from small businesses. If they’re organic and handmade, that will also be a great USP to attract guests.
Promote local experiences
Regardless of how much research your guests do before visiting you, finding hidden gems is not an easy task. And of course, locals always know the best spots and most authentic things to do. As the gateway between guests and the local community, it’s your job as a hotel to promote the best local experiences. Like this, you’ll boost guests’ satisfaction by helping them embark on an adventure they otherwise would not have found just by scrolling the internet.
Help your guests by creating a collection of ‘hidden gems’ they can visit. Include interesting spots to visit around the city, small businesses to shop from and exciting things guests can experience. These can range from authentic classes to tours in the area. To come up with the most authentic experiences, consider what your area is already known for. For example, the region of Bordeaux has been producing wine since around 43 AD. This is why a classic wine-making class similar to the one from L’école du Vin de Bordeaux is great to get a taste of the local culture. Not only will guests be thrilled to experience the local culture, but vendors will also be elated to have more business coming in.
Support local artisans and crafts
Hotels can help their guests engage with the local community by advertising classes specific to their area. As a plus, you can even host classes for local crafts within your hotel, and have them regularly available to guests.
You can also support local manufacturers by decorating your interior with these items. Consider guest suites, dining areas, lobby or restaurant. Having them in your hotel will capture guests’ interest, sparking their desire to purchase directly from the business. To top it off, you can allow artisans to sell their art or crafts to guests on your premises.
The Silo Hotel, in breathtaking Cape Town, South Africa, cleverly uses local art within their hotel for visual appeal and decor, and these items are also for sale for guests. This gives local artists the opportunity to showcase their work in a way that they may have otherwise not been able to.
3. You can create word of mouth and increase brand recognition amongst locals and beyond
Word of mouth (WOM) is one of the most trustworthy marketing tools out there. As a result, it is crucial to prove to your local community that you are invested in growing together. Supporting the community by collaborating, highlighting, showcasing or sponsoring local vendors and artists regularly will bring you the support of the community in return.
Take the example of travellers passing by your area and stopping at a restaurant to ask for tips. A good relationship with your local restauranteurs will grant you a special spot in their list of hotel recommendations. As a result, the next time the travellers come around, you’ll automatically be in their set of choices for a great stay. And as the whole community raves about your hotel, you’ll increase your brand recognition and awareness, bringing in more confident guests.
Brand recognition amongst the locals can also be beneficial. Locals may not need a room for an overnight. However, they will use your hotel’s restaurant as their beloved dining spot, or hire your conference room for business meetings.
Community engagement is vital. The more hotels make themselves known for positive reasons, the more their brand will be recognized and celebrated by the community.
Sponsor local sports teams or events
To maximise the WOM and brand awareness surrounding your hotel, you may need to actively seek new opportunities.
Be part of something important to your neighbours. Consider sponsoring a local team that tours around the country carrying your name on their kit. Alternatively, sponsor an event where the whole community celebrates an important regional milestone. These will surely get your name in the spotlight.
4. Mutual support in the local community will help build trust and improve your reputation
A hotel that supports and uplifts its community breeds longevity and trust throughout the entire locality.
We all know the saying ‘reputation is everything’. And it is true. However, as a hotel, you want to ensure that you’re known for something good and sustainable. Investing in community engagement will make you reputable for fair trade and authenticity. This is vital for your hotel’s success, attracting guests and establishing how your community perceives you.
Host community events on your premises
Your community may need a hub for important social events. And to be a strong pillar of your community, it’s crucial for your hotel to be that very hub. To do that, you can offer to host the monthly town meetings, the primary school singing contest or the high school farewell event for the schools in the community.
5. You can grow local tourism and contribute to the development of the local community
To be socially responsible, you need to aim to be part of something bigger than yourself. Be an active member in your local area—contribute to your local tourism and improve the local economy. By following some of the steps already highlighted, you can help your local community grow through a mutual exchange of resources, providing them with a medium for further growth.
Hire from your local community and create a local hiring programme to help individuals in the community
Ensure that you support your community by creating jobs for people living in your hotel's area. Particularly when welcoming marginalised communities, your community will thank you—one happy employee at a time.
Establish a hiring programme where you consistently train new and potential staff. Teach them skills that they can use to get a job either at your hotel or equip them with the knowledge to get a better job in the future.
Source entertainment locally
A fun and exciting way in which hotels can help their local environment thrive is by hiring local bands, singers, performers and artists for their hotel events. Showcase the talent and passion of your local community. Not only will your guests enjoy the authentic performance, but you’ll also provide these artists with an outlet for their creative endeavours.
Consider hiring artists practising unique, local traditions. When you give them an avenue to perform, you help keep the traditions alive and incentivize the youth of the community to keep the heritage of the area beating.
In conclusion, locality prevails
It is crucial for hotels to build a lasting relationship with their community. And of course, investing in the community benefits your hotel far beyond just financially. By supporting and engaging with your local community, your hotel, the community and your guests all win.
Commit to understanding the importance of history, culture, projects, and events within the community. Through this, you will create loyalty—not only from the community but also from guests who will want to return to your authentic, unique hotel.