Based on a wave of new hotel amenities, ranging from bowling alleys to theaters, the future of hospitality looks a lot like the past when hotels were social hubs. Competitive forces and a basic business drive to boost revenue are producing a new class of hotels with entertainment features that go beyond the celebrity chef-run restaurant in the lobby.
Set to open in 2018, the Ramble Hotel in Denver will have a screening room showcasing the work of local filmmakers. The upcoming Omni Louisville Hotel, opening in March, will have a speakeasy that includes a bowling alley. The new Line DC hotel in Washington, D.C., hosts a radio studio off the lobby where guests can listen in to live podcast recordings.
The trend isn’t solely expressed in new openings. The venerable Pierre New York, a Taj Hotel on the Upper East Side recently launched a cabaret series featuring intimate performances from Broadway singers. Fresh from a renovation, the Hutton Hotel in Nashville opened a music club this month.
The profit motive is one factor in the entertainment push.
“Hotels have learned that entertainment is more than just Wi-Fi and high-definition TV in the room with on-demand movies,” said Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst and the founder of the Atmosphere Research Group. “When you can get a customer out of their room and into a bar or bowling alley the guest is not only hopefully having fun, but spending money in the process.”
Hoteliers say their motivations also lie in extending their hospitality to neighbors, a historic practice that has made hotels, from the Ritz Paris to the Plaza Hotel New York, magnets for non-guests.
“A great hotel has always manifested the social fabric of the city,” said Ian Schrager, the hotelier who recently opened Public New York hotel, which includes a social space called Public Arts with live music, film screenings, magic shows, dance parties and more. “Now everyone is realizing having all these extra entertainments are not just good business but help drive the occupancy of the hotel.”
A buzzy lobby, too, is one thing a hotel can offer that home-sharing services, which have significantly challenged hotels, lack. “It’s a way of keeping our competitive edge and distinctiveness,” Mr. Schrager said. “The only way to compete with Airbnb and other future technologies that might emerge is to do those things they cannot do and they cannot provide communal entertainment.”
For travelers, the proposition offers an express route to the creative culture of a city. (It should be noted that the trend is largely rooted in urban hotels with a big-city base of patrons to draw upon).
“People want to feel the energy of a city in a hotel,” said Kelly Sawdon, a partner and the chief brand officer at Ace Hotel, which operates a music club in its New Orleans property and a theater at its Los Angeles hotel. “When you travel, it’s about exposing yourself to new ideas whether it’s food or music or design. Activating public spaces is important because it’s a way for guests to feel a more authentic experience in these places.”
The following are ways that hotels are entertaining guests as well as locals.
Bringing the Nashville music scene in-house, the Hutton Hotel opened a music club, Analog, this month. The bi-level, 300-person venue has already staged concerts there by Maren Morris, the Shadowboxers and Allen Stone. The hotel has also added two writers’ rooms, one designed by the country music star Dierks Bentley and the other by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, that serve the city’s songwriting community.
“We’ve created a creative refuge” for local talent, said Jonathan Bartlett, the hotel’s general manager. “And guests can become part of the Nashville community without leaving the neighborhood or the hotel.”
The Pierre New York recently began a cabaret series showcasing current Broadway performers in hourlong sets for just 70 audience members held roughly once a month. To date, the hotel has hosted performers from “Wicked” and “Kinky Boots.” It has also added rotating art exhibitions — the first one, devoted to the Brooklyn-based painter Jasmina Danowski, went on display this month — and seasonal street parties.
Just opened in Fort Collins, Colo., the Elizabeth Hotel has two music venues, Magic Rat Live Music on the main floor and Sunset Lounge on the top floor.
Edition Hotels, a collaboration between Mr. Schrager and Marriott International, will open seven hotels in 2018. Among them, locations in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi will have nightclubs and one in Times Square will have a performance venue.
DRINKS AND GAMES
When the Omni Louisville opens in March, the 612-room hotel will have several restaurants and bars, including a speakeasy-style spot with a light above the alley entrance switched on when the bar is open. It will have a bowling alley. Management also plans a food hall featuring local producers, a bourbon-tasting room and a shop stocked with locally sourced gifts in the hotel.
The newly renovated Blackstone Hotel in Chicago has remade its opulent 1910-vintage lobby into a social space with cocktails dispensed from a rolling cart and a manual typewriter where visitors are invited to tap out a letter that the front desk will post for free. There’s a pool table (also free) in the lower lobby.
Among its amenities, the Miami Beach Edition operates both a bowling alley and a skating rink as well as a dance club.
Set to open this spring, the Ramble Hotel in Denver’s River North Art District, known as RiNo, will have a grand lobby bar operated by New York’s Death Co cocktail lounge as well as an 80-seat screening room where programming will focus on locally made films, but also include open-mic nights and musical performances.
“It’s such a fun neighborhood to explore, but if you didn’t have time we’re hoping we have enough to show you under our roof that you will feel you are really plugged into this RiNo arts district,” said Ryan Diggins, the hotel’s founder.
The Line DC in Washington hosts a glass-walled radio studio where Full Service Radio, a podcast network, tapes its shows on music, arts, culture and food. Visitors and guests can see the shows being recorded and listen in via headphones available in the lobby.
The Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles programs its 1,600-seat theater with film screenings, light and sound installations, lectures and concerts by emerging bands like Real Estate, and established musicians such as K.D. Lang.
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