What Your Independent Property Can Learn from The Big Guys

By Alex Gaggioli, August 15, 2016


I’m a huge advocate for paying close attention to the strategies large businesses implement to run their operations. Large businesses often have the money and power to try new things and dictate new trends in the market. Of course, many of those same businesses don’t change fast enough and are replaced with younger, more nimble companies. But often, there’s value in mimicking what others are doing and putting your own spin on it.

Marriott is one such company who has made changes lately that are worth noting. From their innovation lab to their digital marketing war room, they offer a peek into what the future looks like for them. I took a closer look at what they’re doing, and have tips on how your property can capitalize on the same trends

Unique Independent Experiences


Big chains, like Marriott, are notorious for offering the same experience no matter where you’re traveling. If you walk into a property in Milan, it’s going to feel the same as Kansas. While baby boomers have traditionally enjoyed this aspect of the hospitality experience, things are changing.

In today’s travel scene, people want to feel like they’re traveling, without sacrificing amenities or comfort. Marriott has responded to these changes with new renovations that include new designs. Each location will have its own unique feel that’s authentic to the location.

This trend has been reported across the board and is one of Airbnb’s number one selling points. Lifestyle and culturally-based experiences are the hottest buzzwords in the biz and people are pushing to attract new travelers.

As an independent property owner, you actually have a huge advantage in this field. No matter if you run a hostel, bed and breakfast, motel, inn, or hotel, you benefit from not being a corporation. Your design is yours and yours alone, and many independents have a look and feel that is unlike any other’s.

While you and I both know this about your property, travelers may not. That’s why you need to position your property as a local, unique experience. Identify the aspects of your property that can and should influence a traveler’s decision to stay somewhere.

Open Areas for Gathering


Generator Hostels – London

Open and welcoming gathering spots are becoming increasingly more important. Bigger hotel brands, like Marriott and Yotel, have designed their new hotels with more focus on open meeting spots. It seems as if hotels are now designing properties more like hostels. Hostels have small shared rooms and larger gathering areas with games, comfy couches, and a place to charge your devices.

Hotel lobbies and eating areas are standard into today’s properties but aren’t usually places where people want to hang out due to noise and high traffic. But, all that is changing. New seating areas and thoughtful design help people feel more comfortable in public spaces, making it a place where people want to hang out.

Depending on your property, it may or may not be able to add more usable public space. Hostels already have public spaces, as mentioned above, so it may be a matter of adding other amenities like charging stations and other technologies. If you have a hotel with a traditional lobby, new furniture, and a new layout may be necessary to create the type of open, communal spaces that are now popular.

Generator Hostels is a line of luxury, design-inspired properties which have put thought and time into their public spaces. From their rooftop terraces in Paris to their chill-out and cinema room in London, their specially designed properties will instill a sense of envy.

Shared Experiences


On top of shared experiences, Marriott is finding new ways to create group activities, according to Fast Company. They hope to achieve greater guest satisfaction by creating opportunities for guests to meet one another. This seems like another trend that hostels have gotten right a long time ago.

It’s not uncommon for hostel type properties to offer excursions and tours around the city. In two of our featured customer interviews, International Travelers House and Hostel 76, they both talk about how they offer excursions, both near and far.  Now, we see other properties, namely hotels, interested in bringing together their guests to go climb mountains, taste test at the local brewery, and experience what their location has to offer.

To capitalize on this trend, we suggest engaging some sort of program at your property to get people to know one another. Some properties can utilize their bar or restaurant to host local music, while others may find that their clientele is more interested in kayak adventures. Take a look at the types of travelers you attract, or want to attract, and create activities around them.

Partnering with local guides and tour companies is also another great way to approach this trend. While some properties offer these activities as part of their normal rate, it wouldn’t be out of the question to charge for them.

Digital, Social Services


Marriott’s other most notable innovation is their social media war room M Live. It shows their commitment to new digital trends and how they expect to win in the digital era. Their social media command centers give them the ability to engage with travelers and insert themselves into the conversation. They opened their first center in Maryland and now have opened three more in Florida, Hong Kong, and Europe.

The goal of these centers is to keep their social marketing efforts in real time. It’s implausible for your property to create an entire social media war room filled with full-time staff. But, there is a general strategy you can mimic on a smaller, but still noteworthy scale.

First and foremost, your business should be active on social media. When guests travel they are checking in on Facebook, posting pictures on Instagram, and snapping videos on Snapchat. You’re able to capitalize on your guests’ social media activity when you regularly check your property’s location check-ins on Instagram and Facebook and watch for mentions in real-time.

Guests will inevitably look for you on social, and when you can actively engage with them during their stay, it’s a huge value-add. In the case of Marriott, their brand presence is so well-known that they will already have a lot more natural social media action than an independent property. However, with a little bit of effort, such as signs in your lobby, or well-placed links on your website, your social media can be just as useful. Consider it a blessing that you don’t need an entire staff on four continents to manage your social media.   


Watching the moves of larger businesses and analyzing trends they follow can be a helpful strategy. It’s always beneficial to be aware of the environment in which your business operates. In the case of Marriott, their innovation lab and M Live war rooms have earned them positive press points. As an independent property owner or operator, it’s in your best interest, and can even be fun, to address new trends.

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