Hospitality [hos-pi-tal-i-tee] – the friendly reception and treatment of guests and strangers; the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.
To see the definition of hospitality written out, we can simplify a concept that shapes the decisions we as designers make every day for cities and communities who see the built environment as an opportunity to grow their national or international brand. Hospitality is the treatment and experience your guests have and is the primary driver that helps cities like ours grow. What’s unique about hospitality is that it should influence the visitor experience on a visceral level. It’s something embedded in the core values of the most attractive mid-sized cities. And it includes a wide variety of factors. It’s the experience visitors have purchasing a ticket online; it’s the traffic they do or don’t encounter; it’s the ease with which they navigate our downtown, find a restaurant, or visit our shops; it’s the quality of entertainment options we provide; it’s the ease of transportation; and it’s the interactions they have with Kansas Citians.
As a designer of public assembly buildings, including sports facilities, hospitality is really the core of our business. And, second, because as an avid fan of architecture, I see the direct impact the built environment can have on providing a hospitable experience for visitors. We all know the beauty of visiting a city and feeling welcomed, comfortable, and cared for. And from a customer perspective, we know what we love about certain experiences in our city, and we know the experiences that leave us wanting more. Take stadiums as an example. Because of the broad programmatic considerations and demands, stadiums should serve as a melting pot of the trends shaping dozens of other building types, providing other industries with a model for how they can operate and engage customers, turning them into loyal fans and brand ambassadors. This isn’t unlike how a city caters to visitors and residents by creating an experience that keeps folks coming back through careful planning and organic growth.
As information and experiences are shared faster than ever before, cities must differentiate themselves – and hospitality-driven design is a critical element to that equation. But how do we incorporate key hospitality trends to advance the visitor experience in our city? And how can design facilitate deeper levels of connection between people and a place?
Over the next decade, I predict we’ll see Kansas City responding to these trends in very tangible ways, including:
Moments of Connection – When a visitor arrives to the city, we have a high-profile opportunity to tell our story and reinforce our values. From graphics and interactive wayfinding to public art and murals, graphics can be used to celebrate our city and supplement the warm welcome we provide to visitors. We have to think about our buildings as a physical extension of our city brand, turning visitors into residents or advocates for our city long after they leave.
Innovative Technology – I predict we will use technology to give visitors and residents a greater level of control of their experience – whether at a stadium, in the workplace or at restaurants. Through mobile applications and the appropriate infrastructure, local businesses and architects alike should consider how to give visitors an opportunity provide real-time, relevant feedback to teams to help them refine the experience, making the built environment a living laboratory. We can also use technology to mine data and customize how a visitor experiences the city – from the airport, to the hotel, to restaurants, to retail and entertainment options. In addition, we’ve seen social media facilitate digital connections between visitors and residents in Kansas City, providing a real testament to the
power of design to build meaningful connections.
Health and Wellness – Health and wellness have been widely discussed as a trend in hospitality circles and beyond, and are a critical factor as we think about the growth of Kansas City. Spots like 18Broadway, our own urban garden, connect people to a purpose. We also see buildings being designed to exceed traditional health and wellness parameters with the implementation of WELL, a new standard in sustainable design. Hotels in other cities designed to WELL standards have successfully been marketed at a higher price point, proving people care about healthy buildings. It’s a consideration I see becoming increasingly important locally. In addition, over the last year, new restaurant concepts that cater to healthy living have emerged locally, giving visitors and residents more options.
Looking to the future, we’ll be able to evolve to diverse visitors’ needs by asking “what if” rather than discussing “what is” in Kansas City. These are the questions that advance hospitality-driven design thinking, and they are questions we should challenge one another to answer.in order to continue to innovate and drive a truly friendly, comfortable, and hospitable experience for everyone.
by BILL JOHNSON | photo by MICHAEL ROBINSON
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