Immersive experiences, entertainment and technology all contribute to a new trend: immersive hotels. More than ever before, travelers want to be fully engaged in their next travel adventure.
Being enveloped in new surroundings makes it easier for travelers to disconnect from the always-on screens and 24/7 media cycle of daily life. Plus, many of these immersive hotels focus on being family friendly.
Immersive Experiences Have Always Attracted Tourists
Immersive experiences may be trending now, but they date back to the 1870’s invention of scenic railways. Passengers on these first gravity rides were surrounded by sounds and images that amplified the impact of passing scenery. Early roller coasters like Coney Island’s Switchback Railway (ca. 1884) were an immediate hit. In less than a century, amusement parks with thrilling, multi-sensory attractions became, for many families, the best place to relax.
Surveys indicate that all ages are counting on vacation as the time to experience new things together. Travel Industry Trends 2023 research from Mastercard, for example, found that monthly spending on restaurants, theme parks, nightlife and other distractions from daily life increased by a whopping 65% compared to before the pandemic. It’s all about family entertainment.
Mega Events Draw Crowds To Hotels, It’s That Simple
During Beyonce’s 2023 Renaissance World Tour, legions of loyal fans traveled from concert to concert to hear their star. The hotels and destinations that specifically marketed to her base saw room dates and occupancy numbers rise.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour capitalized on the trend with immersive activations (live special events) for her fans. Hotels built lobby photo murals, bars made signature cocktails, towns installed video displays and malls featured Swift merchandise for weeks prior to her concert dates. Ticket sales brought in more than $1 billion over 60 concerts. As impressive as that sounds, economists estimate her tour had four times the economic impact in local communities.
Why Immersive Hotels Prioritize Family-Friendly Amenities
The travel industry is also adding clever activations, kid-friendly amenities and immersive programming to attract families. That’s because, as the Family Travel Association recently confirmed, children have a much bigger say in where their adults vacation.
Given that fact, it makes total sense to appeal to this age group with facilities that will wow them and their parents. At the hotels highlighted below, family adventures become reality beyond the bedtime stories.
Theming and Immersive Hotel Environments Are Kid-Friendly
The Curtis Hotel in Denver is an example of how theming plays into the overnight experience. The Curtis, a 336-room boutique hotel, celebrates nostalgia for pop culture in all guest spaces. Each of the hotel’s 13 floors uses paint, artwork, linens and more to create a different ambiance. Their goal is to “create a place where people can go, not just pass through.”
Co-founder Walter Isenberg and his creative team come up with concepts and implement them to keep things fresh for repeat guests. For example, every Friday, the hotel activates a lobby Lemonade Stand. Some days the space hosts live music, other times, a National Park Trivia game. Their summer 2023 Ultimate 90s Kid Package focused on the entire video game themed floor.
Unleash The Imagination On Immersive Family Vacations
During July 2023, the Hilton Bogota Corferias opened a Barbie-themed suite with view of the Eastern Hills and Bogota, Colombia skyline. In addition to signage screaming “Together We Shine” and “Strong Girls Make Waves,” guests were treated to shag rugs, monogrammed Barbie bathrobes, a dressing area with dolls and costumes, Barbie pillows on the sofabed plus a bean bag chair for the family pet.
Themed spa and pool parties, pink cocktails, kids’ cooking and karaoke classes not only contribute to an immersive and memorable experience. Special activations also ensure families are spending their time (and money) on property.
The winter holidays spur many resorts into a decorating frenzy. Gaylord is one brand that goes way beyond gingerbread houses to change up their ICE! activations at five hotels. Indoor sledding, snowball fights and ice skating transform these convention resorts into kid-friendly hotels and attract the local family market as well.
The JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa launched a new Country Christmas activation for the 2023 holidays. It included a front lawn blanketed in snow, a multi-lane tubing hill, storytelling, holiday carols, and a gingerbread decorating corner. Families could take holiday photos while sledding, shopping, strolling the holiday lights or in the pop-up, ice-themed Arctic Lodge.
Wellness Is New In Kid-Friendly Surroundings
Garden of the Gods Resort and Club is a luxurious wellness retreat founded in Colorado Springs in 1949. It is wonderfully situated on a ridge opposite the naturally sculpted, red rock Garden of the Gods national landmark with stunning views. Their kid-friendly programs are fresh and appealing because they follow the resort’s commitment to wellness for all ages.
In addition to golf, tennis and pickleball facilities, the resort has three pools (one adults-only) and two hot tubs. The Strata Fit center provides workout equipment, group fitness classes and private coaching. Year round, the supervised kids club welcomes ages 4 to 18 with a variety of sports programs while parents enjoy the club’s other resources. Beyond the resort, local outdoors outfitters organize hikes, fishing, rafting and local tours that keep everyone active.
Hyper Local Experiences Make Hotel Stays More Meaningful
Local activations and experiences, especially those unique to a destination, lure travelers too. These special events and perks are often only available to upper tier members of loyalty programs. Some programs, such as Marriott Bonvoy’s ticket blocks to the Formula One Races in Austin, Texas, are kid-friendly amenities that appeal to the young at heart.
A few Hilton-branded hotels have taken a deep dive into local. Hilton New York Times Square recently packaged suites themed to Broadway shows with orchestra theatre seats, swag and breakfast. “Aladdin’s Times Square Palace Suite,” for example, took its design inspiration from Agrabah, the show’s Arabian desert setting. One-bedroom suites with a sofabed boasted Moroccan carpets, artwork from the musical, gold mirrors, and themed light fixtures to immerse young fans of “Aladdin” in the story.
In Japan, traveling parents rank tatami mats and shoji screens higher than minibars and kids clubs. That’s why hotels such as the Nikko Style Nagoya Hotel feature displays of classic Japanese ceramics. Watercolors complement the traditional Japanese fabrics used throughout their modern spaces. Families find the local music on the sound system an opportunity to discuss and learn about performing arts. The Keio Plaza chain focuses on pop culture with Hello Kitty! Themed family suites.
Casino Hotels Gamble On Immersive Environments
Even at adult environments like casinos, the immersive experience may have more vacation value than kid-friendly amenities. The two tower, 2,000-room Foxwoods Resort Casino, built on land owned by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation in Connecticut, is one example.
Swirling lights and non-stop music turn the dark casino gaming floor into a “night” environment. Although only ages 21+ are invited onto the gaming floor, all resort facilities emanate from it. Guests swept up in this sensation of timelessness may find a brief stay at a casino as rejuvenating as much longer getaways.
Foxwoods does have traditional family-friendly facilities like a large outdoor pool, Tanger Outlets Mall, skating rink and winter holiday programming. The young at heart (and teens with a large allowance) appreciate the celebrity chef dining options, pricey go-kart track, axe-throwing lanes, live entertainment and more.
However, it’s the combination of eternal night and tribal elements in the décor that transport guests without leaving the lobby. Birch bark walls, greenery, lifesize wolves and bears, flowing water, patterned rugs – details highlighting Native American icons permeate the public spaces. Most impressive are the displays of native crafts, tools and clothes, photos and videos that immerse guests in the tribe’s culture at the on-site Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center.
Stay And Play At Immersive Hotels
This year, watch out for the Super Bowl, Mardi Gras, Oscars and Formula 1 racing to inspire fan-friendly activations and immersive hotel experiences. We predict this trend is here to stay as families enjoy environments where kids rule and their grown-ups get to relax.
And let’s not be anti-social. Hotel activations which enhance the visuals for social media get a boost from all adult visitors as well as marketing support from guests of every age. That’s priceless.
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