Hotels as an experience hub

reading time: 5 minutes

Potential of the HoReCa sector, the future of entertainment - 1
Marco Gilardi

interview with Marco Gilardi

The concept of hospitality is evolving, in services as well as spaces. To understand how, we spoke to Marco Giraldi, Director of Operations for NH Hotels Group Italy & USA, which is trialling a series of alternative hotel concepts and proposes tailor- made catering formulae. In a concerted effort to engage the urban community too.

Hotels open up to the city, striving to become a reference point not just for travellers, but for the local community too. More and more hotels are opting for restaurants with Michelin-star chefs or a gourmet offering far removed from the continental cuisine we normally associate with hotel dining. Both in interior design and culinary offerings, the trend is towards a less standardised image that is more connected to the genius loci. “We try to reconnect spaces to the spirit of the place”, explains Marco Giraldi, Director of Operations for NH Hotels Group Italy & USA. “For example, NH Venezia Rio Novo links the local tradition of 'cicchetti and wine' with the idea of the city that hosts the film festival. We have reproduced archive images for the hotel’s communal areas and developed a tailor-made gastronomic offering. Together with Ca' Foscari University, we promoted a competition for short films shot inside the hotel and, as this predated Covid, we were able to open up some meeting rooms to the city, with a programme of historical film screenings. It is important to welcome the local community into the hotel and to integrate these spaces in the urban fabric”.

New synergies are developed with chefs. “We have successfully undertaken many collaborations with Michelin-star chefs, from David Muñoz at the DiverXo restaurant at NH Collection Madrid Eurobuilding, to Natale Giunta at the Oro Bistrot of NH Collection Roma Fori Imperiali. We look for value propositions and restaurant concepts created specifically for the hotel as part of the 360° experience we offer: from a gourmet restaurant and bar to corners for patisserie or healthy food etc. Restaurant spaces become strong attractions. That is what we are looking for with the nhow chain of urban hotels: from pop-up restaurants with amazing experiences, to a recording studio in Berlin and a bunker in Hamburg”. These are unconventional spaces where the interior design and the choice of materials and finishes play a key role.

The concept of a hotel as a microcosm of activities and services is new in Italy, but already quite well-established abroad. In this reframing of hotels, research is essential: “At NH Milano Touring, we trialled our 'Lobby Alive‘ concept for the first time in Europe: proposing a vibrant space that is open to the city, where people can pop in to enjoy a coffee, play, or even work. We have comfy sofas and a fireplace that people can gather round, a top-notch cocktail bar offering something different, a games area with billiards that also doubles as an events space, and a social bistrot. The reception for check-in is no longer a barrier but a background element. In addition, we have set up rooms and meeting rooms as temporary offices – so-called 'Smart spaces' available for single-day use – and rooms for fitness. We are also trialling room automation in special 'Mood rooms' that allow guests to customise the temperature and lighting to suit their mood. In addition, we are developing new apps for check-in and check-out, but that also offer a directory of our hotel services, which can be used to gather information and make bookings. The hotel is constantly evolving”.