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Hotels As Galleries 14

Planning to travel this summer? Visit a few cultural  landmarks?  Maybe you’re making reservations through Airbnb?

The app that lets you book rooms in private homes has truly become a “disruptor” in the hospitality industry. Now hotels are on the hunt for new ways to stand out to potential customers. An ideal location and beautiful suites doesn’t seem to cut the mustard for consumers hungry for new experiences, so more and more hotels are looking to local artists to help set them apart.

“I think the travelers today are exposed to more,” says Dan Vinh, vice president for global marketing of Marriott’s lifestyle portfolio. Vinh tells The New York Times that customers want an experience they can talk about and that they can bring back and share with people back home.

This idea is not entirely new.  In fact, the Omni Hotel in Dallas opened about five years ago with 6,500 pieces of original art, including work by 150 local artists. At the time, the hotel’s general manager told Art&Seek that “if you stay at an Omni in Dallas, you can bring great things home, great presents that you won’t find anywhere else – unless you go directly to those sources.” And he was right. The idea must have been a success, because the chain repeated the tactic two years later when it opened the Omni Nashville Hotel and it plans to use the strategy with openings in Atlanta and Louisville.

Travelers’ desire to collect experiences – and souvenirs – creates a potentially profitable opportunity for both artists and hoteliers. Photographer Sean Fitzgerald, one of the 150 local artists whose works were presented at the Omni Hotel in Dallas, say guests having the tools to find out prices for the work in the hotel is very advantageous. “I got a few sales from people who saw my work in the hotel,” says Fitzgerald. “But honestly I was just happy having my work being shown in the hotel. I think that more private and commercial companies should try this out, because there are lots of great artists in North Texas and it creates a narrative for the place.”

All in all, this means that there has been a fundamental shift in what hotels provide for their consumers and the way the hospitality industry is thinking about design of its spaces. The Times reports that interest in local art isn’t confined to higher priced hotels; budget chains are purchasing local art as a low-cost way of decorating – and attracting customers. Could this trend help hotels stave off the Airbnb’s of the world? We’ll see.

Meantime, if you’ve bought art from a hotel or have seen art made by local artists during your travels, post a picture of it on your Instagram account and tag Art&Seek. We’ll re-post a few of the photos.