Features.

Can art improve guest experience?

When balancing budgets, finding funds for art can be tricky, yet you can reap rewards from a small art collection with these tips from hoteliers and artists

by Jill Starley-Grainger, Click. Travel Writer

Topic: Guest experience

Click. Takeaway

  • Beautiful and stimulating art can make guests feel positively about your hotel, and make them more likely to remember it
  • Many guests now take selfies in front of hotel artworks and post these on social media
  • Start with a few investment pieces displayed in public areas, then build up your collection slowly
  • Commissioning an artist is the best way to get a work that perfectly conveys the feel of your accommodation
  • On a tight budget? Offer artists free stays, or partner with a local gallery

Want guests to fall in love with your property? Fill it with stimulating works of art. Studies have found that viewing beautiful art triggers the same dopamine response as falling in love.

“Filling a room with visually interesting prints and paintings is like filling it with music. It is stimulating and uplifting for our guests,” says John Larkin, Co-owner of Pastis Hotel St Tropez, a boutique hotel on the French Riviera.

Tongsai Bay Hotel

The Tongsai Bay in Koh Samui, Thailand

Another study found that art also reduces cortisol levels in stressed individuals, helping them relax – which is exactly how most hoteliers want their guests to feel. “When looking at a beautiful art piece, guests feel better,” says Varakorn Phromyothi, Director of Communications at The Tongsai Bay in Koh Samui, Thailand.

But what kind of art can trigger these reactions? After all, nearly every accommodation has pictures on its walls. But those mass-produced prints of flowers or landscapes are often little more than part of the décor, fading into the background rather than standing out. Therefore the key is to look for a work that you love and that “brings culture and character to the space”, says artist Paul Robinson, who created a Pink Bear installation artwork for Moxy Hotel in Berlin. Robinson also points out that “art can be a talking point – or even a selfie point for guests”. Look up ‘Moxy Berlin’ on Instagram, and you’ll see many selfies people have taken with the pink bear Robinson created for the hotel.

Hotel owner Analjit Singh agrees. The founder of Leeu Collection, a hotel group in South Africa, the UK and Italy, found that if you “place signature pieces in public places, guests will photograph them to remember their visit”, and these images end up on social media, “helping spread the word about your properties”.

Notable collections

Distinctive artworks help people recall details, too, according to a study of 11,000 students in America, so they could help guests remember your hotel long after their stay.

It can also encourage loyalty, too, says Caroline Bauchet-Bouhlal, owner of Es Saadi Marrakech Resort in Morocco. “We have art-loving visitors who return year after year to see the new artworks we’ve added,” she says. The hotel’s 400-piece collection has become such a focal point that it recently opened its own gallery, showcasing Moroccan paintings from the 1950s to the present.

While investing in art can seem costly, Singh feels it ultimately pays off. “Quality art creates additional value, and we believe there is a correlation between room rates and the art on offer,” she adds.

If you’re ready to dip your toe into the art world, where should you start? Larkin advises: “When making a collection, you need good foundations. Buy two or three investment pieces that you hang in public spaces.” After that, add less expensive works sourced from student art shows, art fairs and local markets.

Pastis Hotel St Tropez, a boutique hotel on the French Riviera

However, finding works that fit with your hotel ethos and style can be tricky, so consider commissioning artists yourself, as the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi did. It hired Jason deCaires Taylor to create ‘Coralarium’, a semi-submerged tidal gallery that exhibits a series of sculptures and artworks. “It pays homage to the marine life and coral reef that surrounds the resort, creating a link between our resort and the destination,” says Patrick Basset, COO for AccorHotels Upper Southeast and Northeast Asia, and the Maldives.

Finding an angle

The Tongsai Bay chose to focus on its environmental credentials when it commissioned Thai designer Mook Vinyaratn to create a piece for the lobby. “Made from recycled paper, her work ‘Pulp Fiction’ honours our commitment to sustainable living and finds beauty in what others may dismiss as trash,” says Varakorn Phromyothi.

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a commissioned artwork, consider offering “nights for pictures”, suggests Larkin. “When world-renowned photographer Terry O’Neill wanted to stay at our hotel, he gave us photos in exchange for his stay, which we were very pleased with.” Many artists are happy with this arrangement, so if you find one you particularly like, contact them to see if they might be interested in this option.

Perhaps the least expensive way to gain access to a quality art collection is to partner with a local gallery. You’ll need to look carefully to find one whose works match the feel of your hotel, and then ask them if they’d like to curate a selection to display for sale in your public areas. The downside is that you’ll have less choice about the look and feel, but the upside is that it costs virtually nothing, and is an easy way to add interesting art without a significant outlay.

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Jill is a travel, tech and lifestyle journalist, who has written for some of the world’s best-known publications

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