Features.

The rise of scattered hotels

Experiential travel is on the rise, and scattered hotels are catering to this traveller demand by creating traditional stays that are more attuned to local culture. Click. explores the potential benefits of the concept to hoteliers and guests

by Nicola Donovan, Click. Travel Writer, Booking.com

Topic: Guest experience

Click. Takeaway

  • Scattered hotels offer travellers a taste of local life with the benefits of regular hotel services
  • Originating in rural Italy, the concept of scattered hotels has taken off and now spread to other parts of Europe, and even Asia
  • This hotel concept has the potential to boost local economies, benefit the environment and increase guest satisfaction

With 50% of travellers not wanting to feel like tourists while travelling, according to recent research, there’s value in being able to market an authentic travel experience. Consisting of traditional buildings spread across a local community, scattered hotels offer travellers lodgings amongst native residents instead of other tourists – giving guests something out of the ordinary.

Unlike standard home rentals, the several properties of a scattered hotel are overseen by one manager, and guests still enjoy regular hotel services such as room cleaning. With central common areas such as a reception, restaurant or gym connecting the dispersed buildings, guests are encouraged to explore beyond the hotel walls and engage with the local neighbourhood.

Although guests can choose from a range of diverse accommodations, the buildings are under one hotel umbrella, so the booking process is quite simple should travellers wish to try different stay experiences during their trip.

Experiencing a new culture is an important factor to 86% of travellers

Restoring traditions

Originating in rural Italy, the concept of scattered hotels, or ‘alberghi diffusi’ in Italian, has proved so popular that it has spread as far as Japan, as well as other parts of Europe including Switzerland, where the village of Corippo is being revived through turning its old dwellings into accommodation for tourists.

Located in the Abruzzo region of Italy, Sextantio Albergo Diffuso has completely transformed the once forgotten village. Turning former barns, wine cellars and farmers’ lodgings into a scattered hotel, Sextantio is bringing the region’s traditions back to life while attracting tourism to the area. “A guest can live like a local and with locals,” says Daniele Kihlgren, Founder and CEO of Sextantio Albergo Diffuso. “They are immersed in a real village, and can experience the traditions, the identity and the history.”

Experiencing a new culture is an important factor to 86% of travellers, found a survey of 31,000 travellers from 134 different countries by Topdeck Travel. This is where the unique concept of albergo diffuso is helping hoteliers to capitalise. “Sextantio stays respectfully true to the culture and customs of its ancestors. Our brand and style recreates the traditions of a medieval village, from how the villagers lived their lives, to the food they ate and the crafts they practised,” says Kihlgren.

Localised experience

A significant, unique selling point of scattered hotels is that they virtually guarantee local interactions during a guest’s stay. “Because we are dispersed, we can naturally encourage our guests to stroll around the neighbourhood,” says Yumiko Toeda, President & CEO of Ango Hotels Inc. “By doing so, guests can be very close to the local life, having the chance to feel the living city.”

With five separate locations around Kyoto, ENSO ANGO has modernised the traditional albergo diffuso model by bringing the concept to a city, with the same aim as the original notion. “We want our guests to see the real life of Kyoto and to connect locals and travellers through hospitality,” says Toeda. “We thought the best way to do this is to make ourselves smaller and scattered in the town, especially in the area where locals actually live.”

Photo: Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

But does creating a local experience make a difference to guest satisfaction? It appears so. “I feel the more they immerse themselves in local life impacts their satisfaction,” says Toeda. “I believe it’s something to do with the level of human interaction which is making their travel experience special.”

An important aspect of creating a localised stay is to communicate with the real bosses of a destination, the residents, to ensure their needs and concerns are also addressed. “We have daily conversations with the locals,” says Toeda. “We always try to discuss everything we plan on doing with them, and have received good feedback as a result.”

Environmental and economic impact

Creating a localised experience can not only increase guest satisfaction, but it can also boost the surrounding economy by creating a new stream of customers for local retailers, and by providing extra hospitality jobs for the area. “We aim to benefit the local community as well as our guests,” says Toeda. “We organise cultural and physical activities with local people. For example, meditation sessions with Buddhist priests of Kenninji Ryōsokuin temple and talks from local artists.”

To be considered an official albergo diffuso, accommodations must be in original buildings. So what impact does this have on the environment? “There is no environmental impact, because you can not build new buildings, you must only use existing buildings.” says Giancarlo Dall’Ara, President of the Alberghi Diffusi National Association. Using neglected buildings instead of new construction initiatives is not only environmentally friendly, but it also adds to the authenticity of the experience. “The houses used have roots in the culture of the place, they are very particular and different to each other.”

With the concept continuing to spread, and gaining interest with international and domestic travellers alike, the future of scattered hotels is looking bright. “We feel that people have been wanting this type of new accommodation concept, there’s going to be a bigger demand for dispersed hotels in the future,” says Toeda. “We’ve seen that domestic travellers are also finding this type of travelling interesting, so we are looking forward to seeing more domestic travel.”


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Hero image: credit to Sextantio Albergo Diffuso

Nicola Donovan is a travel writer at Click.

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