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The 'Art' of Hoteling

More hotels are bringing personal betterment programs to hotel to secure unique business opportunities. Here’s what they’re doing.

Monday, January 21, 2013
Caryn Eve Murray
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Guests who gather on almost any Thursday morning at La Posada de Santa Fe aren’t necessarily looking to make new memories – but learning to record precious older ones. And just in case they have no clue where to begin collecting these souvenirs of the heart, La Posada provides them with a guide: The resort’s curator Sara Eyestone, who says her carefully planned writing exercises, which she assigns in regularly scheduled, complimentary sessions, are designed to give participants a walking tour of the right sides of their brains.

“The way I present it,” Eyestone said recently, “they are so busy writing, they are completely into the right side of their brain. You could have a bomb go off and they would keep writing.”

Eyestone has been detonating imaginations at the art-infused New Mexico resort for four years, both as a memoir coach and established artist herself who also gives painting classes by appointment. The Santa Fe resident calls the creative environment “magical,” especially for guests who carry their workshop lessons forward in the hours afterward on the grounds of the historic resort

“People are sitting out in the gardens in the winter right now with the snow outside the window,” she said. “They’re in the guest rooms, the libraries.” They range from professional writers with a project to grandparents and parents who simply want to record life moments to share with the next generation.

While many hotels offer lessons catering to the kitchen geeks and chef hopefuls that reside, for a time, in their guest rooms, others have stepped away from the culinary and into the cerebral. Many, like La Posada and Seattle’s Sorrento Hotel, view these learning adventures as a way of broadening the downtown boutique hotel’s profile as a resource available to the community too.

At the Sorrento’s “Etiquette Essentials” seminars, which are an outreach outside its downtown doors, the hotel believes it is firming up its role as member of the corporate community in particular: The afternoon sessions were originally conceived to target young professionals who had little background in the intangible ways of interacting properly in a business world that was still new to them.

And the hotel’s location made it the perfect setting for sessions with a nominal fee, said general manager Randall Obrecht.

“We are located in the downtown corridor,” he said, “and the Seattle economy is growing. Huge, massive companies have moved here. Amazon has moved their corporate headquarters here. Microsoft has a number of remote campuses. And so what we are seeing is a huge increase in the young workforce. Just because of the tech industry and gaming industry, it is a lot of young professionals in first-time jobs, that sort of thing.”

The 100-year-old building, a well-respected older icon in the city, has thus taken the new young workforce under its wing by hosting the sessions, which are presented by business coach Arden Clise. “It was a perfect marriage,” said Obrecht, “given the culture of Seattle and the young workforce here.”

But something unexpected happened along the way, said Obrecht. Those late afternoon lessons on the perfect handshake, the do’s and don’ts of business cards, the appropriate use of first-name basis went beyond the hoped-for target audience: “We really intended for it initially to be for young professionals,” he said, “but we find all ages and demographics going. We have received great feedback from meeting planners….It just kind of clicked and made sense that there was a demand for it.”

Though the European-style boutique hotel has a 60/40 mix of leisure versus business guests, its profile as a business citizen has been strengthened by the workshops, he said. “Now that we see there is a demand and overwhelming interest we are definitely going forward. The hotel has a program called ‘Sorrento Nights’ and things like book symposiums, silent reading, lessons from local mixologists, and so this is part of our ongoing program. And etiquette lessons have proven so popular we are going to make it an ongoing monthly or bimonthly part of our programming.”

Location is, likewise, one reason art lessons have been a regular offering at the Murray Hotel on Michigan’s Mackinac Island – but in this case, it is the community of the natural world and its waterfront beauty that provides its array of services to hotel guests. A varied collective of artists/instructors stay at the hotel during its busy season, allowing guests to draw upon – or in this case, paint upon – their resources and guidance.

It began with the hotel’s owner, artist Pat Pulte, whose daughter, Mar, now owns and operates the 1882-era establishment and its 69 rooms.

“My dad was attending a lot of workshops and developed a rapport with some of the teachers, and this got to be word of mouth,” said Pulte. That was 15 years ago. Although the offering is for guests only, it is not necessarily part of any weekend or weeklong package. “Most just want to be there with their instructors, whether for watercolor, oil or acrylic painting,” she said. And most of the visitors wish to concentrate on landscape art, no surprise given the island setting.

“It is just another niche, another way of connecting with people and developing a market you didn’t have before,” she said.

Caryn Eve Murray
Associate Editor
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Caryn Eve Murray is a freelance writer and an assistant editor on the news desk at Newsday on Long Island. During her tenure as a business writer for New York Newsday, she covered the city's small business community for which she won the Distinguished Business Reporting Award of Excellence from the New York Newspaper Publishers Association. She has also been a feature columnist and writer and has ...
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