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“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”~ Robert Louis Stevenson

Many people travel to foreign countries with the intent of learning and immersing themselves into different cultures, yet they still expect the host country to cater to and understand their own needs. When a Hotel brand chooses to open a property in a foreign country, this requires a bit more adaptation than just bringing in “your project” into “their country”.  It becomes vitally important to take a moment and start by learning about the culture and country where you intend to introduce your brand.  Simply speaking the language may not be enough.  What works in the U.S. may not necessarily work abroad, different customs, practices, and expectations are present in every country, and failure to understand and adapt to these differences can be what separates success from failure.

Perception of quality

One of the most important considerations to keep in mind is the perception of quality.  Quality can have many different parameters and understanding the nuances from country to country is imperative. This translates into being aware of the needs and expectations of the consumer market in that country and adapting the design product and services to meet these. For example, understanding how a culture regards personal space can be a key element in designing a hotel.  In some areas of the world, such as in the Mediterranean, people have less of an issue of being close to one another, whereas in other cultures, such as Japan, physical contact with other people is considered rude behavior.  This can impact how a hotel plans the reception lobby in terms of how densely or sparsely you furnish the area.  If you don’t understand the local culture, you could create a very negative impression on your guests from the moment they enter your property and this will skew their perception of the quality of service your hotel has to offer.  Remember, you never have a second chance to make a first impression!

Symbolism & Superstitions play a big role

Be aware of local superstitions, as this can have a greater impact on repeat business than you think.  While most western cultures avoid having a “13th floor” in their hotels, in Asia, the 4th floor is considered bad luck, while in Italy, the number 17 is essentially a portent of death.  Colors also have a significant role when it comes to cultural symbolism.  The Asian countries consider the color red to be a symbol of luck and prosperity, while in South Africa, it is considered a color for mourning and death.  While the Middle East considers green to be a lucky color, it is strictly forbidden to use green in Indonesia. You have to understand these differences to avoid creating a space that may have a negative impact in the country your are entering into. This becomes more than form or function, you really need to understand the history of the culture in order to cater to it.

How much color is too much?

One of the biggest mistakes a lot of brands make is thinking that they can just take the American version of their brand & insert it into another country and it will have the same success as in the U.S.  You have to be aware of the design, architecture, and art of the market you are entering to understand your design parameters and expectations.  For example, designing a mostly beige lobby with tonal accents in a Caribbean or Latin American market will most likely generate negative feedback from the guests.  These cultures are accustomed to brightly colored walls, vivid artwork, and loud and lively spaces with lots of lighting, whereas in London it might be seen as shocking and jarring. Hotel brands have to think outside the box if they want to be successful in other areas of the world.

In conclusion, hoteliers and hotel brands need to look at overseas prospects as more than just a business proposal viewpoint.  Taking the time to learn about the culture and the country will not only facilitate the project, but it will ensure a successful and profitable business investment for years to come!