How can you achieve hospitality excellence as a city?

9 August, 2015
  • 5 min read
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Cities find themselves in an increasingly competitive environment: as residential city, business location, tourist destination or student city. Inspired by a vision of economic development policy makers search for points of differentiation and growth opportunities. In this respect aspects as attractiveness and hospitality come across. One realises that people feel welcome in a city with a hospitable climate. The basic thought is that a (more than) satisfied visitor stays longer, spends more money and returns more frequently. So how can you achieve city hospitality excellence?

1. Understanding how hospitality makes a difference

A feeling of being genuinely welcome leads to memorable experiences, engagement, sharing and recommendation. Enthusiastic visitors as super promoters, city residents as ambassadors and companies as valuable business cards for the city. But what makes a city a welcoming place? Each encounter with the city is equal to a moment of truth. Research shows that the human factor is a key touch point creating real hospitality experiences. And in addition to welcoming and hospitable behaviour of people the hardware contributes to the hospitality experience; landmarks, hotspots, hidden places but also what the city has to offer in culture, for shopping, dining and going out. Also the atmosphere has an important influence on the city experience. Think about infrastructure, accessibility, sounds, colours and flagrant that stimulate the senses, but also clear communication and signage can break or make the city experience. Research shows that it is primarily the wow experiences that can make the difference.

Of course all hygiene factors should be settled well, but engagement and loyalty comes with exceeding expectations and unexpected delights. The Chair research studies in the city of The Hague exposed the ‘journey’ – covering the whole period from the first orientation to the memories and recollection of the experiences when back home. It shows the value of creating wow experiences. Used research methods come from the toolbox of Service Design Thinking, such as personas, guest journey mapping, participative observation, etc. The last year special attention is given to the role of active citizens who act as welcoming host at a voluntary basis contributing the hospitality in the urban open space. Research addresses motives, drivers and life type of volunteer, leading to guideline how to recruit, select, motivate and reward and retain the city hosts.

2. To create & manage enduring experiences

Many municipalities struggle with the question how to apply marketing concepts to a city, municipality or region. The Chair proposes a strategic approach, which is based on a vision (what is the city’s hospitality DNA and what is the ambition for the future?). An approach that takes the realistic starting point (what is the hospitality experience all about right now) into consideration, points out clear objectives and concrete goals (related to target groups) and elaborates appropriate programmes. The challenge lays in the way city stakeholders, you could call them hosts, collaborate moving towards a greater hospitality experience of cities’ stakeholders. This starts with enhancing and improving the awareness for the urge and benefits of hospitable behaviour in cities, from City Council to all the different hosts. Search for the synergies that can be achieved to reach the desired level of hospitality and maintain it. Invest in co-creation programmes wherein market players collaborate towards city hospitality goals. Communicate transparently, monitor progress and celebrate success. City hospitality – in short – is definitely more than a service desk in the city hall, it is an inspiring movement with mutual benefits for both guests and hosts.

The Chair City hospitality contributes to the improvement of city hospitality performance through providing insights, inspiration tools and advice to municipalities and major stakeholders. Worth mentioning is a toolkit containing checklists, research and communication tools, covering the cycle from awareness, insights, vision, strategic choices and focus areas, implementation and monitoring in a dashboard. We are also proud of publications, workshops for city stakeholders who will make the difference with city hospitality, an e-learning module, which has been tailored for the cities of The Hague, Rotterdam and Delft.

About the author

Karoline Wiegerink

Karoline Wiegerink holds the Municipality of The Hague Chair in City Hospitality and City Marketing at Hotelschool The Hague. During her professional career she has always combined academic and practical work. As an economist and marketer she gained special experience in the field of live communication and event marketing. 

During several years in the late nineties she was a director at Erasmus Centre of Event Marketing (ECBM) and a lecturer at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. There she received her Ph.D. degree in Business Economics with a thesis about professional trade show visitors. Between 2007 and 2009 she worked as a part-time assistant professor at Nyenrode Business University, where she was responsible for the research programme of the Chair Event Marketing & Communication.

Until very recently she combined her work at the hotel school with an associate partnership at Holland Consulting Group (HCG) in Amsterdam, where she was a consultant in the field of marketing management, business planning & implementation, and various marketing accountability topics for companies in fields including the professional service industry, the communication industry and the hospitality sector. After having left HCG she has carried out consultancy and training activities at a freelance basis for HTH Training & Consultancy, among others she was responsible for the design and accreditation of thenew Master Hospitality Management of the hotel school, to be started in February 2014.

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