The Importance of Ambiance in a Hotel or Bed and Breakfast

They’re cheap, and anyone can stay there. As a result they house some of the oddest of the oddballs who keep LA interesting. The Ukranian screen writer, the crack addicted spiderman, the ingenue from South Dakota, the faded hair metal bassist, the Brits on a 5 day bender, etc. Anyone can stay in these dumpy motels. I’d write “dystopian egalitarianism” but then I’d seem even more pretentious than I already do.


The most effective way to be really successful in business is by challenging the status quo. Especially in a highly saturated industry like hotels, to compete and outperform the market you need a disruptive business model which delivers on a level competition cannot reach.

Patrick Landman,

I read Patrick’s piece a few weeks ago and have been letting it ruminate in my mind until I read Moby’s piece about his love of dumpy motels in Los Angeles. Moby offers an unexpected insight into the hospitality industry: by doing less, you can stand out from the rest. Patrick’s message is to do something different than your competitors in order to stand out - offer a different service, perform a service differently, decorate your rooms in a different style, and so forth. Combined, these two pieces offer some ideas in how to differentiate your property from others in the area.

Moby finds the motels of LA to be a curiousity partly because of their physical appearance, but also because of the people they attract. I find this to be an interesting idea. A property can attract people to stay there, because of the other people to be found there, not just because of the services they offer. I am certainly not going to suggest that the world needs more dumpy hotels so people can interact with “crack-addicted spiderman,” but I do think the hospitality industry can do a better job at showcasing the people that do stay at the property.

The charm of the local coffeehouses or the neighbourhood pubs are the people that go to those places to drink and to hang out. If a coffee shop serves good coffee and pastries, but lacks that ambiance of a thriving environment, it rarely succeeds. I often hear people talk about getting coffee to go from these places because it isn’t a great place to stay. The even more obvious example are pubs. Take a great bar with some great food, add some roughneck people and the previous clientele will most likely disappear.

The question then becomes how does a property create these ambiances and attract people to stay with them?

Patrick highlighted some hotels’ approach to this question. Their solution was highlighting a different kind of service and offering an experience that the guest wasn’t expecting. One hotel was offering a bowl of soup (that changed daily) to someone checking into the hotel, for example. Most properties will not be equipped with the space requirements or expertise to do something like that though. An alternative would be having fresh coffee available in the lobby (especially during peak hours), a bowl of fruit to choose from, or other treat.

People enjoy sharing with others when the environment encourages it. Think back to moments when you have talked to someone you didn’t know outside of a work environment. Maybe it was on a long plane ride and you were both alone, or waiting for a performance to start. Perhaps you were both caught in a rain storm and trapped under a bus stop waiting it out.

There are plenty of these moments on a daily basis, and we can somewhat duplicate them in the hospitality industry by encouraging guests to come together. Have them visit in a lobby space where they can share stories about their travels or some tips about what to see or do locally. Some of the larger hotels have a happy hour in the lobby with champagne or white wine, and I’ve seen people mingling about more than I thought they would.

People love these little moments where they discover something new that they have the opportunity to see for themselves or it’s something they can relate to. These moments are unlikely to happen on their own unless the property has a space where they can happen.

If you have a property, think about how you can re-purpose a space and use it for gatherings. The space can either behave like an invitation to gather (a reading room, a coffee/refreshment area) or a space that they are invited to (a cocktail hour, a movie screening, a guest speaking about local events).

This one small thing will help you build an ambiance at your property and help you stand out from the competition.

People love sharing with others, so remember to give them something to talk about.