Hotels with food for the mind

NEW YORK • Hotels are places to sleep, eat, socialise, relax and conduct business, but now they are taking on new roles as teachers.

They want consumers to know they can go to them for intelligent, stimulating or progressive conversation.

Guests staying at the five-star Corinthia Hotel London, which is near Trafalgar Square, can have their very own futurist.

Over afternoon tea or at happy hour, the team of futurists sit down with guests and answer any questions they might have about the future of everything from cocktails to cities.

Additionally, guests can attend breakfast briefings, evening cocktail soirees or "dare to know dinners" where futurists arrange discussions on topics, from feminism to cryptocurrency.

The team also leaves thought-provoking books in some guestrooms and maps of off-the-grid places to visit in London that will soon be new hot spots.

Since 2016, W Hotels has staged more than 50 talks around the globe that highlight female entrepreneurs, from fashion doyenne Diane von Furstenberg to movie director Ava DuVernay.

The What She Said series has been held in New York and Los Angeles, but also in Amman, Jordan, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where gender equality is less pronounced and the topic is more controversial.

One & Only Reethi Rah is a five-star resort in the Maldives where guests are there to relax. That process includes a speaker series where healing experts offer information on Chinese medicine, acupuncture and meditation.

The idea is that the hotel is helping guests do what they already came to do: restore themselves.

AC Hotels, a Spanish group with more than 140 hotels geared towards entrepreneurs, teaches guests about the hotel they are in.

"We call it Unpacked because we are dissecting a beautiful hotel experience for you," said brand director Benoit Racle. "It's like we are taking every guest on a private tour."

Guests can watch videos with a scent-maker talking about the hotel's special perfume, its architect discussing its design or the chef sharing about the special meat slicer he uses.

There are also gatherings where experts talk about lifestyle and hospitality. The inaugural evening in Times Square in New York attracted 200 people and included speakers like social-enterprise proponent Dan Barasch, one of the minds behind The Lowline, a proposal for an underground park in New York City's Lower East Side.

Ms Kateland Turner, a 27-year-old senior account manager at an experiential marketing agency in New York City, said the speakers were so interesting that she took some ideas to work with her the next day.

"I know hotels are increasingly becoming more than places to just rest your head, but this was the first time I had seen something like this that was not just fun, but also intellectually stimulating and additive to my worklife," she added.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'Hotels with food for the mind'. Print Edition | Subscribe