We’re traveling this weekend. While I enjoy traveling (even more since wireless hi-speed Internet became the norm at most hotels), I’m usually not a big fan of heading south in the summer or travelling at all on big holiday weekends. So, this time we’ve broken both of these rules, but we’re having fun anyway.
One of the things I think of when we travel is the impact brands have on us. Consistent, well-managed brands can make our travels more fun and less troublesome. Brands give us a high level of comfort and familiarity while we travel to new and unfamiliar places. This is why local, independent hotels and motels are almost extinct.
I can’t speak for anyone else but when I get to the end of a day’s traveling, the last thing I want is to wonder about the safety and cleanliness of the hotel I’ll be sleeping in. I want to have a very high level of confidence that the place I lay my head will be clean, quiet and safe. Add some creature comforts like a clean pool, hot coffee in the morning and a showerhead that is actually above my head, and I’m a happy traveler!
So, when we roll into a new town you can bet we’re staying at a place we’re familiar with. There are a number of big hotel brands we like and they all do a fine job in keeping us comfortable as we travel. It’s a rare day when we venture from this standard and stay at a local, non-chain hotel. If we do it’s only because we have no other choice or because we’ve have a rock-solid recommendation from someone we trust. (More on this later.)
After dinner last night we found ourselves doing some sightseeing in the little historic rivertown we’re staying in. Before we called it a night, Debbie (my wife) decided she wanted some ice cream. Well, not two minutes later, a small, local ice cream shop appeared on the right side of the road, almost as if it was planned. (How’d she do that?)
The ice cream was delicious. The place was spotlessly clean. The employees were friendly as were the other people waiting in line for their ice cream. The prices were much lower than we pay at home. Put it all together and I’d call it a winning dining experience.
But wait. There’s more.
Beyond the quality of the food, the fast service, the cleanliness, the low prices and the friendly people, this little place had character. It had (if you pardon the pun) flavor.
As we sat munching our ice cream, I looked around. On one wall hanging in a row were about a dozen ice cream scoops of varying ages. One or two of them looked like a scoop we used when I was a kid. (That brought back some memories.) On the same wall, below the scoops, were two bulletin boards full of photos. They looked like school pictures of the kids who had worked there over the years.
Above us, were 8×11 “awards” posted for each of the employees. They were fun and silly, things like “we’re glad you’re our boss and not our mom” award. Near the entrance to the kitchen was a bookshelf/cabinet with framed pictures and other memorabilia.
Clearly the people who own this place put their heart into it. It’s more than a business for them. That they would take the time to honor their employees this way and to share these mementos with their customers says a lot about the folks who own this little shop.
For us as customers and visitors, it gave the place a warmth that you probably wouldn’t find in a big chain or franchise. I enjoyed it. It was a great way to end our first day on the July 4th holiday weekend.
So, how about you? Are brands important to you when you travel? Do you prefer big names or local flavor? Please let me know.
Thanks for reading.