Le Meridien room keys open more than just doors. ‘They open a cultural experience,’ says Jérôme Sans, the hotel group’s cultural curator and founder of its LM100 Programme, a global community of creatives and cultural innovators that will eventually reach 100. ‘The doors became a canvas,’ adds Sans. ‘We asked artists to design key cards so that they became collectible items. The idea was that a card would not only open the door to a guest’s room, but would also unlock a local experience outside the hotel.’
That is the core of Sans’ vision: to create a local experience for guests, but on a global level together with its community of creatives that advise Le Meridien on their passions in art, food, fashion, design and architecture. ‘We are not creating something boutique,’ he says. ‘Instead, the experience can be created in any city of the world. It is a glocal network.’ The key card experiences include free entry to galleries and museums all over the world, including the Palais Des Beaux Arts in Brussels and the Hunar Gallery in Dubai.
Hence, instead of simply creating a hotel that guests stay in and leave, Sans wants to curate a cultural experience for them. ‘People are so busy,’ he says. ‘But I still want guests to be more knowledgeable when they leave and more curious. We help them to achieve this by reaching out to all their senses.’
Whether entering a hotel in Shanghai, Brazil or in London, guests will hear the 24-hour soundscapes playing in the lift composed by Henri Scars Struck. ‘Music is nothing new. But we wanted to invent time,’ explains Sans. ‘The composer has created a 24-hour track that we can use in all time zones, in all of our hotels.’
Guests can look at 60 artworks from eight up-and-coming and established international artists, such as Barcelona-based Joan Fontcuberta and New York-based photographer Ralph Gibson. And they smell notes of frankincense, musk and iris – the unique scent created for Le Meridien by Edouard Roschi and Fabrice Penot, the founders of perfumery Le Labo. Guests can also attend coffee tastings in the hotel, provided by coffee partner illycaffè. ‘We want to engage the guests’ senses on all levels. The sounds, scents and tastes create a convivial experience that will trigger guests’ memories,’ explains Sans. ‘This way, with luck, they will remember to return.’
Top five take-outs
1: Create a glocal experience. ‘Go global with collaborations, but provide guests with local experiences,’ says Sans.
2: Don’t just provide a bed, deliver an experience. Make each stay as much about art and culture as about comfort.
3: Engage all the senses. By incorporating elements that stimulate sound, smell, taste and vision you will help guests remember their stay.
4: Create a convivial experience. ‘We want to provide opportunities for dialogue in our hotels, such as around the unexpected sensation that the music in the lift creates,’ says Sans.
5: Help guests to unlock local cultural experiences with the key card. ‘The key cards form a curated collection of artworks that will expand in time,’ explains Sans.