Is accommodation important for a local experience?

Travel Forums General Talk Is accommodation important for a local experience?

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1. Posted by rachel_branco (Budding Member 15 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Hello, everyone! There is a recent thread here in the forum regarding how to find local experiences which I would like to develop a bit more, considering that some accommodation companies have been arising with an authenticity/local experience proposal for their guests. This is my main research interest (shout out to Peter once again for letting me open this up to you), so please don't spare words on your comments, and feel free to expand this topic with any further interesting information

Do you think accommodation can be a way to provide meaningful experiences within a local culture?
When you plan your trips, do you consider the kind of accommodation that would enhance your travel experience?
Do you usually look for different/authentic/local kinds of accommodation, or you usually check for the best rates or location?
What attributes drive you to choose your accommodation in a trip in general? Is there any company or kind of accommodation that draws your attention in particular?

I'm looking foward to hearing your thoughts on this

2. Posted by littlesam1 (Budding Member 99 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

I usually pick my accommodation by location and then by cost. I want to know what neighborhood it is located in. I prefer to walk a lot and not always use local transportation so I want to know if the accommodation is located where I can walk to points of interest. I was recently in Milan and stayed at a hotel that was a ways out of city center but still close enough that we could walk to most of the places we wanted to see. What I loved about this hotel is that is was very friendly. The staff were encouraged to interact with the guests and not just be behind a desk to check you in. In the evenings the staff the joined the guests in the lounge area to walk to football or to have a drink with you. I've never had an experience quite like this before but I would enjoy doing it again. So yes getting to know the staff on a one on one basis did enhance our experience and also helped us to learn more about the area from a local person.

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2089 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Quoting rachel_branco

some accommodation companies have been arising with an authenticity/local experience proposal for their guests.

Do you think accommodation can be a way to provide meaningful experiences within a local culture?
When you plan your trips, do you consider the kind of accommodation that would enhance your travel experience?

I'm not entirely sure what you mean, Rachel? Do you mean homestays / living with local families in their home?

That wouldn't appeal to me at all. When I travel I'm usually pushing myself to my limit going out each morning trying to see as much as I can in the time I have; getting back to the accommodation means retreating into a quiet place to recover. Tired feet, addled brain, we sleep or read for a couple of hours before perhaps going out again to see something else in the cool of the evening. We just want a clean box of a room with a bed and a shower.

Accommodation is also the biggest cost when travelling. Since I want to travel for longer, that usually means keeping the costs down. That's another reason for me keeping to fairly basic accommodation rather than anything embellished.

But that's me as a stingy independent traveller. It may well be that people on tours view things differently. The trouble is, I view most people on tours as a stereotype of rich Americans, so any "local experience" accommodation would need to be quite high end.

4. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 1502 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Like AndyF, I (solo independent traveller) just want a clean room with bed and shower and, like littlesam, I choose where I stay based first on location and second on cost.

I don't think any company provides 'authentic' accommodation: adaptations and changes are always necessary in order to bring in the customers, even with homestays...and even if those customers remain unaware of the adaptations and changes.

I'm not sure what is meant by 'authentic' anyway. There is no country in which everyone lives in exactly the same way in exactly the same accommodation. Any company which offered 'authentic' accommodation would simply be offering a stereotype of one sort or another.

5. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2089 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Quoting leics2

I'm not sure what is meant by 'authentic' anyway.

I've enjoyed the retro feel of hotel rooms in the former Soviet Union. Dark wooden panelling or 1970s garish wallpaper, old fashioned blankets. (The intermittent hot water less so!)

Okay this wasn't marketed as authentic, it was legacy hotel stock and it was cheap because of it. :) I guess someone could make a selling point of it.

6. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2629 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

When traveling I pick my accommodation by price and location. I prefer to walk to restaurants, bars, shops and even malls if in a city area. If there is a subway or cheap city rail service available that also would draw me to a particular location to stay near. Available bus stops nearby is a plus. Since I am a cheapskate the cost of accommodation is a factor. Although I want my own private bathroom in the hotel room and not have to share toilets and showers with other people. A/C when appropriate. Heat when appropriate.

At my age I do not need any "home stays" or hostels. The last thing I want to do is share a single toilet with a large family! For some people a homestay might be okay but when you see that their food prep is lacking in sanitation or basic cleanliness that should be a turnoff! Like cutting raw meat up with a knife and then using the same knife to cut up vegetables for salad without cleaning the blade off. (I like sausages but I don't really need to see how they are produced!)

7. Posted by road to roam (Travel Guru 625 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Myself, I enjoy a bit of anonymity when it comes to accommodation and that's on the list along with cheap, quiet, central and clean - an enhanced local experience never comes in to play.

Having said that, few foreign vistitors tend to stay in the places we stay (in certain parts of the world) and these are often full of locals in transit on a bus, on a vacation during festival times/big national holidays, or for business.

Myself, accommodation is simply a place to come and go. I would not look specifically for accommodation offering an evening gathering, some sort of "communal" feel or attention from the host - quite the opposite for me, really.

I've stayed at bed and breakfasts in some European countries just because they've been a cheaper choice, not to break bread with the hosts or other guests.

[ Edit: Edited on 23-Sep-2019, 12:09 GMT by road to roam ]

8. Posted by greatgrandmaR (Travel Guru 1779 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

When I went to Costa Rica for the first time (over 20 years ago), I booked the Hampton Inn near the airport to stay in. My travel agent was aghast as it wasn't 'authentic' accommodation and it wasn't in the city (San Jose). But it worked very well for us. We couldn't walk to places in town, but we mostly used this hotel to stay between adventures.

We had a comfortable room with breakfast included just like at Hampton Inns in the states. They had a shuttle to restaurants in the evening or we could have food delivered. We could get the free shuttle to the airport and take a bus into town from there. We could leave excess luggage with them when we flew off in tiny planes to the coast. And the girls at the front desk were amazing.

We used the same travel agent when we went to Costa Rica again - he is a Costa Rican specialist. This time he booked us at a hotel in the center of town like he had wanted to before. Breakfast was included and we could walk to places. We could also leave luggage with them. But it was more expensive and I found it more impersonal.

I think there are two aspects to the 'authentic' business.

One is the physical architecture. The Hampton Inn does not have much authentic architecture. It is a chain and you pretty much have the same thing whenever you stay there. This can be comforting. When we stayed at the Slipway Inn in Port Isaac (Cornwall), it was definitely authentic architecture and added a lot to the experience. The food was great and I enjoyed eating local food. (I picked this place because it was in the center of town). But I had stairs to do, and we had to park out on the outskirts of town and pay for parking. So in some ways it was much less convenient.

The other part is the people. I think people assume that if you are staying in a B&B or someplace like that, that you will have more interaction with the local people and possibly more local food. This may or may not be true. It depends on the host and the guest and will be different for each pairing of host and guest. For myself, I talk to anyone that is willing to talk to me, and I like to try local food. But I have more luck talking to people like taxi drivers who can talk while they are doing their jobs. Someone running a B&B or the hotel desk clerk in a big hotel is not going to have a lot of time for conversation. I can't say that I have made any long term friendships with the people running the lodging I was staying at even when it was a very small place with only four rooms and we were staying in the off season.

In some small places (thinking again of Costa Rica) they have family style dining and you do get to talk to fellow travelers. But fellow travelers are by definition - not local people. Sometimes these people are great, and sometimes not. (I wrote in my journal on the first trip to Costa Rica Some English folk who were very snooty apparently didn’t want us on the trip with them, so the camp was forced to send another guide with another boat so they wouldn’t be held up by how slow I was.)

Anyway, I'm with the majority here - I book for location and price before I look for an authentic experience. If I have one I'm happy but I'm not sad to stay in a chain as long as the room is comfortable and has a bathroom

9. Posted by Dymphna (Respected Member 223 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

Sometimes it depends upon the type of travel you are doing. I know a couple of places with tepees. If I were doing travel for that kind of flavor, yes. Or I have seen hotels under water, that would be experience travel. But for the most part, I want comfort, clean, and close by and close to what I am seeing.

10. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1647 posts) 51w Star this if you like it!

We tend to stay in one place for a week to a month so we rent apartments or houses. I look first for location, second for price and third for ambience. My three must-haves are parking, washing machine and wifi. We prefer smaller towns and villages or places out in the country.

In France we usually use Gites de France. I'm writing from one right now. The owner and his wife live above us and are very friendly and helpful people. When we are staying someplace less than a week, we try for Logis de France, small, family-owned hotels in nearly every town and village in France. Over the years we've gotten to know quite a few of the owners and look forward to seeing them.

In Italy we use agriturismi or farm stays and again, eventually get to know the owners. These are required to be working farms and we have been put to work on a couple occasions. It's great fun.

The idea of a chain hotel gags me. Why stay at a chain hotel that looks like every other hotel in the chain in every country. I want to know what country I'm in. The differences are what makes a trip fun.

We used B&Bs in Ireland and Scotland, holiday cottages in England, gasthauses (spelling??) in Germany and a holiday cottage in Belgium. You get to meet the owner and get some information about the area. The thing we don't like about B&Bs is the breakfast hour. We are early birds and waiting until 7:30 or later for breakfast puts a big dent in our sightseeing day.