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At the recent Southern Lodging Summit in Memphis, Tenn., a number of hotel leaders discussed the need for major hospitality brands to embrace authenticity.

What do they mean by ‘authenticity?’ Today’s guests want to have a ‘story behind their stay’ to share on social media, as well as to help them create a bond with the brand.

Authenticity is a highly laudable goal for any hotel brand, but it’s important to note that the definition of authenticity is different for many people – which can clearly be a challenge. For example, a millennial traveler is looking for a much different experience than a business traveler.

As highlighted in this Hotel News Now article, many hotel leaders believe that technology is the driver of brand authenticity among various segmented audiences. However, the reality is that technology is the conduit for providing an enhanced guest experience. It is the experience that creates authenticity, not the technology itself.

In addition, true authenticity requires hoteliers to be completely open and honest.

“In terms of uniqueness and authenticity … it’s about pulling back the magic curtain of operations and putting that in front of the guests,” said Dana Shefsky, Director of Digital Product Innovation for Hilton Worldwide Holdings, during the panel.

Most major brands – whether it’s a retailer or a hotelier – are fearful of being completely transparent with their customers and guests. Transparency can expose the “warts and the underbelly” of a brand. The truth is that most guests are more apt to establish long-term loyalty when they feel that they truly know a brand … this includes both the positives and negatives.

If a negative aspect of a brand comes to light, it actually provides the opportunity to address the issue directly – often via social media – with guests. By openly improving efforts, or rectifying an issue, hospitality providers can experience “brand forgiveness.”

Again, innovation serves as the mean for being transparent with guests. By leveraging the right technologies, hotel brands can open the door to transparency, which will ultimately create the highly sought-after authenticity.