If we analyze the typology of hotels, we will discover that the hotel types have remained the same for almost a century. Is it in the era of postmodern tourism that hotels need to offer clients something more and different in spatial and organizational terms? At the time when the journey became part of the "life-style", does a user need to feel the authenticity of the place in which he resides and its atmosphere? Perhaps one of the solutions is that hoteliers, apart from the accommodation, should offer the experience of the site and tangible contact, or integration with the local, as well. The model of diffused – scattered hotel could be one of the solutions.
Scattered hotels, in an extremely simplified sense, are hotels that are organized in several buildings in one town or village, on a pedestrian distance, and have joint management and common facilities. The structure of these hotels develops horizontally, not vertically, as we are accustomed to in traditional hotels. This model of the hotel is applicable today for the possibilities offered by modern digital technology, in terms of advertising, but also of connection, information exchange and object control.
The goal: revitalization of abandoned urban or rural areas
The term „scattered hotels“, or in original “Albergo Diffuso” originates from 1980s from Italy. In English language these type of hotel is called “scattered hotel”.
The basic goal of forming such an accommodation is to help revitalize abandoned towns, devastated city cores or abandoned rural areas, in spatial, demographic and economic terms. In a wider sense, any object in a city core or a rural area that is abandoned or a spatial-functional surplus can become part of a “scattered hotel” if it meets certain criteria.
The Italian Association of Scattered Hotels gives the following recommendations: accommodation units should be located at a maximum of 300 m away from the hotel's public facilities (already mentioned walking distance); management and reception are the one (even if the ownership is not), the reception and staff must be available at least 14 hours a day; rooms must be comfortable and according to standards, but in the context and spirit of the local; the hotel must support a healthy environment with the promotion of sports, recreation and cultural activities; information materials related to the tourist offer of the city and the surrounding area should be distributed in accommodation units; a part of the offer includes breakfast in the hotel, while other meals can be offered inside or outside the hotel, but at the local level; the hotel must demonstrate an authentic, local atmosphere.
“Scattered hotels” are mostly located in Italy, but we find them in other locations, too.
Relais del Maro in Borgomaro, Liguria is a good example of “Albergo Diffuso”. The hotel is located in three separate buildings set in picturesque landscape. It is owned by a family that has been involved in the revitalization and reconstruction of historic buildings (from the 19th century) with the cooperation and support of local authorities. This hotel has 14 accommodation units, each one different, while the reception, restaurant, garden and swimming pool are within the main facility. The food also contributes to providing the authentic experience of the Italian village. Food is local and everything is prepared by local recipes. This property perfectly shows the revival of the medieval village, to the satisfaction of local residents and their guests.
Residence Antica Torre del Nera is a "scattered hotel" built in the medieval village of Scheggino, in Valnerina, the green heart of Umbria. This authentic hotel has 16 units or suites, with separate entrances, fireplaces, a kitchen and a dining room. The furniture and materialization of the interior are authentic, based on local values, so that the guest gets the experience of resting in an authentic house, not in a standardized hotel room. The hotel is “scattered” along the street, overlooking the village.
Luxury scattered hotels
Avenue Hotel in Amsterdam, unlike the previous two examples, is located in urban area, in the city, in the centre of Amsterdam. It also meets the requirement to be located in existing buildings, which have been rearranged and have a new purpose - hotel. Some of these buildings date from the 17th century. In the so-called Golden Age, some parts served as warehouses, and over time they had other purposes. Today this hotel has been reconstructed and technically equipped to meet the modern standards of a three-star hotel, including an elevator. This hotel is not completely revitalized according to the principles of scattered hotels, especially in terms of design and materialization of the interior, but as far as the location is concerned, it is reliably belonging to the type of scattered hotels.
The extremely luxurious Hotel Aman in Venice, located next to the Grand Canal, is an illustration of how existing structures can be adapted to the needs of different categories of guests. In the luxurious Venetian palace once stayed the elite, and today, in this palace, transformed into an authentic hotel, stays the elite of our times. This hotel does not meet the basic criterion of a scattered hotel which is supposed to consist of several renovated buildings, since it is located only in one. According to me, all other criteria are met – It is located in a historical building, all spaces, including rooms and apartments are authentic, while the hotel is managed by a Venetian family.
Recycling existing buildings
All this suggests that this, according to the typology of a relatively new and different concept of a hotel, can come to life in every environment and that it aims at different clientele, depending on what resources it has. In some cases, the disadvantages in the spatial quality of the building compensate location, authenticity and design. The application of this solution is simple and sustainable.
Instead of building new facilities, smaller hotels or megastructures, where users, in relative spatial isolation, meet exclusively with each other, one can think about the subject of recycling existing buildings. In all these objects, more or less valuable, certain energy, physical or mental, is incorporated, and as such they carry the identity of the place. It is only necessary to use the existing spatial potentials for tourists who want different accommodation and connect with the spirit of the place „genius loci“. We must not forget the ecological aspect of the concept related to recycling and in addition to design such hotels on the principles of ecological (green) renewal, both building and its impact on the environment.
Article was published in the magazine Turistički Svet, issue number 90