Hotel Antiche Figure: When creativity integrates with digital technology for an all-new tourist experience
“These are really trying times but I’m sure we’ll make it”. Alessandro Fornasier is a born optimist. After working in the hospitality sector in Venice for more than 30 years, he sees this as just another challenge that needs to be tackled with energy and a little bit of creativity, while keeping an eye on new technologies.
The Antiche Figure hotel in Venice stands out on the opposite side of the Grand Canal once you leave the train station. An historical building, “in the 17the century the entire facade was covered in frescoes”, hence its name. But history is anything but a limitation here. Instead it’s the driver that accelerates innovation. “There are a lot of hotels in the lagoon and you need to be able to stand out”, explained Alessandro, who also runs the Canal Grande hotel nearby. “We do this by first placing all our attention on our guests and their needs”. Customer care is actually “the best thing about this job, it’s what makes you understand what every guest wants and makes the tourist really get to know the city”.
Technology is the next thing that makes the difference for a small hotel like this. “We were one of the first to reopen after lockdown, even if it was really tough economically speaking”. Digital technology was fundamental, “we were able to keep in touch with our customers and try out new ways to promote our services”. The most useful tools were Google Ads, “so people could find us on the web”, Google Travel and Google My Business “for bookings and demand-based pricing”. Then there’s innovation mixed with creativity, the kind that is able to catch on to new trends and come up with new solutions: “Since people were still working remotely, we decided to repurpose two hotel rooms as workspaces with a desk, computer, high-speed wi-fi and printer. This means that not only can you book a room for the night, we also offer day rates for people wanting to work with a view of the Grand Canal”.
“I love what I do, because I’m always meeting and talking to someone new every day: it’s like touring the world while staying in the same place”. It’s what really matters during a trip “not the places but the relationships you build with the people you meet”. Being able to do this in a place like Venice is priceless. “I’m not just from Venice, I’m in love with Venice and its history”. Alessandro knows every single corner, “I’ve been to the strangest places and ones that are off the beaten track”, and always tries to transmit these details to his guests that tell more about the lagoon than a thousand guides. Now, carrying on with the family tradition, is his son, “who organizes tours of the so-called minor, or less-known Venice”. This passion continues, just like the desire to keep going on and not letting adversity stop you. “Even if it may seem difficult to imagine, I think this emergency will make us discover new opportunities. The challenge is to look forward and, with the right tools, face the future with a smile.”