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Reinventing Hotel Guest Books for Modern Times

Kimpton Hotel Restaurant Group Inc., for example, is in the process of creating locally inspired experiences in individual rooms at 20 of its hotel properties, furnishing the room with a guest book that goes beyond simple name-and-date inscriptions. At Kimpton Hotel Born, in Denver, blank index cards emblazoned with the words “Born to be…” have prompted responses such as “Life is either a great adventure or nothing,” a riff on a quote attributed to Helen Keller. At Room 808 at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, in Grand Cayman, colored markers have helped turn a guest book into a colorful tome filled with doodles, drawings and inspirational sayings. (“One of the best lessons you can learn in life is to master how to remain calm.”) At Kimpton Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, an in-room lyrics book will ask guests to write a small section of a song, chain-novel style; the final version will be arranged and recorded this fall.

“We envision these very different and creative takes on the guest book to foster emotional ties,” said Kimpton senior vice president of hotel operations, Nick Gregory, about the aptly titled Stay Human Project initiative. “With our fast-paced lives, it’s an invitation to take pause and to create meaningful shared experiences.”

That’s not so far-off from the way hotel guest books were used in the 19th century, when they became popular in the United States, said Kevin James, a history professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario. He has extensively studied what he calls the “vibrant literary culture” of hotel guest books.

“It was about

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