Will Banksy's Hotel redefine “Authentic Experience” in travel?

The making of authenticity requires a helping of Politics with a dash of celebrity

Matt Walker
May 23, 2017

On March 11th 2017, the elusive street artist, Banksy, began his foray into the hospitality sector opening The Walled Off Hotel at the West Bank separation barrier in Bethlehem.

The nine room hotel replete with colonial themed piano bar, presidential suite and wall dressings from the artist himself abuts the controversial barrier erected by Israel to prevent Palestinian attacks and surely challenges our notions of what constitutes an authentic travel experience.

Authentic Experi..blah blah blah

Joseph Pine, a thought leader on the Experience Economy said “The paradox [of authentic experience] is no one can have an inauthentic experience. And, no business can supply one.”

All experience is a reaction to external stimuli that takes place inside of us and therefore is authentic.

The hackneyed phrase “Authentic Experience” somehow continues to convey value to the traveller by stating the obvious and promising something that no travel brand can actually deliver.

Authenticity has become the new traveller sensibility and the buying criteria by which consumers choose brands and products.

However, the authenticity of an experience can only be measured in the shared perception of the consumer, or in their willingness to share the experience.

According to a New York Times survey on the psychology of online sharing: we share what we think is authentic, to prove that we are authentic.

Social media is a good indicator of trends in what is considered authentic.

While musing on how Banksy’s new travel venture might be received, consider these statistics:

1) Roughly one-third of all social media users indicate they post about politics.

2) 42% of all Facebook posts are about travel.

3) According to the BBC, Brands that came out against President Trump saw a huge increase in followers and donors. President Trump has explicitly backed Israel, and while The Walled Off Hotel is not an anti-Israel establishment, it is coming down on a very specific side of the wall.

4) The same New York Times survey revealed that 84% of social media users share causes that reflect how they want to be seen. The whole ethos of the hotel is to expose the disenfranchisement of a people, alleviate their poverty, provide jobs, boost tourism and awareness.

5) Furthermore, scarcity increases the value. The same applies with the rarity of a travel experience. How rare is a one-of-a-kind hotel, with only 9 rooms, owned and decorated by the most famous street artist on the planet, situated in the least touristy spot on the planet.


If a trip can be measured in selfies and shares, and what we consider authentic is proportional to our urge to take those selfies and share them, this time next year The Walled Off Hotel will be the new standard for an authentic travel experience.

Only to be surpassed when Kim Jong-un lists his palace on Airbnb.

. . .
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