Occasionally at “Crotty on Education” I take your mind off the pressing issues du jour — the U.S. debt, the education loan debacle, the opulent funeral of the last heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire – to focus on the intersection of education and leisure.
During my main gig of the past three decades — as a travel writer for my own Monk Magazine, the Frommer’s Mad Monks’ Guides, and Playboy – I saw a new trend taking hold of the hospitality industry. In addition to a comfy king-sized bed and free HBO, upscale hotels and resorts across the country were making their guests’ stays a little more, shall we say, “educational.”
One such hotel is the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort and Spa (see separate review) at the base of the Sandia Mountains along the Rio Grande on the scenic Santa Ana Pueblo, in Bernalillo, New Mexico. The architectural layout and pueblo-style guest rooms showcase traditional Native American aesthetics. But it doesn’t stop there. The hotel offers guests hands-on experiences, including classes in traditional pueblo bread-baking, pottery-making and archery, to bring them closer to the culture of the Tamayame, the native people of the land on which the 500-acre resort resides.
Another hotel offering cultural education is the Moenkopi Legacy Inn Suites in Tuba City, Arizona. Each month, the hotel features presentations on Hopi culture and agriculture. For example, guests can participate in an ancient farming tour led by a Hopi anthropologist to learn about the agricultural traditions of the Hopi people, including education about ancient irrigation techniques in the Moenkopi Valley. Other walks take in sites with hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. All walks end with a traditional Hopi meal.
The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa features an impressive range of ways to learn about the ancient Hawaiian culture, many of which are complimentary. A traveler can start their week making a traditional lei and end with a hula lesson. The hotel showcases indigenous vendors and cultural crafters, actively participates in traditional local festivals, and hosts their own luau. Unique hands-on activities and educational talks are held throughout the week, and after all that hula-ing, one can relax outdoors wearing one’s handmade lei and listen to traditional Hawaiian music.
Of publicly traded hoteliers, Hyatt seems to be the most serious about expanding the cultural education niche. For example, at Hyatt Regency Waikiki, the property has hired a Hawaiian cultural expert, drawn from the tradition of the “kupuna,” or community elder or leader, to lead a roster of authentic cultural activities.
“The local culture seamlessly blends into every aspect of the resort experience… creating a memorable vacation experience deeply rooted in the property’s natural surroundings,” says Hyatt spokesperson Lori Alexander when asked about the publicly traded hotelier’s cultural education focus.
Educational tours and cruises have long been a staple of the adventure travel industry. But now that hotels and resorts are adopting this trend, individual travelers can expect a lot more from their vacation. This will prove to be increasingly attractive for parents with young children seeking to enrich and enlighten their charges with an appreciation for indigenous civilizations.
Do you know of hotels and resorts with a cultural education focus? If so, please share your suggestions in Comments area below.