High-end brands are upgrading concierge operations and training staffs to improve their neighborhood knowledge. Other brands are looking for better ways to share information with guests electronically about local restaurants, events and attractions.

Hotel experts say guests have become more knowledgeable about their destinations because of the Internet and the growing number of information sources. They want to escape from the harsher post-9/11 world and better connect with the places they're visiting and the people who live there. They want experiences that provide lasting memories and give them something to brag about at cocktail parties.

"Guests are looking for whatever it is that makes Detroit Detroit," says Michelle Lapierre, Marriott's senior director of customer relationship marketing. "There's a desire to say, 'I caught a little slice of that.' "

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