Is there room for an anti-lifestyle hotel brand?
 
Is there room for an anti-lifestyle hotel brand?
07 APRIL 2017 7:22 AM

The hotel industry is sinking more and more of its resources into the lifestyle space. What will the inevitable and natural pushback to that look like?

The hotel industry right now is willing to bet big on the lifestyle space. It seems that’s where much of the consumer—and therefore investor—interest seems to lie at the moment.

It’s such a trendy segment that we’ve covered it pretty extensively:

But that can’t last forever, and there will inevitability be a reaction to the highly designed, “authentic,” and experientially curated and crafted lifestyle hotel experience.

I’m struggling to think of what that might be at the moment, but I think it’s a useful exercise to try to imagine.

Ignoring chain scales or star ratings or anything else along those lines, it’s easy enough at the moment to look at hotels in two buckets: lifestyle and traditional, or phrased another way, lifestyle and not lifestyle. But I don’t think just being a normal, traditional hotel or brand is really a counterpoint to the lifestyle space, so at least in my mind that means we have room for a third bucket that in one way or another rejects the current interpretation of what lifestyle hotels represent.

Obviously design and philosophy differ from brand to brand and hotel to hotel within the lifestyle space, but it’s safe to say that, in general, they share a similar ethos. They all want to be fashionable and friendly in a way that is pleasant and largely inoffensive.

But pleasantness can grow to be pretty grating in large quantities. That’s especially true for some people, like me, who have a tendency to read it as disingenuousness after a while, which might at least partially explain my teenage punk-rock leanings.

Here’s the thing: The industry talks all the time about the importance of authenticity, but there’s nothing that feels more authentic than a bit of unpleasantness. It’s not in the hotel industry, but just look at the Dick’s Last Resort restaurant chain as proof of concept for this.

Those restaurants have a much curated look and brand, but it’s kind of built on a rejection of the expectations you have built into the restaurant industry, with staff trained and encouraged to be openly hostile to guests.

I think it’s easy to write off the appeal of that sort of offering as some sort of consumer masochism, but I’d argue that it’s at least partially fueled by people’s quietly simmering frustration with the pleasant and predictable interactions they’d have at most restaurants and how they feel like human and “authentic.”

I suppose any sort of anti-lifestyle brand doesn’t necessarily need to be built around meanness, and I have a hard time wrapping my mind around how that model would ultimately be sustainable, but I think there needs to eventually be a deconstruction of the lifestyle model.

In my mind, I keep trying to piece together what this hotel version of punk rock is that could tear down the status quo, but just the phrase “punk rock hotel” sounds so polluted to me now because I just imagine Sex Pistols concert posters on the wall of a guestroom bathroom, and all of a sudden there we are smack-dab in the middle of the lifestyle realm once again.

I guess this next phase can’t just be built around aesthetics, and to continue to use music analogy, maybe it’s a bit more post-punk or grunge than punk itself. It’s something that carries on the individualistic ethos without sporting the safety pins and green mohawks.

Once again, I’m struggling to picture just what that’d be, but there has to be a way for hotel properties these days to be aggressively and defiantly themselves. It’s out there somewhere, and I look forward to seeing it when it inevitably crops up.

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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