IHIF panelists agreed the future of hotels and hospitality is in simplifying the guests’ entire hotel journey to focus on phenomenal experiences.
BERLIN—The future of the hotel industry will lean on increased simplicity and a decluttered experience across the entire guest journey, according to sources speaking at the recent International Hotel Investment Forum.
“It will be about providing everything you need and nothing you do not,” said Sharan Pasricha, founder and CEO of Ennismore Capital. “Have less tech in the bedroom, and instead focus on knowing the customer journey. Where you stay today says a lot more about you than it did 10 years ago.”
In a panel titled “Sharing thoughts on the future of hospitality” Markus Lehnert, regional VP of international hotel development for Marriott International, said the right approach in gaining simplicity and also providing a meaningful experience starts with recruitment and training.
“Those small touchpoints inside the hotel will remain the future of our industry,” he said.
But it’s too easy to lose sight of that, said Amar Lalvani, CEO and managing partner of Standard International.
“Some companies think they need to do technology, and so it becomes a focus,” he said.
Lalvani railed against platforms that contain too many choices.
“Proud to have 500,000 hotels on a platform? No! Give me the best 10 in a city and the promise of the lowest price and if you trust us as curators,” he said.
Lalvani added Standard started the “rather cheekily named app One Night Standard.”
“We saw no one booked after 3 p.m., but with the new app they did, and it was a lot of locals, who decided to have staycations or because they were having a night out,” he said.
Jay Stein, CEO of the Dream Hotel Group, said simplicity might see a continued increase in soft brands, and not imposing all of a company’s rules and brand standards if they do not make sense.
“(Hotels) have to make sense to those individual markets,” he said. “F&B we may run it ourselves, or ask others in. … Whoever is killing it in that particular market, with some form of management contract, with some off the top and some percentage off the bottom.”
Simplicity in practice
Stein said one of his firm’s upcoming products is to be an upscale nature lodge in upstate New York.
“It is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, so we are doing all we can to open it by August 2019,” he said. “It will have trout fishing, snow-shoeing, archery, kayaking. It will have probably a $700 (average daily rate), but we think there is a market for it.”
Panelists hinted that demand or a feeling for new trends come from both guest wants and hotelier vision.
“Twenty years ago, people did not know what we were talking about,” Lalvani said. “What was W (Hotels)? We were knocking on the doors of developers in Barcelona, Istanbul, Doha, and no one understood it. Education was a very important part.”
He added that consumer education was even more so, as guests were now more sophisticated.
Ennismore Capital is developing select-service brand NoCo, which Pasricha said was founded to “compete in lower-priced markets where The Hoxton’s numbers do not quite work,” referring to the company’s first brand.
“The first to be in three years,” Pasricha said.
Lehnert said Marriott’s Moxy brand is trying to fit into that vision of the industry’s future.
“Moxy was different to Marriott’s other brands in that it was created in Europe and brought to the U.S., quite successfully,” he said. “We saw we needed to simplify structures based on generational changes. Staff will serve you and wash the dishes, but then they will eat next to you.”
Lehnert added that as of April, the Moxy brand will have 100 hotels signed.
“Fifteen are open now, 13 more this year and 38 next year,” he said.
Standard’s innovation is its Bunkhouse brand, a portfolio including hotels, glamping and retro coffee shops.
Lalvani said high on his pipeline wish list are U.S. cities like Austin, Texas; Nashville; and New Orleans. Global destinations are also being considered.
“It will be in London a year from now,” he said. “The brand resonates in culture, style, so Milan, Berlin, Hong Kong, Tokyo.”
Lalvani added that upcoming projects include a Bohemian surf camp in Mexico.
Panelists said that even hotels considered sacred cows should be looked at differently, even if those changes are small.
Pasricha bought Scotland’s famed Gleneagles Hotel in 2015, a bastion of tweed, trout and tradition.
“We joked we were rebranding it as The Hoxton. That did not go down well,” Pasricha said. “We’re usually looking outward for inspiration, but for Gleneagles, no. It might slightly move away from golf, but I’m probably not the guy to do a second 1,000-acre location.”
He added Ennismore bought a couple of urban buildings with the idea of perhaps starting a brand of Gleneagles clubs.
“It might be difficult to urbanize a country estate,” Pasricha said.
Lalvani had an even more novel approach to the future of the industry.
“I often look at development through the idea of what if (our) blog bought the company?” he said.