Every summer I find myself obsessed by some hotel-geek-style topic. This year it’s hostels 2.0 and landscape hotels.
Nontraditional hotels—especially hostels and landscape hotels—fascinate me, and all summer I’ve been devouring all I can about these types of lodgings.
Notice, though, that I’m not calling these “alternative accommodations.” That term I reserve for the Airbnbs of the world that, among other differences, simply aren’t governed like hotels are. In my own head when I divide and categorize all these different lodging types, I put hostels and landscape hotels and these new work/live/stay hybrids under the header of “nontraditional hotels.” (For the record, my employer, STR, maintains its own definitions for alternative accommodations, which I’m not referring to for the purpose of this blog).
As a kid I was fascinated by wigwam motels and Conestoga wagon hotels, and that’s since expanded to the new breed of Airstream trailer lodgings. I was probably one of the few college students who looked forward to staying in dirty hostels during my semester abroad (granted, that feeling quickly wore off).
In other words, nontraditional hotels have held my interest for a long time, and my latest obsessions are hostels 2.0 and landscape hotels.
I invented the term “hostel 2.0” to describe the new generation of well-designed, options-laden, revenue-per-available-bed lodgings that have taken over Europe and are colonizing plenty of U.S. pockets already. Think about it this way: OG hostels required shower shoes and were characterized by dirty sheets and an overwhelming smell of hummus. Hostels 2.0 are clean, often have the option of a private room, and … yeah, I’d still wear shower shoes, though, but I do that everywhere anyway.
You know the brands—Meininger, Generator—and if you’re savvy to this stuff, you know the strictly local indies as well that are raising the bar. As an industry, we gobble up news about what millennial and Gen Z travelers want, and our traditional hotel brands try so hard to get there, but if you really want to know what they want, pay attention to the hostel 2.0 space (I’ve talked about Nomadic Matt in this blog before; if you want to know what travel-obsessed young people are doing, check him out.)
But beyond hostels, the big winner of my summertime Instagram affections have been landscape hotels.
If you’re not familiar with this category, just search the term on Instagram and, well, you’re welcome.
These are loosely characterized as lodgings that are built into their landscapes, intended to immerse the traveler in the place as close to nature as possible. These range from glass-box outcroppings in the Nordics to clear flexible domes in Europe.
One will arrive in Sedona, Arizona, next year, called Ambiente.
This is the next wave of experiential luxury accommodation. Privacy is the name of the game here, but many lodgings have fine-dining restaurants and plenty of amenities.
I’m curious to know more about the actual costs of development, though. While they are high-design for the most part, many are prefabricated and most are created with huge attention on sustainability. This translates to scalability, in many ways. No, glass-box hotels won’t pop up like Tru by Hilton hotels, but their creators are finding ways to make them work in places where it makes sense.
In many ways, landscape hotels are to the hotel industry what tiny homes are to residential housing–they are meeting a simple, well-designed, yet luxury experience niche.
Either way, I can’t get enough, and while these lodging types may not have a huge impact on your traditional hotel business tomorrow, they sure do lend plenty of inspiration, not to mention insight into the vast and diverse heads of the traveling universe.
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