5 trends evolving with lifestyle hotels
09 FEBRUARY 2016 7:09 AM
A group of executives in lifestyle hotels said properties need to morph into neighborhood social centers to help differentiate in the market.
LOS ANGELES—“Lifestyle” is a term becoming more difficult to define as the segment faces changes in the industry.
“It’s a term bandied about a lot,” Mike Depatie, managing partner at KHP Capital Partners, said during the “View from the Boardroom—It’s all about lifestyle” panel at the 2016 Americas Lodging Investment Summit.
“It means different things to different people. But the original intention (of lifestyle hotels) is to bring the lifestyle you aspire to have at home and take it on the road. Most would say you don’t aspire for your life at home to look like a hotel chain lobby,” he said.
As more hoteliers look to create the unique, emotive experience typically tied to lifestyle hotels, the segment is forced to adapt. Here are five ways panelists said the lifestyle hotel space is transforming.
- Read our complete coverage of ALIS 2016 here.
Creating social centers
Niki Leondakis, CEO of Commune Hotels & Resorts, said a neighborhood has to be more about location for a lifestyle hotel. She said lifestyle hoteliers have to embrace their neighbors and create a connection with them.
Leondakis pointed to a Commune property in Chicago where that approach played itself out both in design and day-to-day operations. She said that hotel houses a “wall of ugly art,” which was created by scouring flea markets and sales in the area around the hotel. It quickly became something neighbors gravitated toward.
“Now people are creating art and asking to have it hung on the wall,” Leondakis said.
Leondakis recommended making the hotel lobby a special, unique place for guests and neighbors. For example, she said some properties have lured regular foot traffic from the neighborhood by offering free dog treats in lobbies. The offering allows locals to come in each day and grab a treat for their pet and grab a cup of coffee.
Growing with technology
Greg Mount, president and CEO of Red Lion Hotels Corporation, said one of the ways lifestyle hoteliers can put themselves on more equal footing with the large brand companies is by focusing in on technology and e-commerce. Mount said one of the ways his company has done that is by bringing in top talent from major tech companies like Google and taking a unique approach to distribution and online demand generation.
Mount said Red Lion’s biggest application through technology is taking more of a “retail approach,” which he said allows his company to decrease customer acquisition costs by using internal data to develop more sophisticated pricing.
“We don’t price based on our STAR report comp set but on hotels with similar online reputations in that market,” Mount said.
Leondakis said technology also allows hoteliers new avenues to communicate with guests. She said employees seem to enjoy communicating with guests via text message before they even show up.
“They really get into texting guests before they arrive and finding out what their special needs are,” she said. “We’ve all been a VIP in a hotel and had an awkward call from a person right when you get in the room asking if you need anything. That awkward phone call served no purpose and didn’t help you. But SMS helps in a different way where you’re more likely to get what you need.”
Depatie said lifestyle hoteliers always need to be careful how they spend money on technology while developing hotels because they don’t want to invest in unnecessary things or remove human interaction from the experience.
“You’ve got to give customers what they want but still differentiate on that interaction,” he said.
Prioritizing health and wellness
Leondakis said more travelers are bringing their health and wellness goals on the road with them, so that means hoteliers, particularly at lifestyle hotels, have to be able to accommodate guests without alienating them.
That means making it easy and simple to do things such as simple workouts or yoga classes on property, but it doesn’t mean gearing an entire hotel to just be the “fitness” hotel, she said.
“I don’t think people who are into health and wellness need to be segregated in any shape or form,” Leondakis said. “It’s part of who you are … but it doesn’t define your experience or sense of self.”
A focus on programming
Mount said one of the things that define the public spaces at any Red Lion property is the focus on original “content,” often the form of performances or lectures that also are recorded and available on guestroom televisions.
“We’re bringing in local professors or activists into the lobby then using that content, which is phenomenal, and feeding that into the website,” Mount said.
He said that content can be used locally to create a connection to the community, but it also adds value across the company’s portfolio of hotels, allowing events in cities to be streamed to interested parties in other cities.
Unique flavor with F&B
Leondakis said hotel food and beverage lost any sense of originality decades ago and has struggled to recapture it since.
“When the big boxes went up in the ‘80s, F&B got really vanilla, boring and just bad,” she said. “We went from a period of hotel restaurants being social centers and communities to you wouldn’t go to a hotel to eat if your life depended on it.”
Depatie said one way to make F&B unique again starts with reaching out to partners during hotel development, and bringing in local third parties to create a unique restaurant and bar experience guests and locals will be drawn to.