The hotel, from hosting to championing culture
In the midst of reinventing themselves to compete with online accommodation platforms, hotel brands are revising their value proposition by skillfully integrating themes and activities in their offering which were once limited to the cultural world.
When was the last time you chose a hotel?
You probably booked it through an Online Travel Agency (OTA) or an accommodation price comparison service.
You read travellers’ comments and looked at their photos instead of the hotel’s (which you know have been retouched).
You placed more trust in the rating scores provided by users than in the number of stars.
After some calculations, you determined that by having breakfast outside of the hotel, you could have a larger room… and that the cost of transport to get to this great cheap hotel on the outskirts would ultimately make the price as high as the other hotel in the city centre…
If all this reminds you of anything, it’s that the overnight-accommodation booking experience has changed considerably in recent years. Besides reiterating that you’re no longer buying a night in a hotel but rather an experience, it’s above all a question of realising that you’re first and foremost buying into a lifestyle, not just a comfy bed for the night.
Nowadays, we’re designing hotels around lifestyles
In one KPMG study, the owner of MOB Hotel remarked that “We set up hotels where artists live”. The hotel is now a cultural attraction. It’s just as enticing to take pictures of the common areas of a hotel as it is to snap the front of a museum.
The hotel has become a key player in the life of the neighbourhood. Hotels are the first businesses to establish themselves in neighbourhoods that are undergoing gentrification. This rings true in all the major world cities, a forgotten part of town becomes “the place to be” as soon as a museum and a hotel are opened there. In this context, it’s interesting to study concepts and/or hotel offerings to understand the cultural trends of today.
• Take for example so-called “business” hotels which have considerably changed their value proposition. They now promote their fun side as if to say that while a professional trip is certainly work-orientated, it can also be an opportunity to enjoy yourself (Pullman – “Our world is your playground”, Golden Tulip – “Playtime Anytime”. This speaks volumes about our need to reinvent our relationship with work. In the case of Pullman (particularly in Paris), the hotel is enhancing its “play” dimension by offering guests access to a private 19-seater screen called “The Private Cinema” in partnership with Mk2.
Hotels have embraced the newest paradigm of our century: well-being
The brand promise has evolved to include happiness. Well-being is the pleasant state of body and mind that brands want to sell us. However, well-being has also become a lifestyle. Whether through food, sports or décor, a real culture of fulfilment has been forged (lagom, hygge, sisu, saudade…)
• As a pioneer in luxury and wellness breaks, Six Senses now provides an app that was co-developed with a professor from Harvard Medical School to reduce traveller jetlag (TimeShifter) and offer light therapy treatments. The hotel features rooms equipped with light bulbs co-developed by Lighting Science that adapt to the space and the time of day, ensuring the right light at the right time. This adds a “wellness” value to the room.
As a result, the hotel has evolved from being a short-stay solution that allows you to discover a location into being a destination in itself. There are a plethora of offers… brands compete with each other to win guests over with creativity!
• For example, Oberoi Hotel delivers a Digital Detox experience, which lets you reconnect with yourself by leaving your phone behind.
• In London, Hilton Bankside created the first entirely Vegan suite. From amenities to the materials used in the room, everything has been validated by the prominent British association, Vegan Society. There’s not a single leather chair in sight!
Therefore, the challenge for hoteliers is to capitalise on their precious square metres through experiences that reinforce your lifestyle.
Brands are becoming champions of culture
• Boasting a brand platform centred around music, Ibis intends to become a player in the music industry.
• In Washington DC, The Line Hotel has built a radio studio in its communal area so it can hold events and provide live entertainment for its guests.
• Hoxton has introduced a new Flawless Yoga concept that combines vinyasa yoga with hip-hop so that you can “reconnect with your body in a fun way”, according to Aurélie Louis-Alexandre (yoga teacher) and Naomi Clément (music journalist).
• “The missing link between the hotel business and Airbnb”, according to Yooma founder Pierre Beckerich, is that “Yooma offers exhibitions and artists’ residencies.”
• Finally, the even more holistic Drawing Hotel (a 48-room boutique hotel) presents itself as an artistic embodiment of contemporary drawing. It echoes Drawing Now (the drawing fair and Drawing Lab), the first private art centre dedicated to the promotion of contemporary drawing. This is where the cultural ecosystem is at its climax.
In short, designing a hotel brand will now entail defining its cultural platform
In keeping with the brand identity, hotel brands will have to acquire a cultural identity. Beyond promoting it, hotels must embrace this cultural aspect through and through and become an economic agent for the segment of the cultural industry they promote.
Artists share a long history with hotels, it’s up to us to rewrite the story by shifting from the role as a host into a player in the cultural sector.
By Mathieu Sakkas, Managing Director of Corporate Branding