The Hotel’s Revenge

The Airbnb earthquake is just the tip of an iceberg that sees, under the water surface, a series of profound changes in the way customers from all over the world prefer hospitality. A change to which the most discerning structures are adapting with proposals that are able to combine the best of what the sharing economy offers, together with the professionalism that only a hotel and its specialized staff are able to ensure.
In the last 10 years, the process of booking and organizing a holiday has changed radically. First, thanks to the internet and, finally yet importantly, thanks to one of the greatest revolutions that have ever occurred in the hospitality industry: the birth of Airbnb. The success of the platform, which brings together landlords and travellers, is not only in the wide range of cheap accommodation, but rather in the possibility of experiencing more deeply rooted travel experiences in the context in which they take place, and sometimes even much more original and adventurous than the traditional hotels offer. For the same reason, there has been a proliferation of "home exchange" opportunities, hotels and many other examples of fluid hospitality.
If, however, the opportunity to enter more local contexts is an attraction, it is also true that the consolidation of this offer is showing the limits of this type of hospitality, such as the shortcomings from the point of view of services, and the rather solitary nature of this type of experience.
It is thus becoming increasingly clear that the public is, of course, inclined to change, but also needs reassurance.
So how can we reassure? Starting from the roots of the hotel industry, from a deeper concept of hospitality, and at the same time, drawing precious inspiration from the characteristics that have proved to be successful of "homemade" solutions.
In this sense, it seems clear, for example, that alternative accommodation, the public particularly appreciates uniqueness: not a hotel with the same rooms but a place with a personal touch, where it is possible to observe a characteristic object, listen to an anecdote, appreciate a common thread. Many users, in other words, are now looking for spaces that can tell a story.
Rather striking in this respect is the Liberty Hotel di Offenburg, a German town in the Black Forest, which welcomes its guests inside a former prison building. Inside, some spaces still evoke the ancient function in a very powerful way, but it is also possible to perceive a warm atmosphere, embellished by a modern design and a remarkable attention to detail.
The William Hotel's design is more traditional overall, but is made exceptional by the radical choice of dedicating a colour to each floor of the hotel and exploring in depth, in each of them, the different variations that the correlation between architecture, art and design is able to express. A research capable of transforming each room into a sort of large 3D painting, is particularly appreciated by the sophisticated clientele of art lovers.
Definitely original, is El Cosmico: both a hotel and a "nomadic" campsite, built within 8 hectares of land, in the Marfa desert in Texas. The "corporate mission" is to give visitors the opportunity to access the majesty of the desert plains thanks to a mix of artistic offerings and naturalistic experiences. Guests can choose from a wide range of attractive accommodation options: vintage caravans, Sioux-style teepees, safari and camping tents. At the guests' disposal, there are some common facilities: a hammock area, an open-air kitchen and a stage.
What emerges, in short, is the image of a traveller who, in order to feel closer to the life of a local inhabitant and to enjoy more authentic experiences, is willing to review - even radically - some of the most consolidated hotel standards. Sleeping in a real yurt in Mongolia, or simply in a house with two resident cats, is a choice that brings with it many hardships and that, in some ways, would seem to witness the birth of a generation of highly adaptable guests. But it is true that not everyone is always looking for adventures. Those who travel a lot, for example, and especially for work or for a short time, continue to prefer solutions that do not lend themselves to unforeseen events or that may cause unnecessary worries: all things that shared hospitality cannot guarantee whereas the professionalism of a hotel usually can.
Yet even the frequent traveller seems ready to give up some benefits - such as spacious rooms or private bathrooms - in order to have something more in return. If, in fact, more and more frequently, relations with the facilities are assuming a purely virtual dimension (with bookings and check-in made in complete autonomy), similarly, opportunities for meeting local staff and, more generally, with other tourists or travelers are being reduced. A lack of which, the most careful business minds in the hotel sector are providing an answer through a rethinking of the distribution of space within their hotels. A win-win solution that reduces the size of the rooms, in the face of the enlargement of common spaces. The result? Greater receptivity, more earnings, but also new places of aggregation and greater customer satisfaction. Thus, a hotel can have 300 rooms where there were once 200 rooms, offering many more spaces for work and socializing. Often, on the other hand, they are hotels with limited facilities - no room service or concierge - but offer a high quality product at an affordable price.
Guests at the Society Hotel in Portland, can choose between rooms with bunk beds and a shared bathroom, as in a traditional hostel, and private suites, both of which are very well designed. On the ground floor, a cosy lounge bar allows guests to get to know each other and meet many residents who love the local hipster style, according to a model that is making - among others - the fortune of the chain Ace Hotel.
Almost futuristic is the solution proposed by YOTEL, a small number of hotels in the USA and some European airports. Their design is based on the style of first-class aerial cabins where everything has its place, thanks to a compact and efficient design. Thanks to the use of technology, the boring aspects of hotel interactions have been reduced to the bone: check-in is automated, assistance is online, access to the rooms is without keys. The socialization of guests is guaranteed by co-working areas, the service of gyms and swimming pools are open 24/7 and various lounge bar spaces with restaurants and attractions. Meanwhile the compact but very comfortable and equipped rooms offer a luxurious stay to the traveller. Likewise, Pod Hotels are strategically located in some of the liveliest areas of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Washington DC, offering essential rooms and social spaces, but above all focus on reducing operating costs. This has made it possible to significantly lower prices for the public, without diminishing the quality and comfort of the rooms - probably the trend that most audiences would like to see.
Again, the Michaelberger Hotel - a small family-run hotel in Berlin - seems to be an interesting crossover between an alternative hospitality experience and a traditional hotel, in an extremely original solution. The hotel has a multitude of options in terms of accommodation: from bunk beds, to duplex rooms, to mini apartments - each furnished in a coherent yet different style. The cosy restaurant serves breakfasts, lunches and dinners from the organic menus in a convivial atmosphere with large tables, and the spaces for corporate events or meetings are professional while maintaining a basic domestic and relaxing aspect.
Interesting is the concept developed by the managers of The Dean iN Dublino. Inside, you can choose between very small, small, medium and large rooms. A possibility that allows you to attract both those who usually prefer to stay overnight in a hostel and those who love maximum comfort, with all the nuances that pass between these two different types of travelers. This type of solution allows guests so different from each other to come into contact and interact within the same rooms, with common spaces and with three rooms, located inside the hotel, with very different souls, accessible also from the outside, frequented by a large Dublin crowd, thanks to the spectacular location overlooking the city.
Lastly, the Arlo Hotels, chain, besides offering six restaurants in SoHo and five in NoMad, we are always talking about New York, aims at a transversal clientele, in terms of purchasing power, united by the taste for spaces with minimalist design and love of conviviality. A successful mix that won some of the most important hotel industry awards in 2017, including the best new concept awarded at the last Ahead Awards.

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