I travel a lot for work, and stay in plenty of very blah hotels, so any cool hotel concept catches my eye.
Obviously concept isn’t everything. The hotel has to be good at the basics. A great mattress and bedding. A soft fluffy towel. A good desk with enough power points. Good food. Quick service etc. But after that, you can layer on a concept to make the hotel unique.
India is years behind developed countries when it comes to hotels. Until a few years ago, the only choice was between great (lovely 5 star hotels) and crappy (old, run-down, usually overpriced).
A new generation of hotels is popping up. The 3 trends are:
- Cheap ‘business’ hotels. The leading chain in this is the Ginger group. Rs.1000-3000 per night for a basic, but new/clean room with a proper mattress, 24hr hot water, self service pretty much everything, small gym, Wi-Fi etc. It’s a great vision for how to run a hotel – strip out all the non-essentials, make whatever is left work really well. These hotels are aimed at domestic business travellers.
- Cheaper luxury brand hotels. This are things like Marriott ‘Courtyard’ hotels. They just leave off some of the higher end luxury features, and drop the room rates by about 20-40%
- Boutique hotels. These are small, luxury, stand-alone hotels, usually opened by someone who has always wanted to run a hotel (or has a great building and doesn’t know what else to do with it these might have 4-12 rooms and offer personalised service. Often the owner lives on-site.
- This first category is the one with the most potential. Ginger is building some pretty big hotels, but some of them are getting 100% occupancy, booked over a week in advance. To be clear, 100% occupancy is not the best thing for a hotel. It means the rooms have no natural down-time for maintenance, so the management has to refuse revenue in order to work on the rooms. That’s turning down short-term profit for long-term value, a trait for which Indian businesses are not famous.
It also means that demand outweighs supply. More people can build similar hotels, and there are enough guests for everyone.
The one thing that I don’t like about these hotels, is that they are bland. There is nothing distinctive or memorable. In these cases that is what they are aiming for, but once the basics are in place, there is plenty of scope for concept to be layered on top.
A great example of a concept hotel is the new Nhow Hotel, in Berlin, Germany.
The theme is music, here’s how they have created it:
- All rooms with IPod connections and vast entertainment options
- Guitar hire through room service
- Top DJs playing in the bar
- Live music in the hotel’s open spaces
- 2 professional music studios,
- Hotel staff include a full-time music manager, and many ex-students of local music colleges
- Filling out the ‘Lifestyle” offerings are clothing sales from local designers, a headphone and streetwear store, and an art space.
- The architecture and interior design are both striking and were created by star designers.
This is the sort of place that you could stay in, and would still be telling people about a decade later!
Other than the recording studios, guitar hire, and musical staff, most of this stuff is not uncommon at good hotels around the world. What these guys have done differently is grouped everything together into a THEME. Creating a narrative that weaves around their offerings helps to market the property and help to guide future business decisions regarding services and expansions.