Innovation, inventive, inspiring—all things that are “in” with new hotel brands. Or at least, that’s what brands want guests to believe. Are all new brands innovative? Is that even possible? What’s left to invent in the world of hotels? Beyond voice control, what does the hotel of 2030 look like? And what will truly leave guests inspired?
With the introduction of more and more Millennial-focused brands and brands with gimmicks and quirks, will customers remember them all? What will make some rise and others fall?
All hotel brands, both fully independent and big-box names, will need innovation, inventiveness, and inspiring ideas to flourish. It’s not enough to simply be present in a crowded marketplace of lodging options. Developing powerful connections with guests requires brands to take action.
True innovation lies in doing something no one else is doing, or doing something in a new way. Consider Moxy Hotels, which capitalize on the social heart of hostel stays while still offering traditional, yet hip, hotel features. Moxy Hotels fall under the Marriot brand, allowing guests to earn loyalty points, but are decidedly and specifically targeting a younger demographic. For example, a hip, communal ironing and laundry space gives guests a space to convene and frees up room space. They’ve also added extra bedding storage “space” for guests to use and borrow from (chock full of sexy and and un-traditional graphics). You can love it or hate it, but it resonates with the hotel’s target guest. The space isn’t innovative–but the positioning is.
Another example is 21c Museum Hotels, which offers guests the opportunity to sleep at a contemporary art museum. As standalones, a localized boutique hotel or local art gallery are not innovative, but combining the two is. Scatter a few cute penguins around the property and you have some Instagramable moments. The personalized, edgy service is just the icing on the cake.
Hotels are a vehicle for introducing new products to consumers. The “retailing” of the hotel industry is inevitable. However, success means approaching the retail space as more than just the gift shop, sundries, and golf apparel.
What’s no longer inventive? Branded bath amenities, selling a hotel’s sheet and bedding lines, or purchasing-based alliances with big groups. While these relationships may be profitable and beneficial, they’re no longer exclusive to one hotel. To the traveler, this equates to a “been there, done that” moment.
What’s flourishing? Ace Hotel’s retail space is bringing an aligned portfolio of products to customers, while other hotels are partnering with on-demand living apps to bring guests a more diverse experience. Think about GrubHub and Uber Eats replacing food delivery (and possibly room service at some hotels), or Zeal and Soothe offering massage services to guests in smaller-footprint hotels.
Hotel brands that succeed will capitalize on the right inventive twists that most align with their target customer. One example is the signature chocolate chip cookie that DoubleTree by Hilton introduced to VIP guests in the 1980s. Soon after, it was offered to all guests and became a Doubletree feature. Offering a cookie wasn’t rocket science, but it helped Doubletree connect and build memories with guests.
Innovative and inventive ideas won’t matter if they don’t inspire guests. Focusing on guest experience is paramount to a hotel’s success. It will inspire guests to think bigger, benchmark what they think a great hotel should be, and tell others about their experience. Yet, that doesn’t mean hotels should aim to be all things to all people. Brand that try to be something for everyone end up being nothing for everyone. Hotels must passionately find their target customers and deliver on a promise that no one else does.
Guests write reviews and tell stories when they are inspired by the unexpected and attention to detail. Thoughtful details matter for long-term branding and positioning in a crowded market.
How can hotels bring these details to life? Lay out a clear business strategy, evolve it into an actionable plan, and hire best-in-class partners to help. With those partners, develop a roadmap of a distinct guest journey and then scrub through every detail of how it will come to life. In a clear and distinct guest journey, everything has been thought of so that little, uninspiring labels aren’t needed. Hotel brands that have developed and nailed the guest journey don’t need little labels.
The brands that flourish will be innovating, inventive, and inspiring. The biggest success will balance these three concepts with a keen attention to detail. Hotel brands that have a cheeky name and modern design but no deeper inherent purpose to address the needs of a core target customer will fade.
About the Author
Adam Glickman is the principal of Parallax Hospitality, a partner in bringing hospitality brand concepts to life. With more than 20 years in the hospitality industry, Glickman has a passion for creating premium, distinctive, and wellness-forward brand concepts and helping non-hospitality companies navigate the complexities of the hotel industry to form partnerships and grow.