Making the Lobby a Destination by Using Creative Retail
By Bobby Martyna President & Chief Executive Officer, Tradavo | August 13, 2017
The hotel lobby of recent years has hardly been a place for congregating. The business traveler has tended to check in at the desk and beeline to the elevator, remaining sequestered in the room until lights out, only perhaps going to a dinner meeting before returning again to the room. The leisure traveler might check in, but immediately head out on the town to start the occasion. And in urban locations, few locals would ever think to drop into the lobby to work or socialize, lest they be ill-considered by a uniformed bellman. This has tended to make the lobby a pass-through rather than a destination.
But that all changed when brands and owners more fully embraced the social aspect of hospitality and lodging, prompted by social media sites, the millennial mindset, the experience economy and perhaps influenced to some degree by the success of Airbnb. The draw of the privacy of the room has been supplanted for many by the excitement of social interaction. Watching scheduled shows and movies on the big screen in-room television has been very ably replaced by streaming on the device at hand and genuine human interaction. And since room service and mini bars now are few and far between, not to mention being notably unprofitable for operators, guests are being encouraged to hit the lobby.
To the lobby, All!
The “New” Lobby
The “new” lobby concept is not completely new – like many new concepts, there have been innovators and creative types who have been ahead of their times. Select urban luxury hotels have encouraged the lobby stay with beautiful artwork and vibrant sounds such as the Morgan’s Hotel in New York. In chain luxury, the W hotel brand by Starwood is another striking example of lobby innovation. And the Ace Hotel in New York and Los Angeles has featured communal lobby spaces since the early part of the decade by catering to the in crowd.
By and large, and particularly in select service hotels and upper mid scale to upper upscale full service hotels, there hasn’t been a genuine focus on encouraging the lobby stay, with the only real draws being free coffee, WiFi and the quintessential hangout, the lobby bar. Not very engaging, to say the least. And very rarely did the lobby convey anything about the locale other than a few framed prints on the walls and in the restrooms. Even lobby restaurants tended to be disconnected and somewhat dreary.
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