Brand Disruptors, the New Normal

By Trish Donnally Regional PR Director, Gensler | September 09, 2018

We live in disruptive times-and not just in terms of politics, trade and the economy. Things are being turned upside down and inside out, even in the world of hospitality. "Shake it up, stir it 'round," seems to be the motto for brand disruptors who are challenging the status quo.

"All the brands are trying to disrupt each other," said Steven Upchurch, Managing Director/Principal and a Firmwide Practice Area Leader in Hospitality at Gensler.

What's causing this? Lots of factors. Non-hospitality firms tossing their hats into the ring. Think Baccarat, Karl Lagerfeld and CuisinArt. The sharing economy. Think Airbnb and its upstart emulators. Another disruptor is the emergence of the "boutique hostel," which provides social culture and innovative design at affordable prices. Consider Marriott's Moxy, Hilton Worldwide's Tru and AccorHotel's Jo&Joe brands. Hotel mergers are also causing upheavals. Think Marriott International, Inc. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. And the rise of uber-personalized, micro-boutique hotels - such as The Pioneer Woman's Boarding House and Hotel San Cristóbal are part of the mix.

Hotel accommodations these days had better have verve. Whether that manifests itself as an unforgettable experience, an Instagrammable environment or an authentic sense of place, the hospitality industry is experiencing a sea change. Free, fast Wi-Fi is a given. Smaller guestrooms and larger lobbies are a trend. Brand disruptors have hutzpah and are creating hotel hybrids and new configurations, starting from the top.

Fashionable Brands Extend Their Reach

"The new Baccarat hotels are disrupting luxury markets. They're creating something that immerses someone in the product. They're taking crystal into architecture. Someone who might have stayed at and appreciates the luxury of the Ritz-Carlton, but loves crystal, may prefer to stay at a Baccarat hotel," Upchurch said. The Baccarat Hotel in Manhattan, a Forbes Five-Star Hotel designed by Gilles & Boissier, was meant to emulate "private Parisian pied-à-terre living in the heart of New York City," according to the website. Recognized among the Best Hotels in the World by Conde Nast Traveler (CNT), named to the 2018 CNT Gold List and offering "the World's Most Extravagant Afternoon Tea," according to the Robb Report, Baccarat takes the luxury hotel to a whole new level. Who expected a revered French company, founded in 1764 and renowned for its fine jewelry and exquisite gifts, to enter the hospitality arena?

Hotel San Cristóbal, Liz Lambert's 32-key boutique hotel in Todo Santos, Mexico, captures the kind of authenticity travelers seek. Photograph by Nick Simonite.
Moxy Hotels forego closets and use hooks on a wall instead as in the Queen Guestroom at the Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho. Photography Courtesy Moxy Hotels.
Moxy Hotels feature communal ironing rooms, such as this one in the new Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho. Photography Courtesy Moxy Hotels.
In the heart of Miami's Brickell financial district, the 250-key citizenM Miami Brickell is a prefabricated, modular hotel designed for efficiencies and to create spontaneous connections and a sense of community. Rendering Courtesy of Gensler.
Creating an Instagrammable setting is a requisite element of design these days. El Cosmico in Marfa, Texas, provides remarkable glamping vignettes at every turn. Photograph by Nick Simonite.
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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.