Brand Disruptors, the New Normal

By Trish Donnally Public Relations Manager, Perkins Eastman | 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 March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.