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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.