New Trend: Roadside Motels are Back and Thriving

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | March 24, 2019

This past year I fulfilled one of my long-term goals. No, it wasn't getting to the gym, which is a goal I renew every year but ignore. This one was something I haven't merely let slip by each January, but one that I haven't had the opportunity to make happen. Until now.

After years of being a service provider to the hotel industry as designer and strategist, I wanted to have ownership in a hotel. Well, in 2018 opportunity knocked. It was not what I expected (and, really, when is it?) but it was the right opportunity and the right time.

I'd had visions of owning a small piece of a beach resort in an exotic place or maybe a luxury hotel in a major city (other than New York City), but what was offered was a roadside motel in Salida, Colorado. It was a 50-plus room Super 8 that my friends at Imprint Hospitality (in Denver) were converting into an independent 3-star motel, not along a breath-taking coastline or in heart of riveting city, but among a number of other motels along the main highway into town. It was this nondescript motel that would be my first venture into ownership.

A Look at the Road Behind Us

There was a time in America when the roadside motel was not only a common fixture, but also a necessity on our nation's highways. The invention of the automobile enabled the creation of our highway system in the first half of the 20th century. Endless miles of blacktop were laid down across this country, connecting east coast to west, and enabling our growing love of the car and wanderlust to bring us places that in the past were only a dream. In addition, the system of roads and highways allowed for the creation of a whole new trucking industry that provided a way for goods to get to locations quicker and less expensively than they could in the past and to reach areas that previously were inaccessible.

With thousands of miles for travelers to cross, there was a growing need for folks to find places to sleep during their days- or even weeks-long journeys. The development of the roadside motel was a direct response to the rapid growth of our highway system and the American love of the automobile. Clean, safe and reliable rooms to sleep for the night became the calling card of the first hotel brands.

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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.