At the recent Skift Forum Europe event in London, some of the global hospitality industry’s most prominent innovators discussed the inherent value to targeting not all guests, but rather, the right guests.
Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendlinger discussed a belief that the next big innovation in hospitality is not, in fact tied to the design of hotel facilities. No, instead Sendlinger, a veteran of the global hospitality industry who founded Design Hotels in 1993, described the industry as “a slow moving business,” before also noting that “hotels have always been a reflection and reaction to the changes in society.”
For many years, especially as of late, design has been the distinguishing force that has driven hotel trends. Sendlinger, however, predicts that change is coming in the form of a shift toward something new.
“Design has been one, maybe, of the latest trends [in hotels] which has lasted now for two decades,” Sendlinger said. “We started Design Hotels in 1993 and in 1998, Barry Sternlicht opened the first W hotel. It’s still relatively fresh, you know. But if I look at it the same way I looked at dance floors 25 years ago, there’s a change in socio-geographic behavior now. It’s not about choosing a yellow or blue or red chair. I think it’s much more… Everyone is doing that now… but it needs curation.”
What Sendlinger means when he says curation is a deliberate and prolonged push to attract the right guests to a hotel. It’s an abstract concept for some hoteliers who have preferred to deal in a dichotomy of absolutes. Either a hotel looks good or it doesn’t. Ever the design is appealing or it’s not. But such isn’t the case any more.
To illustrate his point, Sendlinger pointed to Design Hotels’ La Granja Ibiza, which is a distinct project located in Spain that includes a community organic farm that produces food for the local community.
“It caters first and foremost to the people who live on the island and in that way, we’ve created a kind of filter,” Sendlinger said. “We also run a members club there called Friends of a Farmer… we go for people whom we share the same values with.”
Sendlinger went on to explain that micro communities function as a type of island for people who share similar ideologies, and this is becoming an increasingly popular concept for travelers, who want more than a comfortable space—they want a comfortable space where they can meet likeminded visitors. Sendlinger said the trick is changing the way hoteliers think. Simply being local is no longer an innovation. Hotels now must also develop the right type of programming that will attract guests to these sorts of communal experiences.
“I strongly believe that the future of these very hot places is that they not only curate the neighborhood, but also curate what’s happening within their properties,” he said. “People who give you a stage or let you cook or select the music, that selects a crowd that has a following. It creates more meaningful encounters. In a time of social media, these personal relationships will matter more and more.”