Innovative development and adding the WOW factor

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The Innovative development and adding the WOW factor panel session at IHIF 2015 featured representatives from some of the most progressive hotel and accommodation brands todayModerated by Ben Martin, principal, head of economics, AECOM, panellists were:

Hans Meyer, co-founder and managing director, Zoku

Serge Trigano, co-founder and president, Mama Shelter, Accor

Brad Wilson, president, Ace Hotels

Josh Wyatt, chief strategic officer, Generator Hostels

Refreshingly devoid of luxury hotel brand representation, all four well-defined concepts predominantly target different segments of the Millennial traveller demographic. Zoku focusses on young business travellers - 'global nomads', within the growing serviced apartment / extended stay sector. Mama Shelter mixes budget chic design with a decent casual dining food and beverage experience. Generator has grown by introducing design innovations with a guest 'community and collective space concept' high in energy and spirit, considered one of the leading 'poshtel' brands. Ace Hotels is a more high-end lifestyle brand, maintaining a strong sense of place, community and engagement. All are based in urban locations and offer genuinely different experiences with passion and creativity.

When asked why there has been so little innovation within the hotel sector, Brad Wilson suggested that hotels and buildings generally struggle to keep up with the speed of change - "new restaurant ideas and concepts are much quicker to introduce than hotels. The internet has helped small unique properties and brands compete on a level playing field with larger hotel groups - the ability to travel is moving faster than innovation." 

Each panellist then offered their own brand story in a five-minute film 


Hans Meyer outlined his Zoku (meaning Global Nomad) project, based in a thriving Amsterdam neighbourhood - "it's a long-stay product, it's a growth market and more profitable (than a hotel). Our focus is 'value innovation' in which we offer more for guests and investors," he said. When asked about how Zoku is innovating design and layout, Hans explained how the kitchen table is the focal point of the room - not the bed which is pretty much wasted space other than during sleep time.

"The kitchen table will be used for business meetings and there's a retractable staircase too. The concept took six years to get to where we are today - the first year for validation, where I travelled throughout the world as a global nomad and during which we asked our target group of 80 per cent millennials featuring over 50 per cent women for their feedback." 

Mama Shelter

Serge Trigano said it took Mama Shelter seven years from concept to delivering the hotel to market: "It took us two to three years to insert change and bring down concepts - you can find innovation in anything that exists, there is value, there is a Mama and there is a new business model that makes money and is very efficient with 90 per cent direct sale distribution," said Trigano.

Outlining the brand values and how he aims to connect with guests and hotel staff he said: "Mama Shelter allows guests to feel protected from city, protected by 'mother', the mother you love most in the world, in good times and difficult times. Whatever the colour, culture or religion you are welcome - we hire on attitude."


Josh Wyatt from Generator hostels outlined how consumers have the ability to consume more information and make their own purchase decisions in the 'now' economy, embracing mobile technology, adding that they are "becoming revenue managers for hotels and hostels in their own right". "Brands need to ask themselves how they communicate the proposition, what does the brand truly stand for in the eyes of the guest? When I was younger I travelled for education, experience and to get lucky! Generator's brand values are focused around design, lifestyle experience and safety."

Wyatt remarked how embarrassed he feels when staying at a hotel, surrounded by outdated technology. "At Generator we create a canvass and allow people to make decisions on technology - we don't have in-room televisions, we have super-strong wi-fi, four universal plugs and two usb sockets."

Ace Hotels

Brad Wilson felt that by homogenising the experience and trying perhaps too hard results in wasted effort: "It's just a night's sleep, and not all about doing stuff differently," he said. Ace Hotels aims to "celebrate what we've lost, we need to be conscious of what we lose. It's a place of community and humanity. We never change for change's sake and we focus on the core needs of us humans."

Wilson outlined the myth that young people can't afford to stay in 'design hotels' citing the recent conversion of his Shoreditch London site as an example: "Just one year from acquisition we converted an anonymously described limited service hotel into modern classic."  The hotel was previously a Crowne Plaza. "The results have been amazing - +47 per cent ADR; +50 per cent REVPAR; food and beverage sales have quadrupled and ROI has doubled," said Wilson. The hotel is currently being sold (again) by Starwood Capital for a very healthy premium.


Want to know more?

Generator are Headline Sponsors of Hostel and Budget Traveller, Nov 16 - 17, The Montcalm, Marble Arch London

Josh Wyatt and Brad Wilson are both speakers at the forthcoming Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit 2015, May 20-21, The Montcalm, Marble Arch London.


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