Getting Inspired by West Elm's Entry into Hotels
By Alex Shashou, President & co-founder of ALICE
It's no longer just about heads in beds. Every hotel needs a reason to exist today – a differentiator that attracts guests – which is why we're seeing an increasing number of lifestyle hotels. Yet I still find myself wishing a new category of hotel existed…what I'll call the "shared workspace hotel."
As West Elm unveils a new type of hotel, Equinox starts its own hotel line and every brand under the sun joins the boutique and lifestyle hotel game, I'm still left wanting a new type of hotel that suits my needs today as a millennial business traveler.
Honestly, I don't really value whether the hotel I am staying at can sell me its bedding or couch (West Elm's inventive new model). I don't have any issues with my home furniture or lack any inspiration for it. However, I do travel hundreds of days a year, and what I would really love is a hotel that not only offers me a room, but also a desk I can rent during the day. Some of you will read this and point me to my hotel bedroom desk. Personally though, I would rather have an office or a shared workspace desk that would allow me to leave my room and have a productive day like any other I can have when I'm back at our New York headquarters.
The shared workspace hotel capitalizes on three prevailing economic and demographic trends:
1) Remote Workforce Trends – The business travel landscape is changing rapidly. More and more of us are working remotely. As businesses continue to support a remote workforce and office space continues to be deprioritized, more and more of the working population is working from home or from any coffee shop table they can find. According to MBO Partners, there will be 40 million Americans self-employed by 2019, and countless more organizations working remotely for their companies. With the concurring rise of new technologies enabling this highly mobile workforce to conduct business and collaborate anywhere, video conferencing has exploded. When I am speaking to hotel executives on the road or even to my team, I would really love for them not to have to look behind me at my unmade bed when I'm on a Google hangout or on Skype (I can't exactly have housekeeping come if I am working from my room all day!).
2) Millennial Demographic Trends – A lot can be said of Millennials as a demographic, but one trend that is here to stay is their desire for new experiences. A survey published by Expedia shows Millennials are 62 percent more likely to extend a business trip into a vacation (increasingly referred to as a "bleisure" trip). This means when your company is sending a Millennial to New Orleans or to Montreal for a work trip, he or she is likely to extend the business trip into a leisure trip. This does not mean they are not working. Rather, they are just working from the city you are sending them to. As cultures, especially startup cultures, allow for their employees to work off-site as they please, you'll see a lot of travelers staying the weekend in one hotel and the following week in another hotel. If a hotel catered to both the business traveler (desks) and the leisure traveler (location + small rooms) then it might attract the guest for the entire trip. It would surely be easier for the traveler to stay at one place, rather than move around from hotel to hotel.
3) Shared Workplace Trends – In the U.S., co-working spaces have increased from just one in 2005 to over 3,500 in 2016. As trend 1 above makes clear, people are more and more comfortable with the shared workspace concept. We are already educated as to its practicality. If West Elm can find value from cross-selling its products into a hotel-furniture hybrid, then surely WeWork or NeueHouse could fashion a hotel-workspace hybrid.
I am not saying that that only WeWork can follow West Elm's lead here. They already have their own designs for WeLive. However, it would be attractive for me (and many other business travelers) to be able to rent a desk at my next conference, or a desk by the hour on my next leisure trip.
So, which hotel management company wants my heads-in-beds & derrières-in-chairs business?