Hotels Are no Longer Just for Sleeping

Hoteliers and experts explain the new business models turning accommodation into unique experiences at the 5th Tourism Summit

01/12/2016 Barcelona

5th Tourism Industry Meeting
Prof. Rohit Verma of the Cornell College of Business: “We have a new generation of clients who are looking for authentic experiences but who also have health related needs” / Photo: Jordi Estruch

Goodbye to the standard rooms you lock yourself up in. Hotels are no longer just accommodation, but are becoming spaces in which guests live unique experiences. Business models are moving towards an increasingly personalized product and, faced with this shift, many are already pushing the boundaries.

For these new projects, ideas are not so much based on market data as on less tangible and more experimental elements. This was explained by Inés Miró-Sans, co-founder of the Casa Bonay Hotel, during the 5th Tourism Summit held at IESE's Barcelona campus: "We prefer to talk about lifestyle rather than data collection. The basis of our model is providing unique experiences to our customers."

This is also the guiding principle of the Cotton House Hotel and Praktik Hotel projects, directed by Maraya Perinat. "All hotels make guests feel at home, but we think the opposite way: if you need to feel at home, better not to travel."

In the case of Perinat’s projects, they offer accommodation in which the clients not only feels welcome, but where they can also "live a different experience and have a profound connection with the place."

All the initiatives presented during the meeting emphasized the need for guests to have a relationship with the environment, and to establish a connection between tourists and locals.

The case of the London-based company Green Rooms, and founder Nick Hartwright, is paradigmatic: "We were born to solve one of London's great problems: affordability. We are a not-for-profit social enterprise because we believe that hotels are great regenerators of areas and can become platforms for people to interact."

The Indispensable Human Touch

The personalization of each client’s experience requires the hotel to know what their needs are, and to anticipate them.

For Cotton House Hotel, the public social network profiles of its clients are a source of information that can help them add value to their accommodation. "Our customers’ Instagrams give us many clues about their tastes," Perinat says.

With large chains that must manage a large volume of rooms, the key lies in "establishing partnerships with smaller companies and offering new approaches," says Hartwright.

"They’re not going to change everything at once, but they can introduce a small brand philosophy." For example, Cotton House Hotel has established an alliance with the Marriot chain, which, for the small business, means "the endorsement of a great brand" but with the addition of "that local flavor, which is a bonus for tourists."

Medical Tourism

Changes in the hotel sector go beyond the experience of the existing guest demographic.

For Prof. Rohit Verma of the Cornell College of Business: "We have a new generation of clients looking for authentic experiences. The change is greater because every day there are more people over 65, who have more money and more free time, and who want to explore, travel, re-study, but also have health-related needs." The hotel industry should therefore seek solutions in this area.

The general growing public interest in well-being is also a business opportunity. "People with healthy habits spend up to 130% more than others, are better customers, more loyal and return to the hotel," says Alfredo Carvajal, president of Delos Signature.