Night to H3 

Another day, another hotel brand, as the cliché goes and Hilton has revealed more details of its imminent extended-stay product, with a working title which sounds more like a chess move than a hotel: H3. 

H3 is lower midscale, extended-stay solution and is due to be followed soon by Marriott’s “simple, modern, streamlined, new-build” extended stay product. The good news at Hilton is that it comes with ‘deliberate design’, which is a relief for those of us who have wasted many a long hour suffering in accidentally-designed rooms.

Parking the facetiousness for a moment, we were interested to hear that H3 will come with what the group calls a “nontraditional lobby experience” which is “designed to be inviting for guests and operationally friendly for team members, this nontraditional lobby creates a perfect balance of friendly smiles and self-sufficiency during every guest’s stay”. So what the likes of CitizenM have been pushing for years and, whisper it, what guests want.

Back to the facetiousness and this lobby – The Hive – “allows sight lines from the front desk to fitness, laundry, and a simple retail market”. So you can watch people sweat when you check in.

Much has been written about the enthusiasm for extended-stay in the hotel sector and here comes some more. Driving it of late are two factors: you don’t need a large team and Airbnb reminded everyone that they’d rather live like they do at home when they’re on the road. 

The smaller-team aspect is a must have in the sector, but extended stay also comes with a side of flexibility in the model, an extra something which gives revenue managers to think about. Mixing long stay with short across the seasons makes it more interesting, more 3D chess than traditional hotels, with potential for mouthwatering upside.

The living-like-they-do-at-home aspect has the potential to put the traditional hotel in more danger than it might otherwise appear. The current hotel model – here’s your bedroom, now like it – relied on the idea that when we were away from home we wanted to live like we did with our parents. And hotels were happy to play up to this, telling us when we could eat and what and, if you were very lucky, setting a curfew.

Now, yes, some of this – a lot of this – was about cost and the fun old days where you were sharing a toilet with your parents/strangers too. Only the real grownups could have a suite, with separate rooms. Of course for some millennial travellers, having an extended-stay flat may be their only chance to get out from under the parental wing, but we don’t have enough words left to get into the broken property market now.

Extended stay and branded residences are the only hospitality offerings which let you live like you normally live, just somewhere else. And, in the main, this is what we want to do when we’re on the road. We rely on the location, not the accommodation, to offer up something new. Yes, it’s nice having someone to do menial tasks and smile in the lobby, but for most us  – who don’t travel luxury – we’d like the functionality of home, thanks. 

Of course as hotels are starting to offer apartments, so Airbnb is getting back into rooms. Will hotels rediscover rooms in 20 years’ time? No doubt. Airbnb is driven by a need to build supply, just like hotels. It’s also driven by a need to offer a cheaper product, just like hotels. Time to capture the castle. 

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