The unconscious hotel 

Many of us will be looking at our summer holiday bill and confirming that, yes, travel really is more expensive at the moment. And it has been really very much more expensive for some time now, although Icelandair this week commented that it was seeing some of the heat come out.

We all know the whys of this, so we won’t distract from you getting your money’s worth and starting to crack into the mojitos at the airport. 

Something else we saw as a result of the pandemic was the growth and depth of luxury experience and yes, the two are related. 

Technology is helping to deliver luxury on a sheik level, but with aspirations towards the mass affluent market. In the past, if you were Frank Sinatra, you could expect that your face could cash in the odd free gin, but now even a blank-faced nobody (in the nicest sense) should be well on their way to the sort of all-over licking on checkin that Ol’ Blue Eyes could bank on.

Indeed, Accor’s announcement this week that it was in exclusive negotiations to acquire the 63% stake in Potel & Chabot which it does not currently own confirmed that delivering on luxury hospitality is where we’re all going.

And good. For too long, the average hotel service  – and even the luxury – has been average to below average and we applaud these innovations. And, with rates as they are, the guest certainly deserves them.

But what about those of us who just want a cheap place to stay? Amenity creep has meant that the budget sector now features hotels which many of us would class as mid market, with rates following the creep upwards. The £19 Travelodge room? We once met a person who had a cousin who knew someone who once might have had one. 

The sector has focused its attention on luxury in recent years and with great results, but it has come at the cost of innovation in the budget sector. 

And it was all going so well. The launch of Yotel was about echoing the pod hotels in Japan, where drunk executives could be stacked up like junk mail in so many post cubbies, the occasional sock dangling free. As long as there was space to sleep, that was all that mattered. It really was a toss up between a cab home and a horizontal space for the night.

There is plenty of talk around at the minute about maximising revenue per square foot and this is all good news for helping hotel owners to use the business part of their brains. But what if, well, that space was beds? And not in a yes-we-all-love-Generator way. But beds.

The branded hotel sector makes a big play about how its many, many new launches are all about serving the customer and having something for everyone. The ‘everyone’ in this case may indeed be owners, but let’s try to believe the chat for a moment. 

There are hotels for luxury stays, with spas and cocktails tailored to your DNA. There are business hotels where your trousers WILL be pressed and there is a lot of grey. There are family hotels with kids clubs. There are adult hotels with no-kids clubs. But where is the hotel for the unconscious traveller? For the guest who is staying exclusively to sleep? Who has no needs apart from rest? 

In the current climate, much as the taxpayer might look at their tax bill and wonder why they’re paying for, say, a fancy track and trace app they don’t use, some guests will look around a hotel and wonder what they’re paying for and whether they’re going to use it.

For the guests who only want to pay for the square metre they’re going to lie down on – and the investor who wants to be able to work out their return using the same techniques as a detective uses to mark the location of a corpse – shake that unconscious bias. 

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