Presented by The Real Estate Council (TREC).
Woodbine Development Corporation has survived a few cycles since our founding in 1973 (eight to be exact, but who’s counting?), and while many things have changed in hospitality and the commercial real estate business, innovation in the hospitality industry has not exactly been something that would make Silicon Valley proud.
In fact, quite the contrary. Hotels have had a 2,000-year-old formula of bed+bath since the first recorded inn had no room for Joseph and Mary. It’s actually not that surprising that the lodging sector hasn’t been on the forefront of change because necessity is the mother of invention. Right?
Beyond Basics: Five Changes
The goal of a hotel has always been to meet your most basic needs — and given your most basic needs don’t really change, I guess it makes sense why we haven’t attempted to shake things up a bit. However, there are a few things that appear to be changing for our industry. Here are five to note.
These days, people young and old want to be alone … together. Where massive guest rooms with extravagant finishes once ruled the day, now it’s the hotel lobby that reigns.
Found objects, local art, private niches, communal tables, an active bar, and a quiet lounge must somehow co-exist in today’s lobby — and destinations that get it right will become your favorite place to stay, whether you’re on the road for business or leisure. Check out Woodbine’s Sentinel Hotel project in Portland, Oregon.
Give Them Something to Talk About
Every hotel must have a social media moment, or two or three because people prefer to communicate on social channels. The operators that understand Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. are able to communicate with guests to resolve issues swiftly or, even better, positively engage and reward those guests in ways that have a far-reaching impact on them and the people in their social sphere of influence.
This takes commitment, compassion, and a compelling voice. Follow Montage Laguna Beach on Instagram and you will discover a very clever 20-year-old recent graduate who speaks in hashtags and happens to be a social media Jedi. Why? Because she had 2,000 followers in the eighth grade, which was probably five years before you and I had ever heard of it.
The Sharing Economy is Here to Stay
As much as we hoteliers don’t want to admit it, Airbnb is here for good and the impact on the industry over time is going to be enormous — we don’t yet know just how enormous the impact will be. Airbnb already has a market cap of $24 billion (bigger than Marriott) because people are looking for cheaper alternatives and different experiences than hotels can offer. This is disruptive innovation at its finest, and the smart developers are already thinking about how to deal with this issue now.
Service, Service, Service
The No. 1 rule of commercial real estate is location, but hotels like Amangiri in Canyon Point, Utah, have a secret ingredient that will cause someone to drive more than three hours from the nearest major airport: service.
It’s the “Cheers” principle: when everybody at the front desk knows your name, it makes you feel good. But when the hotel sets the thermostat in the room to your desired temperature, makes sure you have pillows with the exact firmness you desire and puts the newspaper under the door by 6 a.m., you’re definitely going to come back.
Everyone is a (Food) Critic
The foodie culture has taken over, so there is not much room for faking it anymore. In the old days, the hotel operator would operate every food and beverage outlet in a hotel. But today’s consumers are much too savvy — and the minute they realize that the chicken in restaurant A is the same chicken, but differently plated chicken that’s in restaurant B, you have lost a return customer. Guests want local experiences and innovative chefs.
For example, when we developed The Old No. 77 in New Orleans with our partners at Provenance Hotels, we recruited Nina Compton, runner-up on Bravo’s Top Chef, Season 11. I can assure you her restaurant Compère Lapin has received more business from the hotel than just about any marketing program we could have ever dreamed.
Dupree Scovell joined Woodbine Development Corporation in 2011 and serves as the firm’s chief investment officer and managing partner. Based in Los Angeles, Dupree oversees the company’s capital markets efforts and acquisition platform. He is also responsible for Woodbine’s Hospitality Development and Investment fund, a $100 million separate account dedicated to upscale select-service and lifestyle development and acquisition opportunities throughout the United States.
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