When you think of Wyndham’s Super 8 Hotels, what do you generally think of?
Mike Mueller, senior vice president of Super 8 Hotels, has a pretty good idea, and he’s pretty sure contemporary design isn’t one of those things.
“I think, often times, people have this perception that affordable hotels like Super 8 mean ‘cheap’ and cheap design,” Mueller said.
That’s why Super 8 Hotels is embarking on a nationwide redesign of its guest rooms and public areas in more than 1,800 North American properties to try to, as Mueller explained, change people’s perceptions about the brand, which has more than 2,600 locations worldwide.
“My personal goal for this brand is to get people, in the short term, to say, ‘Wow, I had no idea Super 8 could be like that,'” he said. “A year from now, I want them to say how great the guest rooms are. I want to migrate the perception of Super 8 as a legacy motel brand and move it into elevated economy within that segment. We are not your grandfather’s budget hotel.”
What better way to transform the look and feel of the brand’s properties than with doing away with bad hotel art and introducing black-and-white photos that also double as headboards?
That also means getting rid of all that old artwork at a pop-up art gallery event, the Super 8 Art Show, on May 4 in New York’s Soho neighborhood with the help of actress and writer Amy Sedaris.
“Rather than have this old artwork from our hotels wind up in the trash, we thought, what better way to bring to life the change we’re making by do something as antithetical as a gallery show of old Super 8 art? It’ll be a fun and interesting sendoff for all this art,” Mueller said.
The decision to ask Amy Sedaris host the event was to “bring to life the fun and quirky nature of some of the art we’ve seen on the walls,” he added. “She has a knack for finding humor in what is so often considered mundane.”
During the event, which was held in the middle of the annual Frieze New York art show, guests could actually take the art off the walls and bring it home with them. Each of the more than 100 pieces was also given a unique title by Sedaris, including “Bridge to Nowhere” and “A Planter in a Plant,” to name a few. Super 8 and Sedaris will also donate money to The Center for Arts Education in commemoration of the event.
An Artful Redesign
Additionally, part of Super 8’s North American redesign also means adding new vintage postcard-inspired artwork in the lobbies. Hotel owners can also choose to add more contemporary furnishings and design accents, including modular furniture.
The artwork in the lobby and guest rooms, in particular, will speak to the specific location of that Super 8 hotel, said Mueller.
“We took a look at some of the most mundane things in a typical economy guest room — the art on the walls and the headboards — and thought wouldn’t it be cool to combine the two things into a unique piece of furniture?,” he said. “Nothing dates a hotel room more than old generic artwork, but these types of classic, black-and-white photos never go out of style.”
Individual property owners get to choose the photos to be displayed in their guest rooms from a large gallery of 50,000 images that reflect their particular destination.
Some properties have already adopted the new look, and Super 8 hopes all North American properties will adopt the new brand standards by year’s end.
Will the New Look Appeal to Millennials?
At a time when many hotel brands are looking for ways that differentiate their brands from others through design, as well as incorporate some kind of unique, boutique-like experience, it’s interesting that Super 8 wants to achieve more consistency in its properties’ lobbies and guest rooms, even as it tries to appeal to more Millennial-minded guests.
Mueller, for his part, doesn’t think consistency and predictability are a bad thing when it comes to Super 8, and they can actually be an advantage for guests deciding between staying at a Super 8 or choosing an affordable home share rental on a platform like Airbnb, for instance.
“This comes up a lot: Don’t Millennials prefer to have adventures in lodging as opposed to predictability in a brand like Super 8? Well, there are lots of adventures people want to have, but not the in the check in or check out process,” Mueller said. “They want to know if they pull in at 2 a.m. they know they’ll be greeted with a smile and allowed to go in. They don’t want to have to wonder where the thermostat is to turn the heat up, or why is there a dog here, or have to think about other challenges that they may not anticipate. For travelers who want their adventures to take place outside of their accommodations, we’re the perfect solution for that.”
In addition to injecting more contemporary design features in the guest rooms, Mueller said Super 8 is focusing on giving travelers more connectivity.
While the new look updates Super 8’s overall design identity, recent American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) scores also suggest the brand has some work to do in increasing its overall customer satisfaction levels beyond just adding new artwork. In the 2016 ACSI Travel Report, Super 8 tied with Motel 6 for last place as a hotel brand; both received ACSI scores of 65 out of 100.