Colin Nagy, head of strategy at Fred & Farid, a global advertising agency, writes this opinion column for Skift on hospitality, innovation, and business travel. “On Experience” dissects customer-centric experiences and innovation across hospitality, aviation, and beyond.
One of the most interesting places in the hospitality market sits right between a small, boutique hotel and Airbnb. It plays into a few interesting trends happening right now, and actually solves some of the problems on each side of the equation.
On one side, travelers love Airbnb for the convenience and the ability to stay in homes — and particularly in neighborhoods — where most hotels don’t have a presence. Also, there are the amenities that come with it: the ability to cook your own food, the ability to have a bit of a more home-style environment ,and also the freedom and privacy afforded.
The downside is there is a huge variance in terms of quality and sometimes professional-Airbnb spaces run by people who are just crafting apartments to rent out, and which have all the charms of an IKEA hangover.
On the other side, boutique hotels are great because they often have more nuanced design sensibility, character, and charm than the big guns. There’s more of a local angle and they sit nicely in their communities. Think Montreal’s The Gault or Mexico City’s La Valise on the higher end, or La Semilla in Playa Del Carmen or the Cortiina in Munich on the mid-tier.
But often the spread between Airbnb and great boutiques in terms of cost are double or triple depending on space or time of year.
There’s a new, interesting trend of a boutique style approach meets DIY; well-crafted rooms with good design sensibility, a consistent offering but also stripped-down service and minimal infrastructure keeping costs way down.
Skift covered the opening of Cabo’s The Drift back in 2014, and a recent stay confirmed how interesting this middle space can be. The hotel has small, perfectly designed rooms with minimal accoutrements. It’s a perfectly contained compound with a small pool, a DIY kitchen with honor bar, and common spaces for entertaining, barbecuing, etc. Full-service this isn’t: it is only staffed part of the time and reservations and booking are run through Airbnb. Don’t show up early hoping you can get in before 2pm.
But the thesis is this keeps the price down around $100 a night, and caters to travelers who want to use the space as a launching pad for local surfing adventures or making the best of the town. The founder, Stu Waddell, is rumored to be looking for space to extend the concept in Mexico City.
STAY in Copenhagen takes a similar approach, though perhaps with a tad more service. The space is designed by noted Danish design firm HAY, and feels much more like a well designed large apartment than a cramped space in a city known for not having the best central hotel offerings (or service, for that matter). There’s a grocery store and small interesting restaurants within a stone’s throw, and with the rentable bikes, the entire center city is accessible in around 20 minutes.
Sure, Airbnb and your local boutiques will continue to thrive as travelers, specially younger travelers, want nuanced and local-feeling experiences. But look for more entrepreneurs to explore this new space in between where design, value and independence come together beautifully.