Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendlinger thinks the next big innovation in hospitality isn’t necessarily tied to design, but is more about developing curated communities.

Speaking on stage at Skift Forum Europe in London, the seasoned hotel expert who founded Design Hotels in 1993 said that hospitality is “a slow-moving business” but “hotels have always been a reflection and reaction to the changes in society.”

And while design has been, for many years, a distinguishing hotel trend, a change is afoot, according to Sendlinger.

“Design has been one, maybe, of the latest trends [in hotels] which has lasted now for two decades,” he explained. “We started Design Hotels in 1993 and in 1998, Barry Sternlicht opened the first W hotel. It’s still relatively fresh, you know. But if I look at it the same way I looked at dance floors 25 years ago, there’s a change in socio-geographic behavior now. It’s not about choosing a yellow or blue or red chair. I think it’s much more… Everyone is doing that now… but it needs curation.”

By curation, Sendlinger means attracting the right guests to the right hotel. “The most innovative hoteliers we are talking to, for them it’s not about who they are distributing through. They’re thinking about: ‘How do I get the right guests into my hotel?'”

Sendlinger said one example of this includes Design Hotels’ La Granja Ibiza, a special project in Spain that encompasses a community organic farm that produces its own food specifically for the local community. “It caters first and foremost to the people who live on the island and in that way, we’ve created a kind of filter,” he said. “We also run a members club there called Friends of a Farmer… we go for people whom we share the same values with.”

He continued: “I believe the micro communities and kinds of islands for people who share their ideologies is what’s happening right now. It’s not just a hotel anymore. It’s a space where technology and community meet… That’s where the next level of innovation will happen.”

And for Sendlinger, innovation in hospitality is much more than just being “local.” It’s also about developing the right programming.

“I strongly believe that the future of these very hot places is that they not only curate the neighborhood, but also curate what’s happening within their properties,” he said. “People who give you a stage or let you cook or select the music, that selects a crowd that has a following. It creates more meaningful encounters. In a time of social media, these personal relationships will matter more and more.”

Skift Editor’s Note: For more of Sendlinger’s personal views on the evolution and history of boutique hotels, check out Skift’s Complete Oral History of Boutique Hotels.

Photo Credit: Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendlinger was interviewed by SkiftX editor Greg Oates at Skift Forum Europe in London. Russell Harper / Skift