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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.
Starbucks famously built its brand as being the “third place” between home and office — a space to convene, relax and enjoy the coffee and Wi-Fi. The idea seems very old now, with the growth of the brand and the expansion of the category.
But the idea of places for downtime and in-between moments in cities and for business travel is valid, and innovators are running after the white space.
Solving the red-eye dilemma
I recently caught up with Richard Hatter, general manager of the Hotel Icon in Hong Kong. I arrived after a flight in from the United States, and used what’s called the Timeless lounge. It is a spa facility and rest area that is incredibly comfortable and useful for the times where your flight gets in early and your room isn’t ready.
Now, other hotels do this, but this was very well executed and allowed a refresh, workout, and a quiet place to read. It wasn’t just going to the gym. The experience was more considered.
In a conversation with Hatter, we discussed how this could be a bigger concept to be fleshed out. Among the ideas were expanding the space and adding materials and resources such as a beautiful array of print media.
The Timeless lounge might be positioned as a competitive benefit against other local hotels which pat you on the head and tell you to come back at 3 p.m. to check in.
Shower on the go
A startup that is still in its infancy is taking a similar approach to Hotel Icon, but in cities. Hydra New York is building small shower facilities in unused areas of commercial real estate. The concept is smart: You can run to work and shower before you head in, or freshen up between work and an event afterward.
The founders also told me that the rise in boutique workouts and the subsequent cram for showers at Soulcycle and other such facilities serve the Hydra business nicely.
The concept, as it stands, will offer more private, cabana-style suites for half hour or hour increments, as well as a more public locker room-style area not dissimilar to what you’d see in a gym.
Breather is a concept that allows for on-demand meeting spaces. A recent trial of it found a clean, well-designed room not far from where I needed to be. Everything is bookable through an app, and the company positions its service for times where you need a breakout session out of the office, or you are in transit from the big meeting and when your flight departs later that night.
Bed by the minute
Many companies have tried to make the incremental stay business work. Recharge is the newest entrant, aimed at what the company says is a mix of families, business travelers, commuters and red-eye travelers looking for a crash pad.
Recharge enables customers to instantly book rooms in New York City and they only need to be booked for the time you need.
With an investment from JetBlue’s tech incubator, JetBlue Technology Ventures, Recharge officially launched in 2015 in San Francisco and recently opened in New York at the Arlo and Ace hotels, as well as higher-end options like the Pierre.
How this works with the logistics of room turnover and housekeeping is unclear, but it seems like a concept worth keeping an eye on.