As guests seek personalization, authenticity, and experiences outside their daily grinds, these well-designed outdoor lodges hit a sweet spot by maintaining a low profile that appeals to their customers' underlying desire to disconnect.
Luxury no longer only means opulence as a new generation of travelers — and older travelers with shifting priorities — seek out a different means to satiate their desire for peace and calm.
Two new lodges opened outside of New York City typify the type of popular alternative that luxury clients are choosing these days in addition to or in place of an all-inclusive resort or even five-star staycation.
These often remote accommodations offer healthy cuisine designed with local ingredients in mind, offer quiet respite for an always-connected clientele, and feed into a basic need to disconnect. Most guests are young, between 20 and 40 years old, and come from major urban areas within driving distance. The majority come from New York, but others make the drive from Philadelphia and Boston.
Foreign travelers are also starting to come in greater numbers, explains the lodge owners we spoke to, pairing the countryside stay with a larger trip to New York.
“Weekends are most coveted and are booked the furthest in advance,” explains Casey Scieszka, Head Innkeeper at the Spruceton Inn,” but we also get plenty of midweek guests. These are people who have taken vacation time, people with jobs with flexible schedules or non-traditional weekends — think bartenders, artists.”
Spruceton Inn describes itself as a “Catskills Bed and Bar” located two and half hours from New York City. The lodge, which opened in August 2014, has 9 rooms — which Scieszka managed solo for the first three weeks of opening.
It’s not just customer appetite that is driving these changes. Building a small, local hotel in a major market like New York is nearly impossible.
“As the cost of living and operating businesses in these large cities has increased, more people from the hospitality industry are leaving them to go to secondary, tertiary and destination locations. This is increasing the supply of amazing restaurants and hotels for urban dwellers to visit,” explains Marc Chodock, co-owner of Scribner’s Catskill Lodge.
Located a two-hour drive outside of New York, Scribner’s is a larger operation with 38 guest rooms and suites and gained notoriety quickly after opening last year. Its mountain aesthetic quickly caught the attention of Instagram-scrolling city dwellers.
The lodge has nearly 12,000 Instagram followers but Chodock says its guests’ posts that have the biggest impact.
“While some lodge guests find us through our social media page, many of our guests have discovered us by seeing their friend’s photos pop up on their feed while they’re visiting the property,” says Chodock.
The photos relaying a place of peace play a huge role in inspiring visitors to make the journey.
“The biggest role that social media plays in this business is in helping us get the word out. We are five miles down a seven mile dead end road in the middle of the Catskill Park so it’s not like we’re going to get a lot of drive-by traffic, ya know?” says Scieszka.
While the cost of operating the business is lower outside of main markets, it can be tougher to find talent.
“The most difficult aspect is being able to attract quality managers and staff. The initial concept and design can only take a property so far. Guest’s interactions with our team and the quality programming that we create and execute on is what will lead us to long term success,” says Chodock who now employs 50 people.
The smaller nature of the lodges gives staff more of an opportunity to interact with guests, giving them the sensation of a personalized stay while at the same time giving them the space and sense of exploration that Airbnb-style has encouraged them to seek.
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Photo credit: A living room where guests relax at Scribner's Catskill Lodge. Scribner's Catskill Lodge