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Nearly a year after one of its largest investors — Paris-based hotel giant AccorHotels — debuted its own community hub strategy using a mobile app called AccorLocal, Hamburg-based 25hours Hotels is embarking on an experiment of its own to see if a similar strategy can work for the relatively smaller and more intimate boutique hotel chain.
In late July, the 25hours Hotel HafenCity in Hamburg debuted a new concierge service pilot, dubbed “Conciergerie,” in which the hotel concierge is no longer just expected to give recommendations or assistance to hotel guests, but also to local residents. The pilot is expected to last through the end of 2018 and will then be rolled out to other 25hours Hotel locations.
Services that can be facilitated for local residents through the concierge include the ability to book bread delivery, laundry services, yoga classes, handyman services, sending flowers, booking restaurant reservations, and much more — by contacting the concierge directly in person, by phone, or by email. It’s somewhat similar to what AccorHotels’ AccorLocal app aims to do, or Hilton’s newly updated Hilton Honors app, albeit minus a formal mobile application. There is no additional charge for the services delivered.
“This also relates to what Sebastien Bazin [AccorHotels CEO] is trying to do and implement into his very large corporation, which is the idea of localization,” said Christoph Hoffmann, 25hours Hotels co-founder. “It’s the relationship between the neighbor and us. We need to make it a realization. So, we developed a new concierge who’s not just catering hotels to travelers anymore but catering many things a hotel does to provide for the needs of the local neighbor.”
“Many people,” he said, “talk about this trend and talk about it without making it happen. We have,” Hoffmann added.
When asked if 25hours might explore the possibility of using an app like AccorLocal to offer these services to local residents, Hoffmann said he thinks that what 25hours is currently piloting “goes beyond that” and is purposely less reliant on the digital experience.
“Maybe the AccorLocal app can help provide us the digital support for that. The personal relationship and services — to give people the feeling that they have friends next door and it’s us — that’s a differentiator.”
A case in point, he said, was in how the new Conciergerie service has reinvented the tradition of baked goods delivery in Hamburg.
“A friend of mine is doing that on the weekends—he has a neighbor-direct channel and he gets rolls for the neighborhood. I want however many and tell him, and he hangs it to the door at 8 in the morning. It’s different from Deliveroo and UberEats — it’s a very local thing and very personalized. That’s something that brings people together again. That’s more of the idea behind our idea.”
When asked how the company would market the new Conciergerie service, a 25hours Hotel spokesperson said, “Through our bars and restaurants, we are already very much integrated in the neighborhood. The new service is a logical and consequential expansion of our general services. There will be different activities such as mailings to the neighbors. There has been quite some media interest, too. We had a local TV station filming at the hotel and airing in the news.”
The brand also insists that this new service is very different from our traditional notions of what constitutes concierge service: “Unlike a normal concierge service, we not only cater to the hotel guests but proactively approach neighboring residents to make them part of the hotel experience, and our interpretation is less stiff and more contemporary. The concierge booth is very prominently located in the hotel lobby and is an integral part of the welcome experience.”
Given more time, it’ll be interesting to see which approach is the most effective when it comes to engaging with locals: 25hours’ more human-centric one, or AccorHotels’ and others’ more digitally driven ones?
More interesting too, is whether there’s still value in even offering concierge-like services today for hotels and, if so, in what ways.
“If we go back in time, one of the definitions of luxury was a concierge,” said Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at the NYU Jonathan M. Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism. “Concierges today might be a 70-year-old white harried gentleman, but if you’re 25, does he know what you want for dinner? We’ve got social media influencers for that. You might still go to that concierge to get that reservation booked, but that person serves a different function now.”