The Rise of Bewildering Hotel Concepts

As hotel concepts get more innovative, choosing where to stay has only gotten more confusing

Once upon a time, frequent travellers chose a hotel by narrowing down several criteria. First, you chose your budget. Then you decided if you wanted a business or leisure hotel. Then a location. And finally a brand, perhaps based on some kind of hotel point scheme.

Boy, have things changed. The first disruption happened in the late ’90s with the boutique hotel. Often these hotels offered neither a business nor leisure focus (or rather they offered both); were incredibly difficult to pigeonhole in a ‘class’ (they were extremely luxurious in decor but offered no facilities); and had no global brand.

But now, especially over the past few years, the division between staid hotel chains and cool boutiques has become weirdly warped. Big hotel chains have essentially gone all boutique-y themselves and created or acquired sub-brands. These eschew many traditional hotel segmentation norms and place a certain lifestyle theme or philosophy at the heart of their identities. The Andaz (meaning ‘personal style’ in Hindi) chain owned by Hyatt, for example, ‘welcomes imaginative thinkers of all ages and backgrounds’.

The six largest hotel groups, with some 70 sub-brands, control 40 percent of the global hotel market and 70 percent of the global development pipeline. And these groups are using their financial clout to invest heavily in another wave of disruption: using data and analytics to create a bespoke customer experience. So in the near future we might get pricing on the basis of need, like a low-cost airline – extra charges for toiletries or room cleaning, for instance – and hot chocolate at 10pm every night because they know you like that. 

I am no Luddite – I like disruption, innovation and hot chocolate at 10pm – but I have a few major issues with all of this.

Firstly, it is more bewildering to pick a hotel now. Most of my professional colleagues leave it to their assistants or their millennial children to pick a hotel, since they have no idea how to differentiate between the endless series of similarly priced, well-located options that differ by lifestyle choice. Secondly, all this consolidation and financial clout might facilitate more investment but it doesn’t really seem to be reducing prices.

Thirdly, I worry that the fundamentals will get forgotten. Honestly, I’m not that bothered about whether my hotel’s lobby can double up as an atmospheric hub for creatives. Nor do I find it difficult to order my own hot chocolate or switch off the lights without an iPad to help me. And I really don’t want hotels making lifestyle choices for me (like eliminating TVs from rooms for serenity). Most of the time, all I want is a great bed, free Wi-Fi, tasty room service, attentive staff and a few useful facilities, like a gym and a pool.

I bet you do, too. Or am I wrong? Let me know at [email protected]

By the Anonymous Global Nomad

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