Pushed by Home-Sharing, Hotels Try Some New Tricks

From televisions in every room to smartphone room keys, the hotel industry has evolved to stay at least on pace with travelers, if not a step or two ahead. Now, challenged by the home-sharing economy — Airbnb alone reported over $1 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2018, its highest to date — new hotels are toying with everything from pricing to privacy.

Airbnb, said Chekitan S. Dev, a professor in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, “shook legacy brands out of their slumber and forced them to consider innovating their value propositions, and it encouraged entrants to experiment with novel and bold innovations.”

Today, he added, new hotel brands are routinely asking a series of “what if” questions: “What if customers could check in anytime they like? What if the room was customized to the needs of the guest? What if the room could be rented in parts or in combination with others? What if the guest determined the value of the room? What if there was a seamless experience between the hotel and the local community?”

The following three new hotels embody some of those experiments.

Beyond providing the convenience of having someone else make your bed and launder your towels, can a hotel room improve your mood? That’s the question posed to guests of the new Angad Arts Hotel in St. Louis.

The 146-room hotel, which opened in November, offers four color schemes designed to support emotions. Rooms come in yellow, said to be associated with happiness, green for rejuvenation, blue for tranquillity and red for passion (doubles from $185).

“While exploring ideas, we came across a quote by Pablo Picasso, ‘Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,’” David Miskit, the executive managing director of Angad, wrote in an email. He added that the company used no particular source for translating emotions into color, but that “these were the most common interpretations.”

Rooms come with corresponding accessories, including a tabletop Zen garden with a mini rake in the blue rooms, a lamp set with Himalayan salt crystals in the green rooms, a smiley whoopee cushion in the yellow rooms and a scented candle in the red rooms.

In December, I booked a yellow room to test the effect, reasoning that anyone staying solo on a business trip could use a boost of happiness. My room glowed with warmth, from the yellow rubber duck in the bathroom to the overhead ductwork, also painted yellow. The morning sunlight streaming in only heightened the effect, making it just too impossibly bright and, yes, cheerful, to sleep past 8 a.m.

So far, blue has been the most popular choice among guests, said Mr. Miskit. “It’s safe.”

The new SCP Hotels stands for “soul, community, planet,” with the aim to operate sustainably and nurture connections between guests. Its first location, which opened in June in Colorado Springs, Colo., introduced a key component of its intended transparency with what it calls “fair trade pricing.” It allows guests to name their rate when checking out, meaning they can lower the suggested price if they feel the value doesn’t align.

“We want to lead by being good, not by being profitable,” said Ken Cruse, the chief executive of SCP Hotels. “We think of profits as a byproduct of the new experience.”

That experience relies on wellness, with a multifaceted, 12,000-square-foot fitness center that includes a cross-fit studio, climbing wall and group classes in yoga and Pilates. Its 174 rooms have a rustic quality, with barn-style sliding doors and reclaimed wood from trees that had been damaged by invasive beetles. A store stocks local coffee, beer and healthy snacks, and communal tables and free Wi-Fi in the plant-filled lobby are designed to encourage co-working.

A renovation of a derelict Knight’s Inn, SCP suggests rates from about $100 to $200, depending on the season. The name-your-rate strategy aims to entice travelers to take a chance on a new brand.

“This is a means of taking risk out of that decision point of consumers to give us a shot,” Mr. Cruse said.

Though the policy sounds ripe for abuse, so far no one has lowballed the rates, he added. He hopes it will solicit feedback from guests, and says the hotel will honor a request to reduce the rate, such as a noise complaint, and not just negotiate a discount. SCP has only the one hotel in Colorado Springs and aims to open 30 to 40 more throughout the United States in the next three years.

Opened in November, the Bode hotel in Nashville is designed to mimic the group-friendly features of home shares, including multi-bedroom units with kitchens, while adding traditional hotel amenities, such as bars in the lobby (rooms from about $260).

The company based the Bode model on its founders’ love of group travel with family and friends, and dissatisfaction with socializing in a hotel and searching for a stylish, well-located home to share.

“The hotel experience was truncated because we’d be crammed into a room or forced into a lobby,” said Philip Bates, the managing partner of Bode. “Airbnbs are sometimes not well-located, the booking takes forever, the design appointments aren’t as good and they don’t have the vibe or theme of a good boutique hotel.”

Instead, Bode offers condo-like units of up to five bedrooms with living areas and kitchens. Guests have the convenience of hotel housekeeping, a concierge to point them to local restaurants and public social space, including a bar with coffee and pastries in the morning and alcoholic drinks and charcuterie plates later on. A market sells basic groceries, beer and wine. Outdoors, there are firepits, games like Ping-Pong and a stage for live music.

The group chose Nashville for its first location for its attraction as a concert, festival and convention destination. Future plans include openings in Palm Springs and Orange County, Calif., and Chattanooga, Tenn., where it aims to appeal to the family market.


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