As traveler expectations evolve, hospitality brands must follow suit. Some of these trends, such as blending of work with play and the pursuit of casual luxury, require new ways of thinking about hospitality. One brand at the forefront of the evolving definition of hospitality is Selina.
Like the travelers it targets, the brand resists labels in its effort to define itself on its own terms. Nevertheless, labels help us sort and understand. So Selina sits at the sweet spot of the hotel/hostel mash-up: chicly designed properties with a range of room types that bring affordability and luxury into one accommodation category.
From the stage at HEDNA Lisbon, Selina COO Liat Aaronson explained it this way:
“We think of ourselves as a haven for millennial travelers to come and work, explore, travel, and be part of a community. A community with our local community but also a community of travellers.”
Aaronson’s keynote, “the Democratization of Hospitality; The Future of Travel,” outlined a perspective on how hospitality is evolving to serve today’s multi-faceted traveler.
Defining democratization in the age of Instagram
Democratization is about diversifying the room product while coalescing public spaces around communal experiences. It’s about unsiloing certain experiences within a property to open them up to more people.
In its quest to democratize hospitality, Selina caters to a specific demographic: the traveler (usually millennial) that blends work and play. This demographic has its eye firmly on experiential travel. This is the Instagram generation, seeking perfectly framed experiences for their social media feeds.
For Selina, this goes beyond just appearances on social media. This demographic is really all about a certain type of lifestyle, says Aaronson:
“What we are catering to, or aspiring to, is to digital nomads. But not only digital nomads. The aspiration is to people who are working remotely, usually through digital channels.”
This particular demographic has needs that move beyond loyalty points and status levels, Aaronson explains:
“It's an interesting trend for a group of people [millenials] that don't look at career trajectory and income and titles, but are more interested in impact and community and experience. We're catering to that need.
Of this millennial population, we feel that with the way technology is going, that this young group of people are looking for a way to to travel, work, and actually combine the two of together."
The desire to combine the two puts a certain type of pressure on hospitality brands, because these expansive traveler desires must be solved in the actual product design. The physical spaces must reflect the uses that guests prioritize.
Building a hospitality brand for the modern traveler
In crafting its offering, Selina addresses traveler needs by not limiting itself on room type. While it’s not likely than many traditional business travelers would consider a hostel, the insight is that a broad array of room types appeals to a broad array of travelers.
But beyond each guestroom, the communal spaces are open for everybody. This means that Selina can serve travelers across the financial spectrum while maintaining a sense of communal living.
Travelers can also book room types for different categories of trips: one style for a romantic getaway and another for a budget-minded solo trip. This enhances brand loyalty. It's very similar to the way that a large hotel group might have several flags in its portfolio, each of which appeals to a different type of traveler/trip type.
Aaronson points to this selection of rooms within each property as the backbone of Selina’s value proposition, saying:
“Whether you're coming in and you're staying in a hammock, a tent, a dorm room or a boutique-style more luxury room, you get to share in the experience of the hotel on the same way. There's no VIP lounge. There's no Club Floor. There's nothing special [outside of the room] to anyone who pays $300 as opposed to the $30.
Once you walk out of your room, and close the door, no one really knows how much you paid!
We feel that this actually speaks to this demographic where it's more important to be cool and interesting and have something to share with the world than to be affluent and have a lot of money.”
In addition to diversity of room type, Selina offers co-working facilities in certain locations. With fast connectivity, these spaces allow travelers to live the work/life balance.
Music is also integral to Selina’s brand of lifestyle accommodation. Selina has launched a namesake music festival that engages the brand’s following, and built a music studio at one of its properties. Specially curated playlists are featured at each property.
Adapting to today's guest
For those hotel brands looking to Selina for ways that their own brands can appeal to this type of traveler, this is perhaps the most critical piece: Status is being defined in a much broader way with today's traveler.
Sure, elite status and other perks are still popular. Yet, there are many reasons that travelers choose where to stay. My understanding those reasons, and the nuance among he targeted traveler demographics, any hotel brand Can expand their efforts to reach the modern traveler.
This is an ongoing series of articles from HEDNA Lisbon. Video coverage is available here.