A new model for independent travelers
A new trend of "do-it-yourself" hotels is being embraced by independent boutiques and major chains alike, frequently targets business and budget travelers.
A new trend of "do-it-yourself" hotels is being embraced by independent boutiques and major chains alike.
You arrive at your hotel and go directly to your room, where you punch in a code at the door and let yourself in.
At happy hour, you pour a glass of wine from bottles set out in the common area.
When you want advice on local attractions, you turn to a virtual concierge.
"The whole theme is low-maintenance guests who don´t like to have staff in their face when they´re coming and going," said Michael Farrar, assistant manager of the Inn at St. Botolph in Boston. The inn offers an "abbreviated services model" that includes online booking, virtual check-in, keyless entry and elective housekeeping. “We will let you be."
The motivation behind the trend, which frequently targets business and budget travelers, appears to be two-fold: It gives independent-minded travelers autonomy and allows hotels to run with a bare-bones staff, translating to fewer expenses for owners and, in theory, lower rates for guests.
"Hotels are the last holdout in the travel industry when it comes to do-it-yourself," hotel consultant and author Daniel Edward Craig said in an e-mail. "Like the airline industry, which responded to demands for low fares from travelers by cutting services to reduce costs, the hotel industry is following suit by automating certain services. As long as travelers continue to demand low rates and greater efficiency, this segment will continue to grow."
That´s not to say that budget hotels are the only ones embracing this trend.
The Kimber Modern, a sleek boutique hotel in the heart of Austin´s trendy SoCo district, was one of the first to incorporate what it calls an "invisible service” model when it opened late last year. Its rates start at $225.
From keyless entry and self-service breakfast and happy hour to amenities such as umbrellas, extra pillows, razors and toothpaste in every room, the hotel aims to attract the "independent urban traveler," co-owner Kimber Cavendish said.
"The concept is all about providing every need for our guests so they don´t need us," said Cavendish, adding that staff is available either on-site or by phone around the clock should a guest encounter a problem. "We´re not trying to be an Omni or a Four Seasons where there´s all the services you could ever need with people there to give them to you. Our goal is to have everything our guests need so they can make themselves at home."
Major hotel chains such as Hyatt and Starwood are also launching brands based on a self-service mentality.
At more than 100 Hyatt Place hotels nationwide, guests check in at kiosks (but may also check in with a "gallery host") and order room service through a cashless touch-screen menu. Starwood’s Aloft, which opened in June 2008 and now has about 30 locations, swaps room service for grab-and-go options and allows guests to check in — and even select their rooms — at a kiosk.
"Guests like control," said Brian McGuinness, senior vice president of Starwood Specialty Select brands. "It´s really about giving the customers choice."
Craig said the main goal for hotels incorporating a self-service model should be to maintain their quality of service.
"Regardless of the state of the economy, the hospitality business is all about providing travelers with comfort, value and convenience," he said. "As long as do-it-yourself trends advance rather than reduce these objectives, they will grow in popularity."