The “fear of missing out” is a major motivator for today’s most affluent millennials who want every travel moment to be memorable—and tweetable. From surfing and snowboarding to nightclubs and Nobu-style restaurants, hoteliers are addressing generation Y’s desires with exciting new branded concepts, said panelists at the 2014 ULI Fall Meeting in New York City.
With the tagline “the next little thing,” Yotel was inspired by the first-class cabins on British Airways, said Rohan Thakkar, Yotel director of development. “We provide a first-class hotel experience at an affordable price, with 170 square feet [15.8 sq m] of luxurious space,” he said. Rooms use space efficiently with a convertible bed, laptop safes, and plenty of storage. The concept employs high technology, epitomized by its robotic luggage concierge.
Yotel’s first concept—the airport hotel—opened in 2007. Situated inside terminal buildings at the Gatwick, Heathrow, and Amsterdam Schiphol airports, these hotels offer cabins that are bookable by the hour, with flexible check-in and check-out times.
Launched in New York in 2011, Yotel’s city product mixes flight cabin and boutique hotel concepts, with cabins 30 percent larger than those in the airport hotels plus floor-to-ceiling windows. Before the end of the year, the company will launch Yotel 2.0, with even more millennial-focused features.
Yotel’s New York City guests are encouraged to spend time outside their rooms, using free workstations, private club cabins for work or parties, communal dining featuring shareable small plates, and the city’s largest outdoor hotel terrace.
Perhaps the opposite of Yotel’s “small is beautiful” idea is that of Quiksilver Hotels and Resorts, which is leveraging a well-known 45-year-old global surfing brand. Cofounder Jake Schwartz, who grew up surfing in southern California along with along with cofounder Scott Madison, said that “Quicksilver gave us a set of brand values that go into everything from site location to operations.” Those values, he explained, include authenticity, heritage, stoke (enthusiasm), an ohana (family).
Millennials, he went on, constitute 30 percent of Quiksilver’s target market. “They are entitled and confident, tech-savvy, can’t be bought, civic-minded, tolerant, driven by peer opinions, and have ‘FOMO’—the fear of missing out,” he said. “This generation grew up with and participated in action sports, which represent a $350 billion industry that crosses generations and continues to grow faster than traditional sports. Hotels are traditionally about relaxation, but we want guests to be active.” Quiksilver also is targeting baby boomers, families, and “fun-seekers.”
Although the venture has completed a vacation rental property in Australia, the full concept is currently in the planning stages. The group is in negotiations to purchase a large tract of land in Palm Desert, California, where its planned resort could include a four-star, full-service hotel plus private villas, retail, and a range of innovative amenities including a wave pool, skate park, and spa. On-site organic gardens, communal tables, and food preparation demonstrations would highlight the dining experience. To combat FOMO, the resort would offer live music, education, fashion shows, corporate events, action sports lessons, outdoor festivals, family movie nights, and celebrity-studded extreme sports competitions.
Following Schwartz’s presentation, SB Entertainment (SBE) President Sam Bakhshandehpour said that he is not into action sports; rather, “I get you fat and drunk.” But his company shares Quiksilver’s vision of addressing the younger generation’s fear of missing out as well as their search for authenticity and recognition. Beginning with a single nightclub in Hollywood, SBE expanded its empire into hotels and now has four flags: SLS Hotels and Casinos, the Redbury Hotels, the Raleigh (which SBE manages for a venture headed by Tommy Hilfiger), and the soon-to-be-launched Hyde Hotels, Resorts, and Residences brand.
“Our [customers are] highly affluent, successful, discerning, and trendy,” Bakhshandehpour explained. “They welcome spending, but they want recognition. We aim to differentiate with a highly intuitive and personalized experience.” SBE’s brand and reach are furthered by partnerships with leading trendsetters and brands.
Global design icon Philippe Starck and James Beard award-winning chef José Andrés have collaborated in creating the food and beverage offerings. For its South Beach SLS hotel, the company had Starck design a show-stopping restaurant space for Los Angeles–based sushi chef Katsuya.
SBE partners with global brands to host and sponsor highly visible events around Hollywood’s Oscars and Golden Globe Awards, in addition to offering a variety of nightlife options year round. Technology will soon be used to recognize customers’ (almost) every need and desire. “This is an aspirational customer base,” the luxury hotelier concluded. “Tastes change rapidly, and they want to be recognized. If you don’t evolve, you get left behind.”
“I founded Montage in 2002 on the basis that old-world luxury is too pretentious,” said Alan J. Fuerstman, founder and CEO of Montage Hotels and Resorts, which currently has five destinations with rates beginning at $500 per night. “We stripped away the stiffness to create comfortable luxury, with incredible attention to detail, and found that this approach resonates well with guests of all ages.”
The first Montage opened in Laguna Beach, California, in 2003; all 250 of its rooms offer ocean views, and its villas sold at record prices. Five years later, the company opened in the heart of Beverly Hills, where—despite the economic downturn—residences sold at more than double the anticipated price. Next came Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, where guests can not only ski in and ski out during the winter, but also enjoy hiking, mountain biking, archery, and other family-oriented activities year round. The newest Montage venture is at Kapalua Bay, where unsold fractional ownership inventory was converted into oceanfront hotel suites. Also opening earlier this year was the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in the South Carolina Low Country, combining for-sale cottages with a luxury hotel in a resort that offers golf, water sports, and equestrian activities.
With future generations in mind, Montage is launching a new brand, Pendry, “at the intersection of service and design.” “We are targeting the older end of the millennial generation, who love great design but are looking for more in service,” he noted. The first Pendry—named after a centuries-old British family whose motto is “know thyself”—is under construction in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. This and future Pendry hotels will be distinguished from the existing Montage brand by offering a “casual hip vibe” with exceptionally engaging technology, pop-up retail, and what could be called “twisted traditional luxury.” Under the direction of Fuerstman’s son, Michael, the Pendry brand “opens a much larger universe of destinations in which we can operate, helping us remain vigilant and disciplined.”