Hospitality Industry

Hotel Concept Handbook: Developing a Compelling Hotel Concept

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Youri Sawerschel

Founder of Creative Supply & Visiting Lecturer at EHL

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The hospitality industry is anything but dull. Each year brings with it a bounty of exciting destinations, revolutionary new hotels and glamourous renovations. As we enter a new decade, the number of international tourists is continually rising, and new hotels keep popping up to soak up the growing demand. But whereas the challenges of the previous 20 years were mainly tied to one overarching paradigm shift – digitisation – the decade ahead brings with it a number of industrydisrupting trends that are changing what it means to be a hotelier.

10 years ago, hoteliers were still wondering if they should invest in in-room Wi-Fi (yes) and charge guests extra for the service (no). What has them biting their nails now is whether or not to become retailers, neighbourhood cafes, coworking spaces or art galleries. Every part of the hotel business, from changing customer expectations to interior design and zoning, is being challenged. The traditional selling-rooms-and-breakfast business model no longer reflects what it means to manage a hotel. Hence the need for a new unifying concept.

In this context, hoteliers need clarity and insight, which is precisely why we have developed the Hotel Concept Handbook, in association with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL). Building on our experience working for both leading Youri Sawerschel Founder hospitality brands and independent hoteliers, we have put together a guide presenting the major trends that affect the industry, from retail convergence to community integration. The handbook features a presentation of our very own Hotel Concept Framework to help hoteliers better adapt to their complex and everchanging environment. The framework, developed by Creative Supply, has been used to create winning hotel concepts for our customers. For hoteliers, it helps to create integrated, compelling concepts that attract the interest of guests and industry professionals alike by linking storytelling to operations or design. Proof of its success, our Hotel Concept Framework is now taught every year to students at EHL, one of the leading hospitality and management schools in the world.

This handbook is the ultimate hands-on guide for ambitious hoteliers who want to create or refine their hotel concept, and challenge today’s vision of hospitality — complete with case studies showing the Hotel Concept Framework in action. We hope you will enjoy reading it, and look forward to your feedback.

Trends and Opportunities

From a meditation app competing with a spa to a hotel encouraging its guests to save coral reefs, the hospitality industry has never been so vivacious. We’ve pinpointed five emerging trends that present both opportunities and threats for hotel concept development.

The Changing Role of Hotels

While it may seem the hospitality industry is under attack from all sides, the reality is more nuanced. The pool of potential customers has never been higher, with a projected 1.8 billion international tourists by 2030, or roughly 5 million per day. Those figures even take into account some of the predicted consequences of climate change, from endangered destinations like Venice and the Maldives to social stigma toward carbon-heavy tourism. Spoiled for choice yet looking to inject more meaning into their travels, tourists will be looking beyond OTAs when it comes to destination travel and searching for hotels they feel connected to. Above and beyond a (very) comfortable bed, hotels will have to provide impactful, sustainable and rewarding experiences, in order to stay afloat amidst the ever – intensifying competition from new apps and websites. This new and ambivalent context calls for adaptability, and hoteliers are being faced with the challenge of rethinking their entire offering to forge a clearly defined concept that brings personality and coherence to their property. Read on to discover how to create that concept.

Hotel Concept Framework

At Creative Supply, we are passionate about hospitality. Whether it’s working with ambitious hoteliers all over the world, or sharing our experience with young hospitality professionals, we feel strongly about making the world a more hospitable place. The Hotel Concept Framework was born as a result of this focus and, in this part, we explain how it works, why it’s so useful, and raise a few questions to bear in mind while working on your own hotel concept.

The Hotel Concept Framework is made up of 7 components that cover all aspects of designing and running a hotel : Story, People, Space, Identity, Services, Content and Channels. Starting from the central story, components are interconnected and work side by side to build a unique, coherent whole.

A Framework for Success

From a distance, one might think a hotel concept is nothing more than the sum of a few separate parts. A good story here, trendy design there, and a quirky social presence to wrap it all in and, voilà, you’ve got yourself a hotel concept. But hoteliers worldwide have proven that a good concept paired with excellent execution provides an experience that transcends each individual element. A good concept also provides the perfect template for sustainable growth, as new experiences serve to actualise and reinforce the concept over time.

There are countless ways to innovate and improve on a hotel experience. That’s why we hope to see hoteliers far and wide using our Hotel Concept Framework to do just that. If you have a great hotel concept you’d like to share with the hospitality world, send it our way. We’d be delighted to feature it.

Case Studies

In this part, we put our model through its paces, taking a look at five very different hotel concepts through the lens of our Hotel Concept Framework. From a chic country retreat to a floating ex-prison and a hip resort for millennials, you’re about to discover how these properties built their concept, which elements they focused on, and how it all comes together as a whole.

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