Technology, changing consumer behaviours and deregulation are challenging the hospitality industry at its core.
The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated these trends, forcing hoteliers to review the fundamentals of their value proposition and go beyond the traditional definition of a hotel as a “place to sleep and eat”. Indeed, the sole value proposition of a hotel can no longer be based nor limited by its physical asset. Storytelling, content creation and community have become as important as location and interior design. To unlock new area of growth, hoteliers across the world are starting to transform their properties into concepts that break with conventions. From a Japanese hotel that doubles as a fashion label to a Parisian B&B that produce its own music, hotel concepts are blurring the lines between media, retail and hospitality.
|THE IMPACT OF TECHNOLOGY ON HOTEL OPERATIONS|
|Hotel outlets and services||Digital alternatives|
|Room Service||Uber Eats, Deliveroo|
|Meeting Space||Zoom, Go-To Meeting, Google Hangout|
|Fitness & Wellness||Freeletics, Headspace, Nike Run Club|
|Airport Transfer||Uber, Lyft, Taxify|
|In-room Entertainment||Netflix, Youtube, Instagram|
|Bicycle Rental||Lime, Bird, Donkey Republic|
|Concierge Desk||Tripadvisor, Google Map,|
|Room Telephone||WhatsApp, Skype, Facetime|
Why creating a hotel concept?
Whether your are running a small family property or managing a portfolio of hotels, you can benefit from the development of a hotel concept. A well-executed hotel concept offers many benefits in both development and operating phases. Here are a few:
- Alignment between stakeholders around a shared vision
- A price premium on room rates and extras
- A coherent and compelling guest experience
- A reduction in PR and marketing costs, as concept-led hotels are inherently easier to market
- An attractive opportunity for talented staff to join an exciting and meaningful project
- A marketable platform for investors and partners when pitching the project
For nearly 10 years, our team has been developing hotel concepts for international players such as Kempinski Hotels and Vienna House as well for independent hotels such as the Le Grand Quartier in Paris or Kramer Group in Zurich. But what exactly is a hotel concept? How do you create one? And how to implement it? Based on our Hotel Concept Handbook (published in collaboration with Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne), this online guide will give you a deep understanding of the creation of a hotel concept – from the strategic and creative level down to the day to day operations.
What exactly is a hotel concept?
It is a commonly held misconception that interior designers are responsible for the development of a hotel concept. In reality, a hotel concept goes far beyond space planning and considers aspects such as the service design, the storytelling and the communication strategy. Indeed, a beautifully designed hotel cannot succeed without a good service concept or an enticing story. We are convinced that the success of a hotel concept relies on the integration of both “soft” and “hard” elements. This is why we developed our proprietary Hotel Concept Framework. Our approach is unique because it takes into account the strategic, operational and marketing components of a hotel concept: Story, Space, People, Services, Content, Channels and Identity.
The 7 elements of a hotel concept
The Story lies at the heart of our Hotel Concept Framework. It defines the role of a hotel as well as its aspirations. In other words, your story conveys why guests should stay at your property, beyond just getting a room and breakfast.
- A story lasts virtually forever and triggers an emotional response that leads to a decrease in price sensitivity
- A story is hard to copy and engage journalists to follow you over the years
- A story is inexpensive to create, in relation to the overall cost of building or renovating a hotel
The People component of the framework encompasses all the people who play a part in your hotel concept. That means: your employees, your guests, your partners and, to a certain extent, your investors. Together, they bring your concept to life. In most hotel concepts, people are at the core of all interactions. The people you hire and collaborate with must all feel connected to your story. A hotel that tells a story about “connecting people and ideas” could involve local entrepreneurs, academics and venture capitalists. A hotel wishing to “lead people to better health” may partner with medical professionals, yoga studios or fitness coaches.
- A strong hotel concept should attract and nurture a community of like-minded people
- Your staff must not only understand the core story of your hotel but also relate to it
In our model, the Space component relates to the physical makeup of the hotel. It encompasses the zoning, the customer flow of a hotel, as well as its interior design. A hotel space must match with its core story: a “rebel story hotel” should be designed differently than “a conservative elite hotel”. Zoning is the first and most essential step to planning your hotel space, as it greatly impacts the customer experience. Different spaces have different purposes and require sensible placing: a quiet library space will not do well if located next to a busy restaurant or hotel bar. Refining your customer flow allows guests to circulate smoothly between different zones, which reduces stress and can create new opportunities for generating revenue. Interior design should come last in the space design process.
- The zoning of your hotel must consider the customer flow of in-house guests and external guests
- The core story of your hotel must be developed before selecting interior designers (the story serves as a creative brief)
- Consider cultural and social norms when designing a space
The framework’s Services component covers the services and amenities offered to guests before, during and after their stay. Spanning everything from the essential (Wi-Fi, housekeeping) to the exotic (dog concierge, selfie assistant), services offer a myriad of possibilities for guest interactions, and help enrich the customer experience. Of course, services that tie in with your hotel story are particularly valuable, as they can strengthen your overall concept. In-room poker sets and whisky tastings will bring a distinctive appeal to a hotel whose story revolves around “great times with friends”.
- Map out all service touchpoint in the customer journey to understand which ones are essentials, value-adding and truly unique
- Develop a signature service that expresses your hotel story
- Define operating standards that empower your staff to offer a truly unique service
The Identity element in the framework encompasses all the graphic, verbal and sensorial aspects of a hotel concept. From corridor signage to website layout and up to the hold music, each and every ingredient is an opportunity for a hotel to assert its unique identity. Since these items are experienced by guests before, during and after their stay, the identity they express must be fully coherent with the story of your hotel. Visual identity plays a particularly important role in creating an identity. It also contributes to your hotel’s perceived value: stellar website design is good advertising in and out of itself. The visual identity you develop also extends to the content you create. Your Instagram posts, trade show banners, YouTube videos – make sure that your content is always “on- brand”.
- Make sure your hotel name and identity match your hotel story
- Avoid hotel clichés such as service scenes and stock images, instead favour authentic settings with natural lightning
- Don’t just consider how your hotel looks, think about how “it talks” too
Our framework’s Content component defines the intellectual property and communication assets a hotel develops. These come in many forms, from website articles to a a line of fashion accessories. You might have a weekly podcast series about unconventional travel destinations or perhaps a short documentary showcasing your region. Good content can help you showcase multiple facets of your story, which helps to educate your target audience, improves your brand’s reputation, and generates free press. It will also help you stay in touch with your guests even if they’ve only been to your property once.
- Content creation rarely generates instant results. It as a long-term investment for your brand
- Make sure your content either educate, entertain or inspire (news about your soap supplier doesn’t do either)
- Consider collaborating with other company, artists or writers to co-create content
The Channel component in our framework encompasses all digital channels as well as the real-world activities and events a hotel organises to bring their story to life. From your OTA booking page to your end- of-year theme party, channels represent all the marketing touchpoints between you and your guests. Digital channels include booking platforms and social media accounts – they are crucial to hotel management. But the overwhelming amount of information available online makes it incredibly difficult to create an emotional connection with guests via these channels alone. Face-to-face interactions are hard to beat when it comes to engaging people. These elements combined will make the story come alive. Depending on your story and concept, possible activities might include a flea market, movie nights, modern art exhibitions or outdoor pilates classes. Channels can also take the form of collaborations and, in certain cases, drive direct bookings to your hotels. If you run a wellness resort, for example, you could ask yoga studios in your feeder markets to refer customers to your establishment in exchange for a commission.
- Story, Content and Channels should always work hand-in- hand to avoid a disconnect between strategy and operations
- Consider organising regular activities and events to engage your community with your story (the traditional Friday night jazz band is not enough)
- Explore unexpected and/or overlooked distribution channels to reach out to your audience
What are the steps to develop a hotel concept?
The concept development phase is made of 4 key phases: Audit & Research, Brand Concept, Operational Concept and Visual & Verbal Identity.
01 Audit & Research
In this initial phase, we take a 360 view of your business and look at its broad context. We review competitors, cultural offerings and retail scene. We also take the time to dig into the hotel archive (internal and public sources) as well as conduct one-to-one interviews with key employees. This enables us to identify the opportunities of your project and ensure that we create something truly unique.
02 Brand Concept (brand platform)
We use the insights we collect as our creative constraints to come up with a core brand idea for your hotel. That means deciding if your hotel could/should be a rebel luxurious property, a classic French icon or a hipster flagship. For instance, we successfully established the Terrass” Hôtel in Paris as a “legend of Montmartre” that is the “artist’s address since 1911”. Using our Hotel Concept Framework, we then make sure that the entire customer experience reflects the core idea.
03 Operational Concept
We look at the zoning of the property and the type of outlets it will contain. We develop a narrative that tells the story of the hotel and identify the best ways to communicate it throughout all the customer touchpoints (i.e., a classic French room-service should be quite different than a luxury rebel one). Once again, the result should be an integrated experience, from booking to check-out.
04 Visual & Verbal Identity
Once the brand and operational concepts developed, all the fundamentals are in place to develop a stunning visual & verbal identity. This phase is about defining the look & feel of your property. On the visual side, this includes logo design, colours, typography, illustrations, icon design, photography style and, on the verbal side, tagline, slogan, catchphrase as well as verbal guidelines.
How to successfully implement a hotel concept?
To ensure the concept coherence from theory to practice, we follow through on the project evolution. Creative Supply’s role is to make sure that all the project stakeholders (owner, developer, operator, consultants etc.) are and remain aligned behind the same concept. This phase typically includes feedback on architect and interior designer drawings as well as reviews of mock-up rooms and advice on the go-to-market strategy.
Are you developing a new hotel? Or renovating an outlet such as a bar or a spa? Tell us about your project. We would love to have a chat with you. No strings attached.
What hoteliers say about working with Creative Supply
Director of Strategic Planning, Kempinski Hotels
“Kempinski has been working with Creative Supply on projects as diverse as brand research, internal communication and concept development. Unlike many agencies, Creative Supply understands the hotel industry very well. Their strength lies in their conceptual thinking and their ability to turn ideas into visuals. Creative Supply is the partner of choice if you are looking for superior work quality.”
Owner, Hôtel Elysées Mermoz Paris
“We chose Creative Supply because of their hotel and branding expertise to support us in redesigning the concept of our Parisian luxury hotel. The concept developed with Creative Supply serves as a common thread in marketing and operations and facilitates our strategic choices. In retrospect, working with Creative Supply was an essential investment for the success of our project.”
Project Development Manager, Vienna House
“We have created a completely new brand within our company and had Youri and his team assisting us excellently. With their expertise we managed to create a branding strategy that is not only working in line with our corporate DNA, but also differentiates enough from the other products and is now opening new business opportunities throughout the customer journey. I can’t highlight enough how much it has helped us to have someone outside of our company-bubble asking questions that were majorly important to answer. I am proud of the work we accomplished together!”