Hotels have been around for a long time and probably the best known ancient hotel story is the one that features „no room in the inn“. Business hotels (not to be confused with resort hotels) provide an essential service – that of a place to rest one‘s head. The core of their business model is based on (most) human beings‘ need to sleep at least a few hours out of every 24. Around the core of this basic human need, hotels have built business models based on offering a wide spectrum of add-on services, such as breakfast, dinner, drinks, conference rooms, Internet access, entertainment, pools, tennis courts, gyms, massages and business centers – to name just the most common ones. Business hotels have gone to great lengths to build and strengthen relationships with customers. After all, one business hotel is much like another (at least within the same price range), and people tend to view them as interchangeable. Enter the hotel (chain) loyalty clubs. Copying the successful models implemented by airlines, the hotel loyalty clubs promise (somewhat elusive) free stays for specific accumulations of loyalty points.
What does a premium price get you? Most importantly, one always, always, always pays for location. A Motel 6 is a Motel 6, but it no longer costs the original $6, and the rates are largely determined by location. Besides location, the basis for premium pricing is mostly the availability of a wide range of add-on services and numerous and solicitous staff.
Enter the new business hotel. Epitomized by brands such as Citizen M and Aloft, these hotels deliberately do NOT offer a smorgasbord of add-on services and largely do away with the staff by offering computer-assisted check-in and check-out. What staff is visible is young, friendly and completely blank when it comes to special requests. One might optimistically say that these hotels have turned the hotel business model on its side and rather than offering add-on services and that extra layer of groveling servitude, they offer a clean room, a comfortable bed and a hot shower at competitive pricing.
Mind you, this model has been around for a long time. Consider the aforementioned Motel 6 – the ultimate in spartan travel. Another good example is the Danish chain Cabinn, offering a clean comfortable (bunk-)bed and a hot shower (in a tiny „wet room“) at pretty much the lowest prices going in Denmark. I would argue that the new business hotel is not just cheap and spartan, it is (or aspires to be) hip and cool and genuinely offer an experience that is different from the traditional. The successful new business hotels have a „wow“ factor – the kind that makes guests reach for their cameras, and not just to post „here I am“ photos on social network sites. The key to the „wow“ is design. The new business hotel may skimp on staff and amenities few people want or need, but it is likely to have „shot the wad“ on design. Through imaginative design, they create a memorable experience that may just get you to tell your friends and come back for another stay.