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Hotels Are Now Targeting a New Demographic: People Who Don't Want a Room

July 28, 2016
5 min read
Hotels Are Now Targeting a New Demographic: People Who Don't Want a Room
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Ask someone — anyone — to explain the basic way a hotel makes money and the answer is likely to sound something like, “They charge out-of-towners $150 or so a night for a temporary home away from home.” While this does sum up the basic business strategy of any type of lodging facility, today’s hotels have an entirely new customer in mind: the residents in their very own neighborhoods who aren’t looking for a place to rest their weary heads.

A recent The New York Times article delved deeper into the increasingly locals-friendly attitude that hotels big and small are adapting as a standard operating practice. One example referenced in the article is Westin’s nationwide RunWESTIN program — a running group, sometimes led by a Run Concierge, that gives hotel guests a chance to see some of the city’s most famous sights while staying in shape. It also serves as a community gathering place for nearby residents — in Fort Lauderdale, physical therapist Edilson Cremonese is part of that group, and regularly finds himself jogging alongside guests of the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.

“Most of the people staying in the hotel are just looking for something to do that’s more local than something they’d read about,” Cremonese told The New York Times. “They all want to know what to do, places to go.” For his part, Cremonese is happy to oblige their requests for recommendations on the best places to eat, drink, see and do just about anything. Often, this in-the-know wisdom is imparted over drinks during a post-run happy hour, which — as far as the hotel is concerned — is exactly the point.

Locals can now run alongside hotel guests thanks to RUNWestin.
Locals can now go for a run alongside hotel guests thanks to RunWESTIN's new program.

By turning a hotel’s public spaces, including its lobby, bars and restaurants, into local hotspots, a hotel brand is accomplishing two things that are great for business. First, establishing a steady stream of repeat customers from the local community who can keep the non-room revenue afloat even during off-peak months if they adopt a lobby lounge as their go-to cocktail spot. Second, by having that local base of customers to keep the place buzzing, out-of-town guests of the hotel may be more inclined to stay put and see what all fuss is about.

One needn’t look much further than the Ace Hotel chain to see a great example of a hospitality company that understands the importance of attracting customers from every corner of the world, whether they ever plan to spend a night there or not. Every one of the boutique brand’s nine hotels offers a range of public spaces and a regular calendar of events (including live music, film screenings and art exhibitions) that are just as appealing to the property’s next door neighbors as they are to the current occupants of the property’s most expensive suite.

"Ace is meant to have the feel of visiting with friends, so the experience you find here just depends on what you're into,” the hotel’s late co-founder, Alex Calderwood, told Fast Company in 2011. At Ace's New York outpost, dozens of students, entrepreneurs and creative types have adopted the lobby as a sort of de facto workspace. With two restaurants, a coffee shop, a sandwich bar, a lobby bar and a handful of boutiques onsite, these transient workers are hardly just taking up space.

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“A hotel’s lobby is its heart and soul,” Sean MacPherson, the hotelier behind New York’s Jane, Bowery and Marlton Hotels, told Departures. “Ultimately, the only way to give a building life is to animate it with interesting people. Attracting locals to one’s hotel brings part of the city inside.”

In Washington, the Seattle Marriott Redmond has partnered with high-end office furniture-maker Steelcase to cater to the 9-to-5 crowd with Workspring at Marriott, a shared workspace that can accommodate up to 75 people for about the cost of an overnight stay.

Workspring at Marriott. Courtesy of the Seattle Marriott Redmond's Facebook page.
A meeting space at the Seattle Marriott Redmond designed by Steelcase. Courtesy of the hotel's Facebook page.

While hotel amenities are ingrained in the cultural scene in cities like Las Vegas and Miami, where the area’s hottest bars, restaurants and clubs are often located within a hotel, in other cities, residents are willing to pay for the perks that come with hotel living. At Rosewood Sand Hill in Menlo Park, California, area residents shell out a reported $1,000 per month for a Lifestyle Membership, which buys them access to the hotel’s fitness center, pool, spa and restaurant, with signing privileges throughout.

“As a long-time advocate of the hotel restaurant as local hangout, I am happy to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel,” Fernando Salazar, Wyndham Hotel Group’s vice president of food and beverage, wrote in Hotel Business Review. “Some hoteliers are finally understanding that it makes great sense to build local restaurants that will attract locals and keep the place busy. The fact that these establishments are located inside a hotel is just a geographical happenstance.”

H/T: The New York Times