Unusual accommodation: more than a stay, an experience

8 min reading time

Published on 31/03/22 - Updated on 05/04/22

Essor des hébergements insolites

The days when accommodation was just a place to spend the night when travelling are over. More and more people are choosing to stay in unusual accommodation, with accommodation becoming the central element of the trip. As the demand is exponential, the offer follows and we see more and more unusual accommodations emerging. Let's take a closer look at this growing trend, which is bringing a wind of innovation to the hospitality sector.

Immersion in nature

One of the first images that comes to mind when the term unusual accommodation is mentioned is that of a bubble. Whether flexible or rigid, these bubbles have invaded the hospitality landscape with their distinctive shapes. The expression "being in a bubble" takes on its full meaning with these accommodations, which invite you to contemplate the surrounding nature and the starry sky when night falls. An experience that evolves throughout the day and night, offering guests a constantly changing view.

In Corsica, the Cocoon Village offers 5 bubbles on a cliffside with a panoramic view of the Isle of Beauty, renowned for its lush nature. Located near Porto-Vecchio, this "village" is unlike any other. It offers unusual accommodation that is also eco-responsible, with solar lighting and showers as well as dry toilets.

But bubbles are not only the privilege of natural destinations, the rooftop of a hotel in Zurich has such accommodation. Guests of the property can stay in this urban bubble from April to October. The EssenCiel, an unusual hotel near Rennes, has only stainless steel bubble rooms. A retro-futuristic air emanates from this unique site.

The cabins are just as trendy and provide a similar experience to the bubbles. Located in the heart of the Finnish Archipelago, on the island of Bärsskär, the Nolla cabin invites you to live a unique experience in a still wild and little known landscape. Its structure invites to explore the interaction between man, space and environment in an environmentally friendly minimalism. This Nolla Cabin concept aims for zero emission tourism, with solar panels as the sole source of energy. The Nolla Cabin company plans to export its concept to other natural sites in 2022.

Cabins are also found in trees, like the Treehotel in Sweden, which has 8 cabins perched in a forest. These cabins, with their very special design, each have 350 small birdhouses to attract wildlife and allow guests to experience bird life up close. The cabins are accessible via a suspension bridge and have a roof terrace with a view of the forest.

The new generation of camping

With the rise of "glamping", a contraction of camping and glamour, the possibilities for new accommodation are numerous and demand is growing rapidly. This year, the Four Seasons Group is unveiling the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, to which it has decided to add "Naviva", a new luxury tented resort. Naviva will feature a collection of 15 luxury tents nestled in the forests of the Riviera Nayarit overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The design of the tents is inspired by the wings of butterflies. Perched on a hillside, each has a private pool and spacious terraces, and some have outdoor gardens.

Habitas is also inaugurating a luxury camp on the Bacalar Lagoon in Mexico. Located at the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, south of the Riviera Maya, Habitas Bacalar houses 35 cabins designed in natural materials. The site blends completely into the surrounding nature. The camp aims to offer guests a moment of escape through wellness activities while preserving the lake on which it was built. The cabins have thatched roofs and offer a view of the lagoon.

Itinerancy is also gaining in popularity with innovative offers that meet the expectations of today's tourists. NOMADISM offers a new concept of vans designed as real travelling hotel rooms. This nomadic boutique hotel recently set up its bivouac at the Country Lodge, an estate located in the Parc Naturel Régional du Perche. Called "Family Suite", this van has become the Country Lodge's 25th ephemeral accommodation.

Roadsurfer has a similar offer with its brightly coloured, fully equipped vans available for hire, and its range of camping spots. Already well established in Europe, notably in Germany, France and Spain, the company is expanding in America and will open its first rental agency in Los Angeles in June 2022. At the same time, roadsurfer will continue to expand in Europe, increasing its number of branches from 36 to over 50 by the end of the year. This will double the size of its fleet from 2,500 vehicles to almost 5,000 vans. The new Road House and Family Finca models will also be available in France to meet the needs of families.

A dive into an unusual world

The unusual also sometimes lies in the theming of accommodation taken to the extreme, as demonstrated by Jean-Christophe Griselin, a former teacher of applied arts. He decided to renovate his 17m² studio in Sablé-sur-Sarthe to create a comic strip world where tenants could create their own story. He painted it from floor to ceiling and filled it with white furniture and a few black details to create the perfect illusion. This is not the first time he has done this. As he previously renovated a first flat by reversing the floor and the ceiling. Furniture and decorative elements are glued to the ceiling to play with the visitor's perception.

In Berlin, the Propeller Island City Lodge hotel combined hospitality with the offbeat. The property had a total of 30 rooms, each with its own universe. The imagination of the creator, Lars Stroschen, knew no bounds and this was reflected in the originality of each room theme. It was possible to spend a night in the castle room, the prison room, the mirror room, the orange room or the spacecube room. It is no longer possible to rent a room as the hotel closed its doors in 2017. 

In Belgium, you can immerse yourself in the world of French-Belgian comics by staying at the Yooma Urban Lodge Brussels. This property opened its doors thanks to a partnership with the publishers Le Lombard, Dargaud, Dupuis and the Smurfs. Numerous rooms have been designed, each dedicated to a particular comic strip. There are rooms themed on Gaston, the Marsupilami, Yakari, Boule et Bill and Lucky Luke. To complete the offer and provide a complete immersion, the hotel also has an arcade, a reading room, a games room and a cinema. 

At Zurich Airport, the Alpine Garden Capsule Hotel also offers an unusual concept. It is located just above check-in 1 at the airport and offers 144 "Swiss capsules" decorated with giant photos of Swiss Alpine landscapes. After spending a night in a capsule that pays tribute to Swiss nature, guests can then check in their luggage on the floor below to catch their flight. A most unusual location and concept.

The Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, is pushing the boundaries even further by offering a fully immersive experience in the Star Wars universe. More than just a stay, visitors will have a full-blown experience. The park even promises "a holiday experience that surpasses anything Disney has created before". Visitors board the Starcruiser Halcyon to arrive in the ship's main deck atrium where their stay begins. Throughout the journey, guests' choices determine their personal story as they interact with the Star Wars characters. They will spend the night in their cabin where they can observe space and see the progress of their journey. A two-day, two-night journey during which visitors are cut off from the outside world. In order to live an experience in total immersion.

The opportunity to sleep almost anywhere

The Ferme Aventure at la Chapelle-aux-Bois has decided to play the originality card by not simply building a cabin or a bubble but by buying aircraft to transform them into unusual accommodation. Visitors can stay in the Caravelle, a jewel of the French aeronautical industry, but also in a Noratlas N°31 from 1954 or in the two Antonov AN-2. Each aircraft now has fully equipped lodges for up to four people.

In the same vein, the winter sports resort of La Plagne offers one of the most unusual accommodations: a snow groomer. Since 2012, visitors have been able to spend the night in a refurbished grooming machine at an altitude of 2000 metres. Called "Over the Moon", this unusual accommodation has an XXL bed, a home cinema, a private bathroom and a jacuzzi. A combination of the unusual and the premium.

For its part, the Pic du Midi de Bigorre offers to stay in the heart of a scientific laboratory dedicated to the observation of the stars. Considered a mythical observatory, it welcomes visitors in rooms usually reserved for researchers. Up to 19 people can sleep in this site perched at an altitude of 2,877 metres. In addition to spending a night in this unusual place, visitors have access to the observatory's tools, including the largest telescope in France.

The coastline is also home to unconventional accommodation such as the Kerbel Lighthouse in Brittany. This lighthouse is the only habitable lighthouse in France. Visitors have the opportunity to spend a night as a lighthouse keeper, a unique experience. Perched at a height of 25 metres, the lighthouse keepers enjoy a 360° panoramic view from Belle-Île to the roadstead of Lorient, passing through the small sea of Gâvres, Groix and Port-Louis. The lighthouse is of course fully equipped to ensure a comfortable stay.

Marriott Bonvoy, the group's loyalty programme, is offering its members a unique experience. Two people will have the opportunity to sleep in a suite in the Manchester football stadium, which has been transformed into a hotel room for the occasion. This unique room offers a breathtaking view of the pitch and the two guests will wake up there on match day. A match between the Manchester and Chelsea clubs that will take place in May 2022. As well as simply winning a stay, the two guests will be able to watch the team train, take a behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium, meet the club's players and get tickets to the games.

A market in full boom 

Unusual accommodation has been booming for the last ten years. This success can be explained by the experiential aspect of this type of accommodation, which meets a growing demand from travellers from all over the world. Tourists enjoy a unique experience that takes them completely out of their usual environment and gives them a change of scene for one or more nights.

The aesthetic aspect also reinforces the attractiveness of these accommodations. In line with the rise of social networks such as Instagram, where travellers post photos of their holiday destinations, including accommodations if they are "Instagrammable". Many travel influencers highlight unusual accommodation on their accounts because these photos are sure to get hundreds, even thousands, of likes. Many actors have emerged in recent years to distribute these new accommodation concepts, such as Insoolite and Abracadaroom. Airbnb has even dedicated a tab to unusual accommodation. Allowing users of the platform to search for them by category. Among the many categories are troglodyte houses, tree houses, domes, yurts and windmills.

Gift boxes such as Smartbox and Wonderbox also often highlight this type of accommodation by offering "Unusual night for two" or "Unusual and gourmet weekend" boxes. This market is booming and should continue to do so as the trend is towards experiential tourism with increasingly creative and differentiating offers. For the moment, a large proportion of these accommodations are managed by individuals. But hospitality professionals are beginning to show an interest in this market, which could enable them to generate significant revenue.

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

Hotel Group

  • Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts Canada
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Hotel Group

  • Walt Disney Parks & Resorts United-States
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