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Micro-hospitality: does size always matter?

When it comes to size, today, modern hospitality faces two extreme trends: either over-extending with large facilities featuring pools, restaurants and luxurious amenities, or paring down to the simplest form with practical, mobile concepts. Focus on the latter which are shaping the future of hospitality.

The development of gigantic hospitality projects - as Dubai well exemplifies - has combined hospitality with auxiliary services: Food & Beverage, spa, events, sports... However, it does not prevent some brands from "going against the flow" and offering concepts focused on the essential services of hospitality. Why is this phenomenon, which recalls the etymology of the word "hotel", currently on the tips of all tongues?

A first reason for that would be financial challenges: indeed, the fewer services the hospitality offer includes, the more budget-friendly it is. The rise of the sharing economy, with AirBnB spearheading the trend, illustrates that travelers are happy to forget about catering and comfort if provided with a good night's sleep for a cheaper price. This is the central argument of the Pangea Pod Hotel, to open in Whistler, Canada, by 2018. Its co-founder, Russell Kling, sums up the trend he helped start: "Pangea will reinvent accommodation in Whistler for travelers who expect more for less and want to spend their money on experiences, not on several hundred feet of hotel room space."

In addition to arousing the interest of budget-conscious travellers, this range of capsule hotels targets novelty and modernity, and may sometimes be supported by futuristic design to convince potential clients to give it a try. This is the case of Amsterdam's CityHub hotel, which opened in October 2015.

Inspired by Japanese concepts dating back to the 70s, especially works by the architect Kisho Kurokawa, pod hotels are opening in major cities around the world, and most recently in Sydney (Australia) and Mumbai (India). Another reason for the rise of this hospitality trend is its practicality: the rooms are reduced to their most basic function in the context of an immediate need, not a long-time stay where auxiliary hospitality services would meet more demand.

This is notably the case with capsule hotels opening up in international airports, where passenger traffic is on the rise... Dubai International Airport for instance revealed its 'Sleep 'n Fly' concept, and the brand Yotel has cabins located in London, New York, Amsterdam airports, and recently opened in Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport in April 2016.

Emerging concepts also aim at being 'mobile': easily transported and quickly assembled to meet the needs of a temporary customer base. A Belgian company anticipated it when it launched its Sleeping Around concept, back in 2013, a moving hotel room that one can carry on a trailer. Scandic followed suit the following year with its Scandic To Go mobile option. "We see a strong trend that people are looking for different experiences, something that is unique and tailor made," stated Johan Michelson, then Vice President Brand & Marketing at Scandic.

AccorHotels, for its part, has recently worked together with the French startup Capsa in order to turn containers into hotels. Down to their simplest form of 'takeaway room', the latter were been tested during the Heures du Mans racing competition. Thus, if mobile properties cannot offer the same level of comfort than 'brick-and-mortar' ones can, at least will they provide regular events' attendants with an alternative lodging solution. This will facilitate complex logistics and prevent the saturation of the local hospitality.

Nevertheless, as it appears that the leisure segment is the key focus of mobile hospitality pioneers, business travellers should also be considered: in China, office workers nowadays pay ¥10 (€1.30) for a 30-minute power nap in sleeping pods located nearby business districts, over their lunch break. Xiangshui Space, a Beijing-based startup which operates in the business, meets growing demand: it is to expand to Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen cities.

Boosted by these new concepts, 'micro-hospitality' has the wind in its sails. It offers a practical, cheap and alternative solution, which meets the needs of more and more mobile customers, whose focus is more on their destination than on the hospitality services they are provided with. Hotel chains following the track of independent concepts, it seems like this 'minimalist' hospitality trend is here to stay.

Also read:

    • A luxury hotel with Earth-view: dream or reality?
    • Cabin raises $3.3 million to launch its hotel on wheels
    • Hyperloop Hotel: a high-speed luxury room!
    • The first underwater boutique hotel project opened up to investment

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