It’s all about reinvention these days in the hotel industry. Many major brands such as Holiday Inn Express, Howard Johnson and Wingate are reinventing themselves to appeal to a new generation of traveler, as well as the changing nature of the consumer mindset.
But at this point in the lodging industry cycle something else begins to percolate too. The invention and introduction of new brands, which we can expect to see a lot more of during the next few years. So we thought it would be interesting to do a series on creating new brands and how the introduction of a new brand changes the hospitality landscape.
This June, the first concept in the new hotel brand wave opens in Austin, Texas and we got exclusive access to the creative process and got answers to the how and whys regarding the creative development process for the soon to debut Malana Hotels & Resorts. Over the next couple months we’ll revisit this hotel as it nears opening in June to discuss the creative process in birthing a brand.
For the first in this series we speak to Founder, President and CEO of HotelWorks Development, Bob Zachariah as to the genesis of this brand and the differentiating features that set this brand apart from the hundreds already out there.
According to Zachariah, even with the myriad brands out there, the industry was still missing something. That hospitality hole was something he felt using his experience as a hotel executive and frequent hotel guest he could create something better.
“I felt that with all the travel I have done where I have stayed in so many hotels, I still felt some things were lacking. I saw an opportunity because the landscape is changing and we can take advantage of that changing customer and launch a brand instead of doing a traditional franchise
hotel,” he said.
Zachariah said he was inspired by the melding of the boutique hotel industry with the mainstream hotel business as a sign that things have changed as far as customers are concerned. Now potential guests understand that product more and it makes it easier to create a different sort of product for the midscale market that’s easily understood.
But it also had to be somewhat universal in nature if the product were to expand throughout the country and the world. That meant creating a clean design that was universal in nature to better appeal to a growing global traveling audience.
So Zachariah chose design elements that had a museum feel to them that connects modern design aesthetic to the rich history of the hotel industry.
“I always enjoyed in the old days of traveling when you go into older buildings and you feel comfortable quickly, but at the same time you want a modern lobby that feels as if you are in a very serene place. So a sense of calmness is something I wanted to bring in so by the time you get there you immediately start to feel comfortable,” said Zachariah.
Zachariah added that as travelers become more global they’re also learning more about design, a phenomenon that’s only been boosted here in the states with cable channels and major big box stores dedicated to design and home improvement. It’s made people savvier about design elements.
“There is a tremendous amount of design that’s coming in and that should migrate into the hotel environment. So we think about things differently and have been able to get excellent design materials and colors in the hotel at the same costs. It doesn’t cost all that much more, and even the fabrics you can use can feature a color scheme that does not have to be that old tan color any more.
“Now we can also see to some extent custom made items for individual hotels that keep economies of scale budget wise, which we did not have a few years ago. It’s opened up a lot of opportunities for us to be creative with the look and feel of the property,” said Zachariah.
Another critical experience he wanted to master was the sleep experience. And at Malana it won’t be the typical midscale bed. Rather he’s putting in a costly luxury product by eliminating other construction costs through smart preplanning. He spent a lot of time maximizing revenue producing space and eliminating wasted square footage specifically to have the money to invest in the final room product.
In fact, he is putting in a bed he said that’s akin to what’s found at the Mandarin Oriental as the centerpiece of the overall sleep experience he’s dubbed Dreamalana.
“I would rather save $30,000 on construction and use that for a better mattress. This was a top priority from day one. I spent twice the money with Simmons than would traditionally be found in a hotel in this space. I also invested in real good pillows, not those horrible doughnut pillows and had them custom made. They have the same feel of feather but they’re allergy free,” said Zachariah.
Also expect high end linens and towels with what he dubs excellent terry. “When you get back to what a hotel is always good for is great sleep and excellent terry. We will not have that sick feel of towels at Malana,” he said.
Also expect fresh ironed sheets done the old fashioned way, another way he plans to enhance the sleep experience. But Zachariah thought this through and is using technology to help reduce labor costs so he can invest in this old fashioned method.
“I have to pay homage to the great companies out there that are delivering a lot of great hotel products. After all the travel I have found what works and what is missing, and that is the feeling I hope people have with Malana,” said Zachariah.
As for that technology, we’ll be focusing on that in the next installment as well as what you can expect from their lobby design and the F&B experience. Stay tuned for the next installment of this series.