Hoteliers are constantly searching for ways to differentiate their offerings and especially to appeal to the new generation of millennial guests, as well as to millennial-minded travellers of all ages. At this year’s International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin, the panel “Independent and Alternative Hospitality Brands: Delivering Innovative Experiences in a Changing Market” will focus on how alternative and niche hotels are delivering new and engaging experiences. One of the panel’s experts will be Jean Pierre Bandeira, founder & CEO of Light Human Hotel (LHH), a new flexible concept of environmentally friendly hotels. Bandeira and his partner, Julien Veyron, have set out to change the face of hotels with their new concept. As explained by Bandeira, the start-up’s founder & CEO, the idea is to focus on the people aspect of the hotel, including both the guests and the staff. According to him, just building “a cool place”, is not enough; it is also important to innovate from an operational point of view. Thus, technology is used to the maximum, so as to free up staff, leaving them more time to take care of customers. Bandeira notes that “We use a lot of technology to replace tasks, but never people”. Other panelists include: Olivia Byrne, Company Director of Eccleston Square Hotel, a luxury boutique hotel in Belgravia, where the guestrooms feature a 46-in HD 3D Neo Plasma Panasonic TV with complimentary 3D DVD library, and iPad2 which serve as in-room concierges; Hans Meyer, CEO of Amsterdam-based Zoku, which offers flexible home/office hybrid structures, suitable for long or short stays, described as “made for mobile professionals to live comfortably and work efficiently”; and Chris Penn, Founder of SteelBMB, which focuses on the mobile workplace of the future.

It must be sustainable

LHH’s affiliates will be required to adhere strictly to environmentally friendly practices throughout all aspects of conceptualisation. The restaurants and bars, which will be open 24/7, will have to provide a healthy food offering in a vibrant atmosphere using ‘farm-to-table’ ingredients. The hotels will typically occupy recycled existing buildings in the heart of cities, but new-builds are also possible. The properties will be well-connected to public transport and equipped with shared bicycles. Other amenities will include the obligatory Wi-Fi, as well as keyless room entry (via mobile phone), recharging stations for electric vehicles and a bar and play area for children. Furthermore, in tune with the current trend, each property will seek to embed itself into its local community, hosting musicians, concerts and special events.

Branding is flexible

LHH does not seek to operate hotels, but rather to act as a partner to the hotelier. According to Bandeira, “LHH is a mind-set.” The concept is flexible and is suitable for 3-to-5-star hotels and can be applied to either new or old buildings. In a stark departure from the ‘cookie-cutter’ conformity required by big chains, brand standards are also quite flexible too. Nevertheless, the general trend towards more inclusive standards has also been recognised by the major chains which have issued so-called ‘soft brands’, like Marriott’s Autograph Collection or Tribute Portfolio, Hyatt’s Unbound collection or Choice’s Ascend Collection. The culture or essence of the concept can be summed up by the acronym “DNA”, which for LHH signifies, “Develop New Attitudes“; also, “sustainability is our LAW—meaning everything involving Land, Air and Water“, according to Bandeira, who also remarks that “for the first time, the architect, the hotelier and the seller speak the same language”.

A flat fee includes brand license and architecture and design, operational model and brand mix. The brand can be adapted for independent hotels, for operators, as well as for the big brands and can be used as a brand by the operator, or as a concept for another hotel brand. The question could be posed, however, as to how well-protected the concept is from competition from peer-to-peer players, or other operators who may want to duplicate the brand’s format.

This year is the 20th anniversary of International Hotel Investment Forum, Europe’s foremost hotel industry conference, which will be held in Berlin on 6-8 March 2017. The three-day event is attended by over 2,000 hospitality and tourism decision-makers from over 70 countries. Major deals are often concluded and new brands are launched at this important industry gathering. IHIF attracts very senior-level executives from the hospitality sector, including CEOs of most major hotel chains, influential global tourism ministers and a large group of big investors and hotel owners.

For more key findings and insight from IHIF 2017, check out our related posts here and here.

Macy Marvel is a freelance analyst at Mintel focused on the global hospitality sector. Also a consultant at Opus Hospitality in Geneva and an advisor to Lausanne Hospitality Consulting – a division of Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Macy is a frequent presenter at international hospitality and tourism industry conferences.

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