Bye Bye ‘Bliss Baiting’, Welcome Genuine Mental Health Initiatives

As we come to the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, QUO Chief Branding Officer Catherine Monthienvichienchai asks how can the hospitality industry engage in this critically important issue.

mental health wellness

The health app on my smartwatch isn’t happy. My sleep patterns are poor, my exercise routine is off and my heart rate has been spiking slightly more than it should. I—like millions of others around the world—am stressed. I’m juggling a full-time job with parenting two children, amongst other demands and challenges. Life post-covid seems more intense, more pressure-filled and more anxiety inducing than ever before. Time feels like it’s constantly out to get me and balance a state so far out on the horizon I’ve lost sight of what it looks like.

Thanks to social media, I know I’m not alone. Platforms like Instagram, TikTok and others are awash with stories about anxiety, depression and other mental health issues. On TikTok, #MentalHealth posts accumulate almost 50 billion views, whilst on Instagram it’s close to 40 million. The Reddit community on depression has reached nearly a million members. Mental health—once a point of shame, a topic shrouded in stigma and negativity—is now suddenly an open, engaging topic that everyone wants to be part of.

With society as a whole talking more openly about mental health issues, it has become increasingly important that brands also join the conversation. In fact, according to YPulse data, 71% of Gen-Z consumers like it when brands make mental health a part of their marketing and messaging.

This younger demographic (those born between 1995 and 2012) may be at the forefront of the conversation—as many as 70% report their mental health needs the most improvement over any other element of their wellbeing—they are not the only ones struggling. In fact, the World Health Organization revealed that the pandemic triggered a 25 per cent increase in anxiety and depression globally.

It’s perhaps no surprise then to see a number of hospitality brands make a concerted move in the right direction, as they move away from the traditional gym and spa-type offer towards a more holistic, integrated approach to wellbeing—one that includes addressing mental and emotional health.

Last year, for example, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants ran a year-long partnership with online therapy company Talkspace, providing up to 1,000 free therapy sessions to its guests. Hyatt, meanwhile, has partnered with meditation and mindfulness app Headspace. Headspace’s content is available to World of Hyatt members via the World of Hyatt app, as well as in-room at select Hyatt hotels. The alliance with Headspace builds on Hyatt’s holistic wellbeing strategy, which focuses on positively impacting how employees, corporate customers and guests feel, fuel and function.

Hyatt’s multi-prong approach, including its guests and employees, is key. It is perhaps no surprise to learn that hospitality—an industry associated with long hours, shift work,  and physically demanding jobs—is one of the worst for mental health issues. A recent study from RSPH found that mental health and wellbeing is under significant strain amongst hospitality employees. In its latest report, Service With(out) a Smile, over four out of five (84%) hospitality workers reported increased stress, whilst, almost half (45%) of respondents said they would not recommend working in hospitality as a result.

It is critical then that brands address the issue from all sides. This is not just about your public face—what you say and offer to your guests, but also what goes on behind the scenes. Consumers are quickly and easily turned off by superficial marketing speak. As with any social issues—whether environmental concerns, CSR or #MeToo— empty messaging and posturing will do more harm than good. In the context of mental health, ‘bliss baiting’—like greenwashing before it—will quickly lead to mistrust and a negative brand image.

So how do you start to address this extremely topical, important and yet highly sensitive issue? The first thing to remember is that hotels—unless they are specialist wellness/medical retreats—are not mental health experts and nor should they try to be. Instead, they should start with the basics. Many of us are dealing with a plethora of stresses in our daily lives, so when we travel the first thing you can do as a hotel is simply ensure those stresses aren’t exacerbated by unnecessary pain points.

In a recent article about smart design, Ross Dowd, an award-winning industrial and interaction designer, talked about this point: “By subtly removing unnecessary friction from any hotel experience, guests are empowered with spontaneity and more engagement… The less stress a guest has to deal with, the more healthy and fun their experience can be.”

Technology, data and automation are likely to play a significant role in enabling this in the very near future, but in the meantime hotels would be wise to start with some simple questions: Is the check-in experience as quick and seamless as possible? Are the guest rooms calm, quiet and conducive to sleep? Are my teams happy, engaged and supportive of individual guest needs? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you’re already making the first steps towards better emotional wellbeing.

Jumping Out of the Box

Hybrid Spaces—Jumping Out of the Box

At this year’s Thailand Tourism Forum (TTF), QUO Chief Branding Officer Catherine Monthienvichienchai invited attendees to consider how hotels might transcend the boxes they traditionally occupy.

Hybrid space is by no means new to hospitality—look no further than the proliferation of co-working and co-living spaces for assurances to this. Even so, the pandemic has catalysed its adoption, driving a fundamental change in the way we use and relate to space.

Until recently, a typical place would serve a singular function. Take the traditional hotel as an example. It exists in a defined physical space and offers a collection of fairly defined—mostly singular—purposes. The lobby is for checking in, the guest rooms for sleeping, the restaurant for eating.

Outside of hotels, we shop in supermarkets, drink coffee in cafés, exercise in gyms and work in offices. The spaces where we live and work are siloed according to function.

However, the pandemic has taught us that single-use spaces are no longer relevant, that we can do many things—eat, shop, sleep, work—and lead hybrid lives from anywhere, often within one space.

In QUO’s recently published white paper, we defined two kinds of hybrid spaces:

  1. A physical space with multiple purposes—e.g. a hotel lobby with a co-working component, or student accommodation that doubles as a summertime holiday rental.
  2. A hybridised space with a digital component, or vice versa—e.g. an events space with virtual wayfinding capabilities or a restaurant with immersive digital menus.

A hotel is no longer a hotel. At least not one that will resonate with our guests of tomorrow. One thing is certain: hybrids are here to stay. Don’t get left behind.

Discover more about hybrid spaces in our free white paper, available for download HERE.

The Shape of Experience

Creative concepts can transform the dullest spaces into remarkable guest journeys, writes QUO Chief Branding Officer Catherine Monthienvichienchai.

Google Maps told me I’d arrived, but I wasn’t so sure. In front of me was a store, long since closed for the day. Beyond that, a dimly lit street with barely a person in sight. A flicker of light catches my eye. A hint of life behind the shuttered windows of the second floor. Maybe I was in the right place after all. Up a small spiral staircase lay an incredible hidden space. An unassuming shophouse transformed into a Japanese bar, a speakeasy of sorts, that would be more at home in the winding alleys of Kyoto than the humid streets of downtown Bangkok.

The hidden nature of the space was just the start. Inside, a series of carefully curated rituals unfolded. Spirits served in your choice of beautiful crystal tumblers; beer decanted into stainless-steel cups; individual wooden bowls of savoury snacks. Every item meticulously placed in front of you, its relative position on the table considered with almost mathematical precision. It was simple, yet executed with unbelievable attention to detail. An experience that will surely lead me to return.

In cities where space is becoming increasingly scarce, operators are learning the value of even the tiniest, most secluded spots. Putting use to unusual, under-utilised spaces, they lure customers by promising an experience, even if that experience is as simple as searching out the place itself.

How we think about space, interact with it, deconstruct it, plan and distribute it, is at the heart of many of today’s most successful hospitality brands. Smaller guest rooms, bigger public spaces, social spaces, co-working spaces, dynamic, multi-functional spaces. All buzzwords amongst the plethora of lifestyle brands flooding the hotel world in recent years.

Yet it is more than just cleverly used space that surprises and inspires. Whether it is 20sqm or 200sqm, integrated or closed, it is impossible to win any loyalty or create much of a buzz if it doesn’t come with an experience customers will remember.

Brands such as Aman leave nothing to chance with the arrival experience, creating incredible spaces that bring to life the brand’s core DNA as a ‘place of peace’ – the meaning of the word ‘Aman’. Even in the midst of downtown Tokyo, home of the brand’s first urban retreat, it stays true to this commitment.

After being whisked up to the 33rd floor of the Otemachi Tower, guests emerge into a spectacular space, where the upper walls and 26-metre-high ceiling are lined with translucent washi paper to give the effect of being inside a vast paper lantern. At the centre lies a zen garden, with a pool that rises out of a seasonally changing ikebana flower arrangement, and beyond that, two meditative rock gardens. An intense and remarkable space that is as dramatic as it is calming.

Few brands can match the extraordinary efforts of Aman to create this type of space and experience, but nor should they. Guest experience doesn’t have to be spectacular to make an impression. It does, however, need to be relevant and meaningful; connected to your brand’s core values and identified guest needs. For years Sofitel Hotels & Resorts has simply greeted guests with a distinctive ‘Bonjour’ on arrival at their hotels, wherever you are in the world. Love it or hate it, with that one word your understanding of the brand’s roots is confirmed – Sofitel is unashamedly French.

Hyatt’s Andaz, meanwhile, promises to immerse guests in the ever-changing, native cultures of their spaces through a combination of design, food and service. Merging themes of London’s financial area with the “gritty quirkiness” of nearby Shoreditch, guestrooms at the Andaz London Liverpool Street combine pinstripe patterns with tattoo art and local photography.

A similar attention to local culture is brought to the fore at the Andaz Singapore, one of the newest additions to the brand. As the first non-Hyatt brand from the Hyatt portfolio, it set the bar for many of the lifestyle/local neighbourhood brands that have since followed.

Andaz was not the first to create unique experiences within the spaces it occupies. Over a decade before, the late Alex Calderwood and friends turned an old halfway house in Seattle into a desirable destination with reclaimed furniture and contemporary art. The resulting hotel marked the birth of Ace Hotel, now a 10-property strong brand with hotels across the US, as well as in London and Panama City, with Kyoto in the pipeline.

Ace Hotel has always set itself apart from other brands with its unorthodox approach to hotel spaces. Described as “place whisperers” or “the neighbourhood foragers”, Ace sees the potential of both under-utilised buildings and the under-rated neighbourhoods in which they’re located. In each destination, the brand spends time connecting with local creatives, entrepreneurs, real-estate developers and small retail brands. The idea is not to simply “drop into a place and throw open the doors”, but to become an integral part of the community; a gathering point in neighbourhoods that don’t have one.

Done right, brand experience is neither fast nor easy, but, as Ace has proven, it’s more than worth the effort. Building a strategic, insights-based approach helps to channel creative thought. The world’s most innovative minds still need a starting point, even if the ideas they eventually come up with take an altogether different direction.

Each concept must be considered against a range of key criteria: does it fit the brand and differentiate us from our competitors? Does it meet the needs of our target guest? Is it operationally viable? Will it generate ROI?

Not every experience needs to tick every box, but a balance must be struck. A radical lobby concept may require huge capex, but if it is a defining feature of the brand and will guarantee immediate differentiation, then it could be worth the investment. Similarly, a small welcome gift costs money and has negligible ROI, but if done well, the feeling the gesture generates for the guest is priceless.

Even the best ideas on paper don’t always work out, which is why testing and piloting is key. Operational restrictions rear their ugly heads, unexpected costs get in the way, or maybe the concept just doesn’t resonate with guests as anticipated. Then it’s time to modify, adjust, or possibly throw out the concept entirely.

It can take a year or more from idea to full implementation; longer for a more complex concept across a larger network of hotels. But it’s worth the wait. Hotels are no longer simply places for sleep. Each space is a stage upon which a series of experiences is waiting to be played out.

The story you tell, the actors you employ, the props you use all serve a purpose in bringing your brand to life, making that abstract construct of who you are into a living, breathing reality.

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Keeping the travel dream alive through Video

Though we’re mainly grounded for the moment, travel remains on our radar through clever communication from industry leaders. Visit this page for new and inspiring video marketing messages from global travel brands.

Our Digital and Content teams have been encouraged and uplifted by the increasing number of exceptional, optimistic and heartfelt videos being released by the major travel brands and the world’s best destinations. Featuring themes of support, future travel dreams, and a drop of humour here and there, our industry is showing its best face in trying times.

Scroll down for some heartrending audio-visual engagement – and if you get inspired – our entire team is at your command to create your own on-brand message, crafted in a way that’s perfect for this moment in time.

Check this Page Often

To learn more about how QUO can help during this challenging period, send us an email, but we also want to hear from you. How has your organisation adapted their digital strategy during the COVID-19 crisis? Get in touch to let us know, and we’ll share those insights here with your colleagues across the digital marketing world.

We will update this page regularly with video and other inspiration media, as this situation actively unfolds. Check back regularly to see the latest developments.

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How to optimise your digital strategy in a COVID-19 world

We’ll update this dynamic resource with new tips and fresh insights as we receive them. Stay in touch and check back often.

Our Digital Director, Brian Anderson, is actively surveying the market to help QUO’s clients adapt their digital strategies in the current climate. As he develops theories, tests ideas and interacts with other industry specialists, he’s compiling this list of up-to-the-moment insights.

Read on for tips on short-term messaging, longer-term planning and a host of COVID-19 strategies in between.

Digital is Now De Facto

As hotels close their doors to guests and wait out the spread of the Covid-19 virus, many are now looking to the digital world to maintain communications. Across social media and property websites, owners and managers have been posting updates, blogs and video content to communicate with their customers and teams during this incredibly difficult—and constantly evolving—time.

What, how and where you communicate though is critical. It’s important to remember that the actions you take now will define your brand perception for years to come. The challenge is to balance both immediate practical, informational content with more aspirational messaging that keeps the travel dream alive.

As we continue to support our clients, developing a wider range of solutions to rapidly evolving digital needs, I would like to share some of the communication and marketing measures which you too could be considering as part of a response strategy.

The actions you take now will define your brand perception for years to come.

Pivot Your Marketing, Evolve Your Messaging

Although a reduction in marketing and online advertising spend is inevitable for those running tactical revenue generating campaigns, we are now seeing some properties maintaining their marketing across a number of different approaches.

Book and deposit now; travel later

Some properties are attempting to maintain their forward booking pipeline by offering discounts and incentives to travellers willing to pay deposits now on future flexible bookings.

Focus on domestic audiences

They’ll be the first to recover in countries where the epidemic is under control or receding. Budgets set aside for international travel, albeit significantly reduced, will be spent on local and regional vacations.

Offer flexible booking conditions

Waive cancellation or modification fees. Automatic room upgrades where available. Consider changing rapidly to an all-inclusive model, as travellers will want simplicity and ease once this is all over.

Keep the dream alive

The guests that should be basking on your private beach or in the paddling pool with the kids are currently worried, concerned, wondering what the future holds. Show them that this too shall pass, and pretty soon they’ll be soaking up the sun in your luxury rooftop lounge. We all need to dream, now more than ever.

Share your outreach and support work

We know of a number of hotels opening their doors to the homeless and repurposing as emergency-treatment facilities. This compassion deserves to be shared widely. Social media is generally a captive audience, so consider paid CPM media to double down on your credentials.

Collaborate and combine budgets

Collaborate with other properties and businesses locally and reach out with messaging about your destination. Reassure past and future guests that as soon as you are able, as soon as it’s safe for them, you will be back in the travel dreams business. Likewise for MICE, work with local organisations and business leaders together on recovery plans, at least to lay the foundations.

Consider your distribution networks

Some of the online distribution networks you have been using may not survive. They work on very low margins with high marketing and technical overheads, they are highly sensitive to any sort of disruption. Now would be a good time to discuss options with them for positioning, promotions and rates, and their commissions. With so many properties going offline they may be open to new positions and offers, eager for any sort of inventory, and with guaranteed rates for x months you could help yourself and the OTAs survive.

Review your scheduled marketing

I just received what appears to be a pre-scheduled marketing email from a travel company using the now-famous ‘follow me to’ motif—where a person in the foreground the viewer forward by the hand to an intriguing group-travel experience. Probably not the best graphic device to be using at this point.

It would pay to review any longer term scheduled marketing you already have in your plans.

Show them that this too shall pass, and pretty soon they’ll be soaking up the sun in your luxury rooftop lounge. We all need to dream, now more than ever.

Practical Measures

Apart from marketing and advertising communications, what other online tools and techniques could you be considering to bolster your response to the challenge?

Website announcements

We are seeing a great many hotel websites with little or no updates or news on the crisis, or any sort of support for guests. We have all been taken by surprise, and no little shock, but as hospitality companies we owe our clients the benefit of our concern, the least of which is knowledge and guidance.

Whether in the form of simple popups leading the user to an information page, a blog post, or at the very least a press release, your website is a news channel and is likely right now being bombarded with people looking for your response.

Live chat

A great many people are in panic mode, stranded or cancelling, unsure of the next step. If you can organise for live chat on your website, routed through to bookings or reservations, you can offer a voice and a person instead of an email hours later. No better way of easing burdens and worries, while guaranteeing a good impression. It may even cut down on the massive volume of emails you are probably receiving.

Dedicated pages

As discussed above, if you are providing special services to governments or on behalf of owner or group brands, beyond the responsibilities of a hotel, then please share the knowledge, on social media of course, but also on your website. Your site is a destination in itself and reference point for persistent knowledge and service. Create a dedicated blog category or updated media and news page detailing what you are doing for the community and how you are responding as a team.

Prepare for Recovery

Digital audit

Many of our hotel and resort clients have entered a waiting game, and for some who have scaled back or closed the doors, they are casting around for next priorities on their crisis response list. When the tasks become less critical you may want to consider getting your ducks in a row for the recovery phase throughout your digital strategy as it’s the first channel people will be looking at with recovery on the horizon.

Here are a set of tasks and projects you could look into with your agencies:

Channel strategy review
When was the last time you looked closely at the sales and ROI through each of your channels? Now could be a good time for a quick review.

We know that some properties don’t consider changing channel investments from one year to the next, due to lack of familiarity, lack of knowledge or expertise, or because they just don’t see the return. Some of the biggest hospitality brands in the world invest the majority of their budgets on B2C sales, and online, because they see the results in black and white. Take another look and consider it.

Do this with half a mind on the recovery demographic:

  • Origin: Obviously the countries that recover fastest
  • Demographic: Probably younger audience—not likely to be older or have families
  • Psychographic: Adventurous, travel addicts—and of course those who feel the sting of having missed out and are ready to rebook after cancellations

But above all, look to business travellers. The catastrophic impact on the MICE industry should come back hard and fast as businesses scramble to make up for lost ground.

SEO Audit
While revenue from online bookings remains largely driven by PPC and other direct advertising, organic SEO is the ticket to long term high value bookings. Optimising a website for specific sets of keywords once, then maintaining the presence of those keywords and related content through time is a low budget to long term presence in the search engine results pages of Google, Yahoo and other global search engines.

If you haven’t done keyword research then you need to consider it now, then rewrite your page content accordingly. Then have your agencies collaborate on building out the more technical aspects of SEO to ensure the maximum value of the new keyword/phrase oriented content. It’s a longer term tactic as Google can take months to reindex all sites online according to content, but the payoffs can be distinct and clear.

Performance review
And while you’re at it, check your site speed. Many industries suffer from significant dropoff in user engagement and rate of abandonment if the website experience is too slow. Hotel and hotel brand sites don’t suffer from this so much since the average user on your site is there for a reason, with purpose, which adds a higher level of forbearance. However nobody will wait around for too long for your images to load.

Conversion optimisation audit
So the site is fast, and it’s getting into Google organic search, why are bookings still low? You may want to spend a bit of time looking at conversion optimisation. This is the process of analyzing the website to understand what forces of design and layout are affecting booking intent and completion. It is often because your booking mask is not sufficiently visible, or you have no call to action, maybe your website looks old fashioned and outdated and people just don’t trust to book on your site, or maybe you offer no best price guarantee or other direct booking benefits (which has come standard). There are many different possible reasons, a tiny change could be the difference between an extra 20 bookings or 200 bookings per year. That’s a big potential return.

Analytics audit
Finally, do you actually know who visits your website and what they do on it? What age range they are, nationality, gender, what banner ads they clicked on, what pages on the website they prefer to visit and which ones get the most natural organic visitors, what website they were on previously, what general industries they work in, interests they have? All this and more is data readily available in Google Analytics, a free tool, amongst many tools, which provides extensive essential insights into the audience for your brand and property.

Look to the Future

These practical audit measures are things to consider as a means of maximising the value of what you already have. They won’t reduce your exposure to the inevitable risk and losses we all face, but they will position you better in the inevitable other side. These measures are simple short introductions to techniques and ideas that are wholly embraced by some properties and sadly neglected by others, but were crucial in 2019—and more so in post Covid-19 2020.

Above all, look to business travellers. The catastrophic impact on the MICE industry should come back hard and fast as businesses scramble to make up for lost ground.

Check this Page Often

To learn more about how QUO can help during this challenging period, send Brian an email, but we also want to hear from you. How has your organisation adapted their digital strategy during the COVID-19 crisis? Get in touch to let us know, and we’ll share those insights here with your colleagues across the digital marketing world.

We will update this page regularly with new tips and recommendations as we hear from you, and as this situation actively unfolds. Check back regularly to see the latest developments.

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Z Marks the Spot

Being real and relevant with the alphabet’s final generation

Tired of pandering to the whims of millennials? Well here comes some good news: there’s a new gen in town, and they’re coming to a hotel near you very soon.

The less-good news: they’re fiercely independent, switched on (in more ways than one) and totally resistant to all the usual marketing garbage.

So crank up your social spaces, update your Snapchat and get ready to redefine the rules of hotel branding, because this crowd plays to a different kind of beat.

Eyes Wide Open

Millennials may have helped to shape The New Collective, but the rise of Gen Z is set to redefine it.

Born between 1995–2000 (although no one can quite agree on the exact years) Gen Z’s influence and spending power—especially in the travel space—is set to make some serious waves in the near future.

As a group, they already outnumber millennials, making up 32% of the global population. They’re also on pace to be the largest group of consumers worldwide as early as 2020.

And they’re bringing with them a new, hyper-realist perspective on the world. While the millennial generation is a story of innocence lost, The New York Times observed back in 2015, “Generation Z, by contrast, has had its eyes open from the beginning, coming along in the aftermath of… the War on Terror and the Great Recession.”

Gen Z is on pace to be the largest group of consumers worldwide as early as 2020.

Just Cause

One outcome of growing up in that environment is that Gen Z carry a healthy dose of cynicism and a fierce commitment to social issues. In other words: They’re passionate, they know when you’re faking—and they aren’t afraid to call you on it.

“I don’t need brands to use their ads to tell me that they are ‘woke’ or that their brand is ‘lit’. The worst. If you are saying it, then you aren’t it,” 18-year-old Mimi from San Francisco told last year’s Irregular Report.

The brands that stand out to them are the ones that “seem to care about people rather than just profit,” said 20-year-old Tosin from London.

And while they may not buy into traditional loyalty programmes, they are loyal to causes they care about. Nearly three-quarters, or 69%, of Gen Z, for example, are more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes. Conversely, some 33% have stopped buying from a company that contributes to a cause with which they disagree.

Bottom line: All the slick marketing in the world won’t work on this crowd unless your brand has a real purpose that’s backed up with real action.

All the slick marketing in the world won’t work on this crowd unless your brand has a real purpose that’s backed up with real action.

Sharing is Caring

Of course, Gen Z wouldn’t be redefining The New Collective if they weren’t social animals, thriving off face-to-face interactions and drawn to social situations.

Focused on aligning with a community culture, Gen Z values the ability to meet and mingle with others even more so than their predecessors.

The New Horizons survey from 2018 found 42% of Gen Z travellers list building friendships as a key purpose for travel, substantially more than 32% of millennials.

Communal seating, social hubs and common areas tick all the right boxes—but also look for the rise of co-living hotel brands that take this community spirit to a whole new level.

Plugged in, Switched on

Gen Z is the first true generation of digital natives, and they’ve learned from the mistakes of those before them.

As keepers of their own brand, they are more careful about their privacy than millennials, with Gen Z favouring vanishing media like Snapchat and Whisper. The usual suspects, like Facebook, are barely even on the radar—according to a survey by Piper Jaffray, just 9% of teens list it as their favourite platform.

Visually driven apps like Instagram (24%) and Snapchat (47%) are where they’re spending most of their time, making it a crucial moment for brands to start reassessing their social-media strategies.

Gen Z also uses social media differently than others. “Humour and entertainment are top motivators for Gen Z to create and consume on social media,” according to a 2018 Snap Inc-commissioned study—they watch an average of 68 videos a day—while millennials tend to see it as a place to chat with friends.

Meanings to an End

Central to all this is a quest for meaning and authenticity.

Instagram to Gen Z, for instance, “isn’t as much about how they look, as it is about what they know, believe and do,” Irregular Report found. While millennials are more focused on the exterior, Gen Z care more about substance and representing their inner lives online in a genuine way—it’s why 67% of Gen Z say being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.

“Gen Z’s selfies are in the caption, not the picture—or in the tension between flattering selfie and self-deprecating comment that demonstrates their wit, cultural clout, intelligence and authenticity via confessional,” Irregular Report added, noting their peers are more likely to respond to their captions rather than the photos themselves.

Gen Z say being true to their values and beliefs makes a person cool.

The Bottom Line

As Gen Z comes of age and brings fresh perspectives to The New Collective, it’s never been more important for brands to build around a genuine purpose.

If you want to appeal to this newest generation, stand for something (but no need to shout about it). Be personable. Maintain a sense of humour. And always keep it real.

But perhaps most importantly, don’t read too much into articles like this one—Gen Z will see straight through it.

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Trending: Evolving Lobbies

The idea of an underutilised lobby, populated by guests solely at check-in and check-out, is a thing of the past.

Lobbies that were stale and uninspired—large, lonely rooms with one unloved sofa in the corner—are becoming extended living rooms.

Picture public spaces with cosy nooks and lightning fast Wi-Fi, places where guests can find a private corner to work or join the crowd.

The modern lobby melds co-working with coffee and cocktails in spaces that look like the coolest members’ club, with corners that feel like the family den. For 2020, a boring lobby is likely equated—in the minds of guests—to a boring hotel.

Here are four hotels that are leading the charge in evolving their lobbies:

These spaces work to elevate the guest experience and further convey the hotel’s brand story—which is excellent considering that hotel rooms are getting smaller, further encouraging keyholders to occupy thoughtfully designed communal spaces. Moxy Hotels offers guests group games, teasing Jenga, karaoke or even spin the bottle in their lobby.

Peep into the lobby of The Hoxton, Shoreditch and you’ll find it buzzing with people. Many are glued to their screens, clicking away at their keyboards. Entrepreneurs discuss business over coffee. Others prefer Champagne—the bar is unsurprisingly popular. The Hoxton has turned its lobby into an all-day destination; cushy sofas, 2am last call and a never-ending string of cultural events invite you to become a part of the community. The vibe is homey, the décor industrial-cool and the chatter lively. The Hoxton brands itself as a place where guests can kick back among locals—its lobby conveys that message loud and clear.

The concept has taken off. Like The Hoxton, several hotels now boast a co-working-friendly, communal lobby. Other hotels use the lobby to highlight their eco-conscious touches. At 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge Park, large potted plants, hanging gardens, recycled wooden elements and loads of natural light create a sustainable oasis in the middle of the city.

Boutique hotels aren’t the only ones jumping onboard the lobby revival bandwagon. Big chains are elevating their lobbies with personal touches too. The Westin, for example, began introducing vertical gardens into more of its lobbies over the last few years.

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Wellness, Democratised

In conversation with Ingo Schweder, founder of GOCO Hospitality and passionate advocate of wellness for all

From time to cost, wellness is becoming easier to digest. Spa pods, wellness amenities in mid-range hotel rooms, and airport treatments that take only 20 minutes instead of an hour—or only USD 20 instead of USD 100—are on the rise.

The dawning of the democratisation of wellness relies heavily on the concept that treatments for body and soul don’t start and end in a spa and shouldn’t be the exclusive domain of the affluent.

Wellness is needed by those on a budget: fatigued workers and harried business people who have little time and money but lots of stress. It’s also for the budget traveller who is beginning to believe that self-care trumps a pricy tourist trap meal or guided tour on their annual vacation.

One with the clouds from the top of a volcano

Earlier this year, Skift reported that wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as global tourism. And wellness tourists are significantly higher spenders, dropping 50 to 180% more than their non-wellness counterparts, which makes wellness an attractive market segment to everyone in the hospitality industry.

We sat down with Ingo Schweder, CEO and Founder of GOCO Hospitality, a pioneering consultancy, development and management company creating, designing and operating tomorrow’s spa and wellness hospitality concepts. He shared his thoughts on wellness for all and how brands can incorporate this ethos into their mission—even if they can’t drop USD 10 million on a spa facility.

He noted that most of what’s being marketed to spa clients today as ‘new’ has roots in much older traditions such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Homeopathy— systems that, historically, were never the exclusive domain of the affluent.

“Yoga and breathing? That’s repackaged Ayurveda. Cryotherapy and thermal treatments? They work on the same principles as the ancient Roman frigidarium and laconicum from 2,000 years ago,” he said.

“These therapies are just re-emerging in a modern context. In this wave, however, the luxury, high-end consumer is the one who jumped on it and the middle classes were squeezed out.”

When asked if he sees the pendulum swinging back, he quickly corrected, “It’s moving to the right spot. To where it should be, to where the majority of the world has the right to be well, eat healthy, exercise and know about nutrition.”

His Glen Ivy Hot Springs, in California, exemplifies that, offering wellness for the masses, with an average spend of just USD 150 for a whole day—including food and massage. They call themselves ‘everyone’s resort’.

GOCO has also developed limited but  targeted platforms for hotel groups like Emaar Hospitality, creating services for seven of their Address Hotel properties in Dubai. “I believe many other hotel groups will enter that ‘limited- service space’ and that their guests will have a ‘right’ to spa services too,” Ingo said.

However, he does see some pitfalls when every hotel on the block attempts to offer what they believe is wellness. “I like democratisation and don’t like elitist behaviour, in principle. The problem with democratisation is that a mid-range hotel may hire a second-class yoga teacher or therapist that has no experience, and that’s very dangerous—it runs counter to wellness and could leave clients in a worsened state.”

So how can a budget hotel incorporate wellness without destroying their budget or risking their guests’ health?

“It doesn’t have to be treatment. It can be clean food options on the menu, natural light in the rooms,” he said.

He invited brands to look at amenities that don’t cost much. “Create an atmosphere of wellbeing, the right music, a wellness feature programmed into a smart TV, training staff to speak nicely on the phone and use guests’ names.”

“Wellness is not only the spa. It’s the air you breathe, the water you drink, the light in your room. You don’t always need to build a wellness centre. It can be sensitivity in architecture and fabric, softer things that create a feeling of wellness is a great place to start.”

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The Myst Emerges in Vietnam

QUO Vietnam’s Country Manager, Ly Bao Yen,  interviews the husband-and-wife team behind one of Saigon’s newest and most evocative landmark hotels.

Those frequenting Saigon’s trung tâm, or centre, would have noticed a new outline in their midst last year. Featuring walls that look half-finished with trees jutting out, The Myst Dong Khoi is one of the city’s next generation of boutique hotels, challenging the landscape and offering something to appeal to The New Collective, younger domestic travellers as well as those from across Asia and Europe.

The design makes reference to the forest and nature’s eventual triumph over created landscapes, but the spirit of the hotel takes inspiration from the alley, or hẻm, one of Saigon’s distinctive features. The Myst’s customers love more than the out-there aesthetic of the new hotel, which is tucked down a quiet alley but steps away from the city’s buzz. They enjoy experiencing Saigon’s hẻm in all its street-food-laden, shopping and local-café glory, a place where they can watch authentic city life unfold around them.

The hotel was founded by Vũ Hồng Nam and Nguyễn Thị Phúc, the husband-and-wife team behind Silverland Hotels & Spas, who wanted to offer something new to the landscape. Instead of opening another Silverland, they decided to take a risk—creating something that could propel them far into the future.

“I needed to build a brand to meet a new set of expectations, a place to make a different kind of memory, and tell a fresh brand story,” said Nam.

The story of local culture, deep comfort and contemporary design was told in conjunction with award-winning Vietnamese architect Nguyễn Hoà Hiệp–all without a blueprint in sight. Nam set his sights on Hoà Hiệp, with his reputation for wild creations and rebellion, after other architects called the concept for The Myst too bold.

Hoà Hiệp, of a21studĩo, accepted a meeting but said he’d only take the gig if he felt the two had a connection and shared similar ideas. He’d never designed a hotel before, instead making his name with community spaces and large-scale art installations that blend indoor and outdoor spaces in unusual ways.

“At that meeting,” said Nam, “we chose each other. And it was our ‘lương duyên’, a Vietnamese word for fate, that we would work together.”

A few weeks later, they met again, Nam expecting to see Hoà Hiệp’s blueprints.

“Instead, he pulled out a blank sheet of paper and coloured it green, leaving a white square in the centre.” The architect noted that all the buildings in the neighbourhood were glass and concrete and he wanted to create something different, something closer to a forest in the city.

Hoà Hiệp continued on the project with no formal plans or drawings, instead explaining his ideas to construction companies that, unsurprisingly, turned him down.

Though Hoà Hiệp lacked hotel experience, Nam believes it actually worked to the pair’s advantage, allowing them to completely step out of traditional hotel design thinking.

He likened the process to, at times, being lost in a forest, but in the end finding the light through the extraordinary design of The Myst. The new hotel quickly received acclaim and began turning a profit.

When asked about The Myst, Nam likes to say, “I did it all for money!” but that’s only partially a joke, he says, clarifying, “All that we did would be useless if people didn’t find it valuable enough to book it and enjoy it.”

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Portrait of the Artist as an Engaged Citizen

The hospitality world’s favourite global citizen has done it again.

citizenM’s latest round of disruption is shaking things up in one of its newest neighbourhood’s – the ever-quirky, deeply historic Bowery in Manhattan. In preparation of welcoming guests next month, the citizenM New York Bowery recently played host to an unusual art installation.

Introducing ‘Citizens of the Bowery’. Like any good neighbour, citizenM is eager to insinuate itself into the Bowery’s eclectic circle. But that’s easier said than done in this centuries-old community with its legacy of post-prohibition poverty, borderline bawdy reputation and free-wheeling local citizenry comprising artists, writers and New Age gurus. Suffice it to say, the proverbial different drummer’s beat rings loud and clear in the Bowery. In an attempt to walk that fine line of pleasing the bees in the Bowery hive while staying on point with its brand messaging, citizenM commissioned an unorthodox work of art. A bold – dare we say risky – move in a bohemian neighbourhood like the Bowery. Of course, calculated risks of this sort are par for the course for the Dutch hotelier. citizenM commissioned local photographer Christelle de Castro to capture the fascinating blend of personalities comprising the Bowery. The artist’s canvas: the hotel property, itself. With this art installation created by a local, for locals, citizenM is paying unabashed tribute to its new ‘hood.

Christelle produced 62 larger than life portraits of locals – including a canine or two – and citizenM boldly splashed them across the hotel’s windows. The black-and-white images simultaneously stand out and blend in, aesthetically and architecturally, perfectly expressing the citizenM brand and the Bowery’s diversity.

A double-win for citizenM, this initial installation provides a foundation for future expression, perhaps satiating the piqued curiosity about the stories behind the faces. And in the process of inspiring Bowery cohesiveness and pride, a little positive PR this way comes. Job well done, citizenM!