If you want to know what waves are coming that will disrupt the hotel industry, ask the guy who has made a career out of riding them.
As a hotel pioneer in San Francisco in the '80s/’90s, Chip Conley—founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, was decades ahead of the boutique hotel trend. He started Joie de Vivre at age 26 by purchasing a pay-by-the-hour motel in the Tenderloin, the Phoenix Hotel, and over 24 years grew the company's portfolio to 52 hotels.
He sold the company to Geolo Capital in 2010, and not long after took on the role of head of global hospitality and strategy for a fledgling little tech startup by the name of Airbnb, now the biggest hospitality company in the world.
But not all trends become disruptors, and for anyone in the hospitality industry today, it's important to be able to tell the difference between a fad and an industry-changing innovation.
The Coming Waves
During an intimate talk at HotelSpaces, Conley shared the five "waves" he sees coming for the hotel industry:
The first is co-living, perhaps the natural next evolution in home-sharing that also functions as a response to skyrocketing housing costs. In this model, residents have a private bed, bath, and kitchenette, and otherwise live in a larger communal setting with tons of social programming. London-based company The Collective, for which Conley acts as a consultant, is poised to become the biggest in the world with plans for rapid scaling already underway. They offer multiple different options for lengths of stay that will appeal to weekend travelers, digital nomads, and long-term residents alike, and Conley is convinced that this wave is going to be HUGE.
Integration of Apps
The second wave that's coming shouldn't come as a surprise: the full integration of smartphone apps into the hotel experience, making everything available instantaneously in the palm of guests’ hands. Unfortunately, the hotel industry has been historically slow in integrating technology with the guest experience, so those brands that are doing so effectively now—Saunders Hotel Group, The Guild, Stay Alfred, Lyric—are going to soar ahead of complacent competitors.
The third wave is the simplification of resorts, and this is where we see the "glamping" trend continue to grow: companies like AutoCamp (for which Conley is also a mentor and investor) and Under Canvas are creating resorts from Airstream trailers and luxury tents in areas that are difficult to build in because of strict regulatory environments, like national parks and other popular destinations. This concept is about to "go major," Conley says.
" There is going to be growing competition out there of developments in resort locations that are not traditional built structures."
Conley's fourth wave is, admittedly, a bit of a plug—his own Modern Elder Academy, located on the beach just north of Cabo San Lucas, is a workshop retreat that blends aspects of hospitality, wellness, and midlife education, and is now in talks with global hotel and spa chains for expansion. But beyond this product, there is certainly a coming wave of carefully curated hospitality experiences targeted at very specific audiences."Just know there is going to be growing competition out there of developments in resort locations that are not traditional built structures."
The fifth wave Conley sees coming is a bit further out on the horizon: Once autonomous cars become mainstream, it is likely that more people will choose to ride in their self-driving cars for quick business trips that are relatively close rather than deal with the hassles of air travel. At that point, people will want short-term rooms just to freshen up and perhaps nap rather than spend a full night—ironically, a pay-by-the-hour format, but for a wholly different kind of clientele."The hotel industry is not at all prepared for this." There is not a hotel company I'm aware of that is figuring out how to create short-term-stay hotels for people doing that."
"The hotel industry is not at all prepared for this," Conley said. Conley concluded that hoteliers need to get better at seeing the waves on the horizon and identifying which of those trends will become disruptors—like home-sharing and boutique hotels—and which are just passing fads.