Choose how much to pay for your hotel

In the face of challenges from home-sharing platforms, hotels are evolving their practices to entice travellers to stay with them

NEW YORK • From televisions in every room to smartphone room keys, the hotel industry has evolved to stay at least on pace with travellers, if not a step or two ahead.

Now, challenged by the home-sharing economy - Airbnb alone reported more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in revenue in the third quarter of last year - new hotels in the United States are toying with pricing, privacy and more.

Dr Chekitan S. Dev, a professor in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, said Airbnb "shook legacy brands out of their slumber and forced them to consider innovating their value propositions, and it encouraged entrants to experiment with novel and bold innovations".

Today, he added, new hotel brands are routinely asking a series of "what if" questions: "What if the room was customised to the needs of the guest? What if the room could be rented in parts or in combination with others? What if the guest determined the value of the room?"

The following three new hotels embody some of those experiments.

THE MOOD HOTEL

Beyond providing the convenience of having someone else make your bed and launder your towels, can a hotel room improve your mood?

That is the question posed to guests of the new Angad Arts Hotel in St Louis.

The 146-room hotel, which opened in November, offers four colour schemes designed to support emotions.

Rooms come in yellow, said to be associated with happiness, green for rejuvenation, blue for tranquillity and red for passion (doubles from US$185).

"While exploring ideas, we came across a quote by Pablo Picasso, 'Colours, like features, follow the changes of the emotions,'" Mr David Miskit, executive managing director of Angad, said in an e-mail.

The company did not use a particular source for translating emotions into colour, but that "these were the most common interpretations".

Rooms have corresponding accessories, including a tabletop Zen garden with a mini rake in the blue rooms, a lamp set with Himalayan salt crystals in the green rooms, a smiley cushion in the yellow rooms and a scented candle in the red rooms.

Blue has been the most popular choice among guests, Mr Miskit said.

THE NAME-YOUR-RATE HOTEL

The new SCP Hotels stands for "soul, community, planet", with the aim to operate sustainably and nurture connections among guests.

Its first location, which opened in June in Colorado Springs, Colorado, introduced a key component of its intended transparency with what it calls "fair trade pricing".

It allows guests to name their rate when checking out, meaning they can lower the suggested price if they feel the value does not align.

Mr Ken Cruse, chief executive of SCP Hotels, said: "We want to lead by being good, not by being profitable. We think of profits as a by-product of the new experience."

That experience relies on wellness, with a multifaceted, 1,115 sq m fitness centre that includes an exercise studio, climbing wall and group classes in yoga and pilates.

Its 174 rooms have a rustic quality, with barn-style sliding doors and reclaimed wood from trees that had been damaged by invasive beetles.

A store stocks local coffee, beer and healthy snacks, and communal tables and free Wi-Fi in the plant-filled lobby are designed to encourage co-working.

A renovation of a derelict Knight's Inn, SCP suggests rates from about US$100 to US$200, depending on the season. The name-your-rate strategy aims to entice travellers to take a chance on a new brand.

"This is a means of taking risk out of that decision point of consumers to give us a shot," Mr Cruse said.

Though the policy sounds ripe for abuse, so far no one has lowballed the rates, he added.

He hopes it will solicit feedback from guests and says the hotel will honour a request to reduce the rate, such as a noise complaint, and not just negotiate a discount.

THE GROUP-TRAVEL HOTEL

Opened in November, the Bode hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, is designed to mimic the group-friendly features of home shares, including multi-bedroom units with kitchens, while adding traditional hotel amenities, such as bars in the lobby (rates start at about US$260).

The company based the Bode model on its founders' love of group travel with family and friends, and dissatisfaction with socialising in a hotel and searching for a stylish, well-located home to share.

"The hotel experience was truncated because we'd be crammed into a room or forced into a lobby," said Mr Philip Bates, managing partner of Bode.

"Airbnbs are sometimes not well-located, the booking takes forever, the design appointments aren't as good and they don't have the vibe or theme of a good boutique hotel."

Instead, Bode offers condominium-like units of up to five bedrooms with living areas and kitchens.

Guests have the convenience of hotel housekeeping, a concierge to point them to local restaurants and public social space, including a bar with coffee and pastries in the morning and alcoholic drinks and charcuterie plates later on.

A market sells basic groceries, beer and wine. Outdoors, there are firepits, games like table-tennis and a stage for live music.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 24, 2019, with the headline 'Choose how much to pay for your hotel'. Print Edition | Subscribe