When the 20th International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) launches next month in Berlin, industry insiders from around the world will gather to share insights and top tips for getting to the top—or just staying on top—in turbulent times.
One 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. Can they deliver models that are strong enough to safeguard them from competition from peer-to-peer players?
One of the experts on the panel will be Jean Pierre Bandeira, founder & CEO of Light Human Hotel, a new “flexible concept” of environmentally friendly hotels. Bandeira shared some insights on these niche properties and what they have to teach the industry at large.
1. What is the essence of a Light Human Hotel and how does it compare to more traditional hotels and brands?
We want to bring back the real welcome for a multigenerational public. The difference, the innovation, is in the way of how we do that. When we talk about offering a place where people really feel good and providing what people want, we need to put people first, guests and staff, and we have to embrace and practice this culture.
It wouldn’t be enough to build just a cool place—it had to innovate in hotel operation, starting by facilitating the work, so in this way, people will have more time to take care of the customers. We use a lot of technology to replace tasks, but never people.
So, I think for the first time the architect, the hotelier and the seller speak the same language. Gathering this knowledge, experience and working as disruptors, we found the answers for structural, commercial and operational needs and how to break the barriers that certainly would come.
And talking about our culture or essence, we can say that "DNA" for us is to Develop New Attitudes, and sustainability is our LAW—meaning everything involving Land, Air and Water.
What I'm talking about may seem obvious and too common, but our difference is in the way we see the welcome and how we are going to do it. We’re removing barriers between customers and employees and I'm not just talking about the reception desk. I'm talking about providing exactly what the customer wants, and for that you need to talk to him, take the time to understand his needs, have time to customize their stays and provide positive experiences.
Our proposal is to create a new way of building a relationship with the clients. With more interaction and nearness, we can have a relationship that respects individuality without being distant.
In an absolutely connected era where sharing is already in our daily lives, the service must be realized by understanding the needs and not by subservience.
To make things happen, we're using all the technological, architectural and design resources to make work easier for people to work and eliminating tasks so they have more time to take care of customers, their colleagues and themselves.
2) The Light brand is described as being “inspired by the millennial spirit,” but also as “the first multigenerational hotel.” How do you square or balance the two up?
Light Human Hotel, which translates as "a vision of things to come," is entirely focused on the customer approach. It is launching a new hotel brand that is part of the search for the transgenerational concept, designed for the millennials, but which is also aimed at a wider audience seeking a proposal where service is given priority over constraints of hotel management. Families are the link between generations. Because of that, we build a special place for families and kids and we create activities for them.
3) You are on a panel at IHIF concerning independent and alternative hotels. Why are travelers tapping into these nontraditional lodging experiences, how does Light Human Hotel fit into the “alternative accommodations mold,” and how is the investment community (in particular, banks and lenders) taking to the concept?
Travelers in the 21st century want to be part of the story. In hospitality, independent and alternative hotels represent the cradle of story-telling. By reusing existing buildings, in the heart of cities, Light Human Hotels are already aligned with the notion of sustainable development. Connected to public transports and equipped with shared bicycles, tomorrow’s Light Human Hotels will become vibrant places targeted by all generations sharing the same mind-set. Interior gardens, healthy food, a marvelous spa…When everybody feels healthy, from the staff to the guests, it means that something big is ongoing. These good vibrations will be precious for those who aim to retain employees, customers, and to raise brand awareness.
By being the first at establishing a true reputation for environmental stewardship, independent and alternative hotels will seize the opportunity not only to grow market share now but to build loyalty among future generations also. Architecture, interior design and hotel operations should be aligned in a single sustainable strategy. This is all about long-term vision and sustainable performances. Who better than independent and alternative hotels to make the right decisions and to have the agility to successfully lead the change?
The Light Human Hotel concept is based on using common spaces to create a personalized experience or giving the feeling of a unique experience for each client. The Light Lounge, the bar and the restaurant are at the heart of this strategy with complementary spaces, with different atmospheres and moving, with a restaurant entrusted to star chefs. The design will bring the atmosphere of the city back into the hotel and staff recruitment will focus on personalities able to share their experience of the neighborhood and change the personal/customer relationship.
About the investment, Light Human Hotel is totally independent, 100 percent, with our own capital. We don’t depend on banks or lenders. And this allows us a peerless freedom and agility.
4) According to your website, Light Human Hotel has a total of eight hotels in development around the globe. What is your development model? Do you work with individual owners and developers or is Light Human developing the first projects on its own? What are growth projections?
Our development model is very simple. We develop with a open mind; that means we are flexible, fast and everybody is welcome: individual owners, developers, management companies and even hotel chains. We work with a flat fee including design and architecture for a project, brand mix and brand license. We truly believe that collaboration, working together brings strength to companies. What for many could be seen as competitors, for us they are possibilities of partnerships.
Although we work under the term 'brand license agreement' our core business is to bring an innovative concept to hotels, not to charging excessive fixed fees.
We don’t have a growth projections and that is not our first concern. Perhaps because of that we signed eight hotels since we started the brand 16 months ago. We continue to think like a startup, and that gives us a good advantage in relation to large hotels groups.
Five of Light Human's upcoming hotels are retrofits while three are new-builds. A 60-room property is opening this November in Venaco, a commune on the island of Corsica, while a 160-room property will open in Paris in June 2018. Two properties are slated for Brazil--one in São Paulo (99 rooms in November 2017) and one in Rio de Janiero (100 guestrooms by the end of 2018). A 200-room hotel will open in London by the end of 2017.
In the U.S., an 80-room hotel will open in Miami at the end of the year, while 110- and 120-guestroom hotels will open in New York City and San Antonio, respectively, in 2018.
5) Design plays such a central role in Light Human. How would you describe the aesthetic?
Light Human Hotel is not a generic brand of hotel. Our vision is that Light Human Hotels are shaped for people to live, to share, to work and to have fun together. Light Human Hotels are designed for people and that’s the reason why they are sustainable places with wellbeing as a key factor—not only for guests, but for the staff and for the local community in the neighborhood also. In that sense, as human beings are at the heart of the design process, Light Human Hotels are bio-climatic places to live. It means that even if all technology and significant innovation can be considered for the operation, each of the buildings is also shaped with the common sense of elders.
We focus on six core concepts:
- How to anticipate future hotel desires and expectations of the ‘millennials’ and translate them into a coherent whole new architecture, design and service innovation concept.
- How to rethink the customer value proposition to create flexible concept hotels fitting for customers traveling alone for business, with friends or with families.
- How to design and market a multigenerational hotel, shaped for all generations: Millennials, Gen-X and the Boomers also.
- How to integrate a social responsible strategy and a ‘green’ design and culture that positively affects millennials’ behavior—and saves money all at once.
- How to combine the customer’s dreams and aspirations with those of the investors, developers and operators.
- How to forge a strong collective culture (community) to acquire new customers and retain them.
6) By coming to a conference like IHIF, what are you looking to achieve?
Our principal interest in coming to IHIF is not getting new deals, but to share experiences and new strategies with a true collaborative spirit. Of course, deals are welcome, and if they happen, it would be great. After decades of near status quo in hotels, things are now really happening. That is what we really want to discuss.
For more information and to register for IHIF (6-8th March 2017), visit www.ihif.com.
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