Hilton goes micro with new brand, Motto

With real estate at a premium, sometimes thinking small produces big results. This is the concept behind Hilton’s newest brand, Motto, which seeks to bridge the microhotel and hostel models, saving on development and operating costs in the process.

According to Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development at Hilton, the megachain's interest in hostels gradually built steam over the past few years. The company was looking for a way to implement a hotel brand that would retain a traditional guestroom layout—albeit reduced in size—alongside a large commercial space in the public areas. It was through this process that Hilton developed Motto.

“Each of Hilton’s brands was either acquired or launched to provide a specific guest experience,” Cordell told Hotel Management. “We could have just launched a hotel with hostel-like rooms, but we wanted to consider what would be affordable to build or stay in, and what the international traveler will interact with.”

Cordell said simply replicating the hostel concept was not enough, and he argued a hostel-focused brand may struggle to gain traction in the U.S. Motto, by comparison, will offer traditional guestrooms alongside a suite of six or seven rooms connected by a common area. These linked rooms are designed for groups, but they can be linked in a variety of configurations.

Hostels are characterized by large, shared guestrooms, often with bunk beds. Since Motto is providing individual guestrooms, the tradeoff, Cordell said, is that these rooms are on the small side, averaging around 150 square feet. Compared to Hampton properties, which average 330 square feet, or Tru’s average of 230 square feet, this is a compact offering that also provides a benefit to hotel owners by creating more space for guestrooms in densely packed urban environments.

Motto will offer three room types: A traditional king or queen; “Flex,” which comes equipped with a wall-mounted bed system offering a work desk or table when stowed; and a queen room with a double bunk bed. While these three configurations are mandated, owners are able to determine how many linking rooms will be found in each property.

Motto will come with linked rooms, acting as larger suites for groups of travelers. Photo credit: Hilton

Outside the guestrooms, Motto’s commercial space will provide food, coffee and a bar. These offerings are left largely up to hotel owners, Cordell told Hotel Management, though some standards will be mandated. However, Motto also will not bundle any amenities into its room rate. Guests may purchase breakfast at the hotel or venture out into the surrounding neighborhood for food. Cordell likened the space to a combination of a smaller airline club, coffee shop and bar and, as a result, Motto will command a rate under Hampton’s at launch, depending on location.

“We tried to go as small as we could, and in the prototype stages we developed a room as small as 120 square feet,” Cordell said. “We expected land costs would be our biggest challenge going forward, but after talking with guests we decided 150 [square feet] was the right size.”

When asked if this brand was a response to the growth of the home-sharing market and an attempt to match its price points, Cordell said they could be compared, but this was not the goal.

“If you rent a two-room apartment in an urban core, you can easily spend $200 a night,” Cordell said. “You can, in theory, get two to three Motto rooms for that, depending on their configuration. And you can choose what your accommodation needs to be.”

He said that while the home-sharing business isn’t always the hospitality business, it must be considered when launching new hospitality offerings. He touted service as the ongoing differentiator, something that will be present at Motto properties when they begin opening in late 2019 or early 2020. London is among the first cities where Hilton will launch Motto, and the brand has deals to open properties in Lima, Peru; Dublin; Savannah, Ga.; San Diego; Boston; and Washington, D.C.