Lifestyle Hospitality: The New Model of Luxury Tourism
The new generation is reshaping the hospitality landscape, bidding farewell to ostentation and stuffy luxury in favor of a more personalized and relaxed style. In 2023, the number of rooms in lifestyle hotels has doubled worldwide (reaching a total of 480,000) compared to the pre-pandemic reference year of 2019.
By Eva Morletto02 août 2023
Several defining features characterize a lifestyle hotel: a commitment to sustainability, extensive use of cutting-edge technologies, and a specific approach to communication and guest experience. These hotels have evolved into hybrid spaces that open themselves to the outside world, transforming into recreational and cultural hubs for their cities and residents.
While these positive figures are partly due to the rebound in Asia following the end of the health crisis, we must not overlook the contribution of lifestyle hospitality's success.
SEBASTIEN BAZIN, ACCOR GROUP CEO
This trend originated in the United States, with the Ace Hotel of "pioneer" Alex Calderwood leading the charge by creating a cool lobby space. The concept gained traction with the Kimpton lifestyle hotel chain, which amplified its success by introducing "social hours" - wine-tasting sessions aimed at mixing and retaining both hotel and external clientele.
In Europe, some pioneers of this trend include Philippe Starck, co-founder of the Mama Shelter chain with Serge Trigano, and later joined by the American-Iranian entrepreneur Sam Nazarian to create SLS, a lifestyle hotel chain that was later acquired by one of the leading players in this thriving new sector: Ennismore.
Lifestyle hospitality - a lucrative financial venture
Today, major hotel groups are closely eyeing this lucrative market. In 2021, Accor entered into a joint venture with Ennismore. Founded in 2011 by Indian entrepreneur Sharan Pasricha, Ennismore quickly became the holding company that owns the most lifestyle hotel brands: 14 hotel brands - including 21C Museum Hotels, 25hours, Delano, Gleneagles, Hyde, JO&JOE, Mama Shelter, Mondrian, Morgans Originals, SLS, SO/, The Hoxton, TRIBE, and Working From_- along with a collection of 150 exclusive restaurants and bars.
Sharan Pasricha was recognized two years ago by Condé Nast as one of the "Changing The Way We Travel" personalities. Ennismore now exports its brands worldwide, with the American SLS brand set to arrive in Europe with its first location in Barcelona in 2024. Currently, Accor holds 66.67% of Ennismore's shares, with the remaining 33.33% belonging to the Indian businessman. In 2022, the company was valued at 2 billion euros. Another major investor, a Qatari consortium, partnered with Accor in June 2022 for the sale of 10.8% of Ennismore's shares.
Everyone is looking for famous cities like Paris or London. We focus on medium-sized towns. What's still missing... are trendy locations. However, the clientele is there, and there's a great demand... from the younger generation.
YANN CAILLÈRE, FORMER GENERAL MANAGER OF ACCOR AND SOFITEL MONDE
Other "families" of lifestyle hotels have joined Accor's portfolio, including JO&JOE, which redefined the concept of youth hostels by combining luxury and TRIBE, an Australian brand that opened its first hotel in Paris Batignolles in 2020. Both offer high-end service and an environment focused on urban design.
Thanks to this trend, Accor's figures have surged exponentially in 2023. The French hospitality giant reported a 63% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2023, amounting to 1.14 billion euros. According to Accor's CEO, Sebastien Bazin, "While these positive figures are partly due to the rebound in Asia following the end of the health crisis, we must not overlook the contribution of lifestyle hospitality's success." In fact, establishments in this category experienced a sales increase of 68%, totaling 477 million euros.
The "feel-good" French model on the rise
Regardless, some are venturing into this territory independently. One such example is the French "feel-good" model introduced by the new brand First Name, whose first hotel opened in the city of Bordeaux. Leading the company are three entrepreneurs with extensive backgrounds: Yann Caillère, Jerome Bosc, and Eric Omgba. Former CEO of Accor and Sofitel Worldwide, Yann Caillère embarked on creating the new brand, incorporating insights gained from positioning other brands such as Sofitel or Mc Gallery. He attributes the success of this category mainly to the hotel's role as a space that brings together cultured and trendy clientele and its connection to local economic and cultural realities. "First, there's the choice of location," he explains. "We opened our inaugural First Name establishment in Bordeaux. We plan to open 4 or 5 new hotels in other cities in the coming years. While everyone is aiming for well-known cities like Paris or London, we are focusing on medium-sized cities. Bordeaux is a perfect example - it's a 'brand city' thanks to the worldwide prestige of its wines. However, there is still a lack of trendy places in these medium-sized cities. Yet, the clientele is there, and there is a great demand, especially from younger generations. We must be ready to meet that demand." As for the business model, he admits, "Our revenue is split into two parts: 60% comes from room sales, while 40% comes from food and events. We have invested heavily in our cultural agenda: concerts, DJ sets, musical brunches with live music, and exhibitions of works by local artists. The concept of 'local' is essential in choosing these cities and other centers where we will open new hotels. The goal is to establish a close connection with the artisanal and artistic dimensions of the locations. Sourcing locally allows us to personalize our establishments further, introduce clients to the region, and act in a sustainable manner. These cities are rich in craftsmanship. For example, we work closely with the coffee roastery L'Alchimie and the beauty products in our bathrooms come from the workshop Oceopin, which produces local maritime pine seed oil." Yann Caillère projects an annual revenue of approximately 12 million euros for the first First Name establishment in Bordeaux by 2026.
France remains a privileged field for expanding this hospitality model, and in recent years, addresses have multiplied. For example, the Loire Valley Lodge, a unique establishment located in the Indre and nestled in a private forest spanning 300 hectares, capitalizes on the connection between nature and contemporary art. The lodges, constructed with wood and raw materials, are perched 4 meters high in the trees, offering immense windows overlooking the forest. These suspended cabins on the canopy, a garden of plants and herbs, and a hot Nordic bath amid the trees - all created by several internationally renowned contemporary artists - attract an urban and cultured clientele increasingly drawn to leisure time surrounded by nature and art.
The committed Wanderlust chain draws inspiration from American road trips and the Beatnik era. Here, architecture and aesthetics pay homage to Californian motels of the seventies. Environmental commitment is a priority: there are no minibars in the rooms to minimize waste and energy consumption, plastic is limited, and local supply chains are used for food sourcing. At Wanderlust in Chamonix, 80% of the objects and design elements are sourced from the second-hand network Selency.
While the hotel industry has benefited significantly from the post-COVID global tourism recovery (the sector demonstrated its resilience by achieving 9% higher revenue in 2022 compared to 2019), France dominates the lifestyle category market. It saw a growth of 30% last year. And this trend is expected to continue: according to analyses by the international audit firm KPMG, the creation of 18,000 new rooms is projected in France by 2025.
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