THE next big disruptor in hospitality, according to Ian Schrager, is co-living spaces.
“Communal living is blurring the distinction between residential and hotels,” the hotelier and Studio 54 co-founder argued during Bloomberg’s Year Ahead: Luxury conference in Manhattan last week .
The mastermind behind the Public Hotel urged audiences to look at millennial buying statistics as evidence of this trend, which has seen growth in so-called “co-living” where residents buy into furnished, semi-serviced apartments either by the unit or by the bedroom.
These are sort of communes for digital nomads with pop design, Casper mattresses, Nest thermostats, and other covetable accoutrement of the startup set. Critics have called them “dorm for adults” while more evangelical residents praise them for the instant community they create.
“When I was growing up I couldn’t wait to get a car!” Mr Schrager said, comparing millennials’ lack of interest in cars to their evolving living habitats. “Now, my daughters don’t want a car.”
Relying on Uber and Lyft or car-sharing pilots from Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes was once unthinkable – now it’s de rigeur. “It’s just things are changed,” he noted.
Mr Schrager kicked off the afternoon summit, a first for the lifestyle group Bloomberg Pursuits, which focused on the latest data and innovation in the fields of fashion, travel, dining, autos, wellness, real estate, the arts, and design. He urged attendees, which included CEOs from brands like Equinox, Shinola, Harry’s, and Oscar de la Renta, to think about luxury at an accessible cost – like his Public Hotels, where rooms often start for US$150 a night.
“Luxury is not a price point. It’s a state of mind,” he said. Communal living is just the latest example of a trend he’s been seeing – and setting – for the last 40 years: gathering a variety of people together for a semi-democratic, group experience. “At Studio 54 you had regular people next to celebrities. Everyone was there to have a good time. Clubs and hotels can bring high art to the regular people … and take the pretension out of art.” (But he’s not going to design hotels specifically for millennials: “You think Apple does phones for millennials?”)
“Luxury is not about gawking at wealth,” Mr Schrager explained. “White gloves, brass buttons – all that is irrelevant and meaningless to people … it’s about an experience.”
It was a sentiment shared by Suzanne Cohen, Marriott’s vice-president of Luxury Brands in the Americas, while speaking on a later panel. Yet while Mr Schrager might rely on instinct in his designs, Marriott is relying on Big Data in service of Big Experience. “If they post on Facebook or Instagram about a special occasion, we feed that information to our hotels,” said Ms Cohen.
Offline, St Regis, W, Ritz Carlton employees are looking for clues; housekeepers will notice if guests love the towels or they don’t like chocolate and personalise their stay while they are there, she said, with all this ultimately being logged for future stays. “We are collecting data by the minute.”