For many customer segments, shared-room concepts are ideal

NATIONAL REPORT—The demand for extended-stay hotels, the popularity of home-sharing sites and emergence of more hostel/hotel hybrids point to a growing trend: There are a lot of groups—whether millennials traveling with friends, families traveling with kids, or oil-worker crews—who like the idea of sharing a room and having some space of their own.

According to a study released by Element Hotels, 27% of Americans depend on trips to see childhood or college friends and family; 21% are in search of inclusive, intergenerational travel experiences; 23% search both hotel and home rental options when looking for lodging; and one in three prefer to spend their savings on shared experiences versus materials goods.

Enter the shared-room concept. Whether apartment-style lodging like Element Hotels’ Studio Commons or the emergence of bunk-bed suites like those at Flamingo Las Vegas, hotels and hotel brands are finding ways to give guests what they want.

Take, for instance, Super 8 by Wyndham’s Room8 concept, which is being piloted in 10 hotels this year; it offers a social space with streaming-ready, 65-in. TVs, vintage arcade games, cornhole boards and lots of space to spread out alongside bunk-bed guestrooms.

Mike Mueller, president, Super 8 by Wyndham, noted that the brand has traditionally appealed to the road traveler: long-haul truckers, construction crews and oil-field workers. But its redesigned Innov8te guestrooms—which owners have invested more than $140 million in—have appealed to millennials, Gen Z and first-time road trippers.

“A lot of those customer segments either want to or need to share a room, but they don’t want to share a bed,” Mueller said.

Additionally, the sleeping space is less important to them than being able to spend quality time with those they’re traveling with. “A lot of our hotels have suites or junior suites—oversized rooms but underwhelming experiences,” he said. “If we considered stacking the bedding, we could free up a lot of floor space and give them access to things they wouldn’t normally get in a typical economy hotel room: a sectional sofa that may pull out as a bed for additional sleeping, 65-in. TV, games like foosball, vintage arcade games, a full-size microwave and fridge.”

For its part, Element unveiled Studio Commons, which offers a shared kitchen and living room anchored by four guestrooms. The communal spaces range from 600 to 650 sq. ft., while each of the four adjacent guestrooms range from 250 to 280 sq. ft. It debuted last June at the Element in Scottsdale, AZ, with planned rollouts at all new Element Hotels that were signed after the first quarter of 2017.

“The space was created to appeal to a variety of different guests, said Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader, Element Hotels, and VP, distinctive select brands, Marriott International. “Our main goal is to give our guests the comfort of home by giving them a place to unwind and connect with others like never before.”

Designed to “inspire connectedness among today’s modern nomads and their circle of friends, family and colleagues, both near and far,” Stoeckl said, “The new communal room concept hopes to help travelers come together to celebrate what’s most important to them—the relationships in their lives. The initial idea behind the communal room stemmed from Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson’s vision to find ways to innovate the longer-stay category and differentiate Element further from Marriott’s other longer-stay brands.”

Flamingo Las Vegas is an example of a growing trend in hospitality: the bunk-bed room or suite, with 14 of the former and one of the largest bunk-bed suites in the U.S. The property welcomed its first guests to the bunk-bed concept last year, and a rep for Caesars Entertainment said that both the bunk-bed options at Flamingo and similar offerings at The Linq Hotel have been well received by guests and sell out regularly.

With 1,478 sq. ft. of space, the two-bedroom Bunk Bed Suite at the Flamingo offers four queen beds, each with an overhead full-size bunk, connected to a 550-sq.-ft. parlor that includes a living area and a full kitchenette. The 515-sq.-ft. Bunk Bed Room can accommodate a group with two queen beds, each equipped with its own overhead full-size bunk.

The Caesars rep noted that the goal of the rooms at Flamingo and The Linq Hotel was to “accommodate small groups who want to stay together and socialize in the same room comfortably. These rooms allow guests to enjoy a fun gathering in their hotel room at a reasonable price, with the convenience of being at the center of The Strip.”

Shared-room concepts are not just beneficial for customers—owners like them, too. “We’ve had no shortage of hotels saying, ‘Thank you, this is exactly what I needed. I had an oversized room with three queen beds, but nothing else,’” Mueller said.

“Ultimately, it’s about our owners, turning those unused suites and oversized rooms into revenue,” Mueller continued. “The goal is not just to have a cool room concept, but to get a higher ADR in these rooms—and selling that room more often than they do today. I hear from owners all the time: ‘We rent suites about 20% of the time and we get maybe $20 more per night.’ We really feel like they’re going to rent this room far more often and for a premium.”

All of this might sound a bit like what guests get at a home-sharing accommodation, but Mueller noted there’s a key difference. “There is a customer set who likes the concept of these shared accommodations, but they want the predictability of a hotel: They want to know where they’re going to park, where they’re going to check in, and about amenities,” he said.

Stoeckl agreed with that distinction. “Element Hotels’ new communal room concept blends two different hospitality experiences to give guests the best of both worlds—the comfort, convenience and community of a private home, with all the amenities of a hotel,” he said.

The executives are bullish on the future of this trend. “We think there’s a real strong market, especially when you get into markets where there’s low distribution of hotels, but demand for hotels,” Mueller said. “This is a great way to satisfy the needs of our customers.”

Stoeckl added, “Looking toward the future, we believe communal rooms will certainly gain interest from other hotel brands.” HB