Q&A with Javier Egipciaco Arlo Hotels

With a new project in New York City’s Hudson Yards, Arlo Hotels is poised for expansion. Managing Director Javier Egipciaco shares the brand’s strategy for growing the right way.

How do you define lifestyle and boutique? I think a true lifestyle hotel makes guests feel like it’s their home away from home. We like to think of ourselves as a home base for urban explorers, prioritizing engaging programming and partnerships, creating comfortable and efficient public spaces, and curating a sense of belonging. 

What do you think the industry sometimes gets wrong about these concepts? I think the word “boutique” is sometimes mistakenly associated with “small.” Arlo has 575 rooms between its two hotels, and our third property in Hudson Yards will have close to 500 rooms on its own. We still consider ourselves boutique because we put a huge emphasis on creating a welcoming atmosphere, bringing in local partners, and making the hotels a hub for design, culture and cuisine.

Today’s guests are all about personalization. What are the best ways to create this experience for them? Arlo has a first-name culture among its employees and guests, which really makes our travelers feel special. Our front-desk agents don’t wear name tags, but instead are encouraged to engage in conversation with guests and introduce themselves to start organic, meaningful discussions. We also have quite a robust daily schedule of programming that caters to all types of guests. Activities range from spirit tastings and movie nights to rooftop workout classes and educational panels. There’s really something for everyone.

Are there any industry trends or innovations that you’ve got your eye on? Clock radio—who actually uses one anymore? We’re exploring the need and looking for innovative alternatives to this age-old “required” product found in typical guestrooms. We challenge ourselves to look at “normal” or expected services differently. Our goal is to be an innovator in the industry, and we like to think nothing is off limits to re-evaluate and rethink.

What’s something those in the industry might not know about Arlo Hotels that you wish they did? We are at the forefront of sourcing innovative local partnerships and programming, and have been since opening in 2016. One of the founding members of our team was our branding & partnerships marketing manager, who carefully vetted and sourced daily programming for guests that exists to this day. For example, we were the first hotel to partner with Blind Barber, a NYC-founded bath- and hair-care line, to do our in-room amenities. Other NYC hotels have since followed suit, so it’s exciting to see that we’re leading the industry and other brands are now having to bring on similar roles to stay relevant.

You recently announced the development of Arlo’s third hotel property in NYC’s Hudson Yards. Tell me about this property. Arlo Hudson Yards will open in early 2020 on 38th and 9th. It will be our largest project to date with 495-plus keys, and we’re bringing in Meyer Davis to do the design. As a brand, we’re always looking for the neighborhoods that haven’t quite come into their own; Arlo SoHo, for example, is on the westernmost edge of SoHo on Hudson St., in a still-developing area. Hudson Yards will be a huge boon for the New York City hotel scene, so we’re excited to be opening soon.

How will this property be differentiated from SoHo and NoMad? Arlo brand staples like ample public space and engaging daily programming will remain, but we’ll have much more space to do it. While the micro concept has worked well for Arlo SoHo and Arlo NoMad, Arlo Hudson Yards will feature bigger guestrooms. We’re calling it “Arlo 2.0” because it will be the same signature experience, but we’re not pigeonholing ourselves into being a micro concept.

You have a long history in NYC’s hotel market. What excites you about it today? NYC’s tourism industry hit a record 62.8 million visitors in 2017, and shows no signs of slowing down. Hotel inventory has grown to match the demand, adding more than 40,000 rooms over the last 10 years, many of which are independent hotels. Some tried-and-true brands are expanding, in addition to quite a few new ones coming into the space, including Arlo. It’s exciting to see the impact that unique branding, viewpoints and programming has on the industry. It’s getting harder and harder to be seen as “innovative,” which is why we’re always on the hunt to take the norm and flip it upside down.

At BLLA’s conference earlier this summer, you mentioned that other potential sites include Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Boston. Why have you identified these cities? How do you approach potential locations? We’re interested in growing the brand in key feeder markets, and within these markets, are looking for under-the-radar neighborhoods with undiscovered business partners, vendors and stories. We, of course, look for destinations that show promising tourism growth, but within those, we’re excited to find neighborhoods where we can work collaboratively with the surrounding public to develop a cohesive community narrative.

How would you describe your growth strategy? We want to grow—however, we’re entirely unwilling to compromise the brand. We’ve received a lot of interest in the brand and Arlo as a management company, but we’ve had to respectfully decline several opportunities that just don’t align with our ethos. The team is focused on being patient and finding the right opportunities, rather than a speedy growth.

On a personal note, what do you like best about this industry? Every day is different! I love the dynamic nature of our business. You have to be able to react quickly to stay current. HB