Hotel operations is often seen as creating and following brand processes and keeping costs under control – but great operators know compliance is only part of the picture.
Christian Lundén, VP of Strategic Growth at Nordic Choice Hotels, is a great example of thinking more expansively about operations.
He and I recently spoke about his work to drive new revenue streams by serving guests that may not be staying at their hotels.
You posted on LinkedIn recently that Scandinavian citizens stay in a hotel an average of 1.4 days a year, and you want to create new experiences to be more relevant, more often, in your guests’ lives. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
Our most frequent guests are maybe spending 60 days a year with us on average, and that means that we have 300 days that we are not talking to them.
We’re thinking about how can we be more relevant for more people, more often. That might include providing services and other things that maybe don’t have anything to do with travel.
We are trying to see how can we break down the walls of hotels and become something more than just something that you’re traveling to and become more of a part of your everyday life.
What are some of the capabilities that you see you have as a hotel company that enables you to provide hospitality in new and creative ways?
If we look at our industry and our business, we are not just selling a bed and a breakfast – we are actually creating an experience that’s really nice.
The worst thing with hotels is that at some point you need to check out. So how can we deliver the feeling and atmosphere and surroundings and experiences even if you’re not spending time in our hotels?
We started thinking about this before the pandemic. We started a service called ‘Hotel Feeling’ where we come and clean our customer’s homes and can provide linen, pillows, bathrobes, and soaps to make them feel like they have their own little hotel room at home.
Then the question became, how can we create this kind of hotel feeling in other places?
We wanted to see if we could create it in the workplace as well. We see many co-working places trying to more or less copy what we’re doing in hotels. Why shouldn’t we be able to do that as well, especially now when people work in a different way than a few years ago?
The workplace is becoming more like a social place. You are probably working at home when you’re trying to get some peace and quiet and do some real work and then you are using the offices as somewhere where you can meet your colleagues and talk and interact in a social way.
The companies that we are working with see that providing nice, hotel-style amenities in their offices – whether that’s a breakfast or a lunch or a workout or spa or after work – makes people want to come to the office.
Do you see the bigger opportunity in going into other companies’ offices and providing these services or inviting people to work in your hotels?
I see opportunities in both. We have been asked by some very large companies to look at creating hospitality-driven environments in their new head offices. They see the benefits of working with an organization like ours that has knowledge of creating spaces where people like to meet and spend time.
But there’s also an opportunity in bringing more people to our hotel properties so we become more relevant in our neighborhoods. We already have all the facilities. Maybe the gym is not used that much during the day, so it’s better to have someone else from the neighborhood working in our hotels and becoming a part of our community even if they are not traveling.
We have our own headquarters in one of our hotels and see the benefits of being able to experience things like a great hotel breakfast every morning. It gives a really good start to the day and makes your hotels feel alive. Of course, we have all the conference rooms and facilities and can use these spaces and amenities for coworking as well.
How do you evaluate a wide range of opportunities for providing hospitality in new ways and figure out which of these you’re going to pursue and invest in?
We’re very much into trying and testing things on a small scale and seeing if it works.
For example, we tried offering some of our hotel rooms for gamers and started very small, with a few hotel rooms. They sold out quickly, and now we’re planning to expand that.
For a lot of things, we don’t know how they will turn out because they are new and no one has tried them before. So we don’t start out large. We try things on a small scale and expand what works.
We see a lot of potential in e-commerce. Hotels could easily be the showroom for these companies since we are open 24/7. We are already staffed and have environments where people could test things they wouldn’t normally test before they buy. For example, if you’re buying a new mattress, you probably only test it in the store for five minutes. In our hotels, you can test it for one or two nights.
I think there are a lot of opportunities like this where we could partner with companies and take advantage of what we’re good at and the spaces we have. There are a lot of new areas we could bring that nice feeling of hospitality into. A lot of industries are asking for the knowledge we have, from the car industry to retail to real estate.
The new level of competition is in the service layer. Bringing hospitality into each and every industry will provide a competitive advantage.
I’m really excited about the type of collaborations you are describing, as leveraging operational expertise seems to be a big opportunity to only serve guests but engage new people in our communities and unlock new revenue streams as we do this.
If you’re interested in working with Christian and his team on this, check out his job opening.