Hotels have figured out that specificity is the key to success in the modern world of hospitality, and the state of the industry has never been stronger.
As one year turns to another, we’re reminded of when the last millennium gave way to the current one — that’s when Tablet launched, and that’s also when the hotel industry began to change dramatically. At the dawn of the twenty-first century developers and designers started creating hotels not just to provide shelter, but to meet nearly every taste imaginable. It was a seismic shift in hospitality. No longer was price the main factor that determined the substance and style of a hotel. Hotels for all budgets were offering experiences of all varieties. You like bicycles? We’ve got your bicycle-themed hotel right here. You like John Lennon? Say no more, Liverpudlian lodging you shall have. How about “free, independent women”? Pay tribute. Really love the Hermitage Museum in Russia? Now you can really love it in Los Angeles.
Ah, but maybe you don’t like bikes and Beatles and Tsarist decadence in Beverly Hills. Maybe you like the way things used to be, when there were fewer options and hotels knew their place and didn’t try to force Frank Gehry upon you. We understand. Not every hotel is for everybody, and there’s reassurance in the routine. Some people find a formula that works for them and that formula might not include hipsters in tents, backpackers in hostels, or foodies on Instagram. Whatever your leanings, Tablet is all about navigating through the noise and helping you find the perfect hotel for you.
But we’re also huge proponents of encountering cultural and hospitality norms that are outside of your comfort zone. After all, I bet if you think about it, a lot of the most exciting travel moments in your life probably came from situations where you let go of control — those times when you went off-piste and let providence guide your plans. It’s good to have an outline when you travel, no doubt, but the clearest memories are often the ones made by accident; the ones that came from a source you didn’t expect. Truly, there’s no better time than now to change up your finicky philosophy. The entire travel industry is evolving away from canned, one-size-fits-all experiences, and moving toward the local, the personal, and the spontaneous. You should too.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done. In the end, being true to yourself is what’s most important. For every traveler who loves elaborate lobbies and palatial opulence, there’s one who cares more about getting away from everything and everyone. We wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why the current hotel landscape is so special.
Specificity is the name of the game in 2019. A slow burble that began in the 80s and 90s has now come to a full-throated boil. What was, until recently, the minority — hotels that promise distinct experiences, as opposed to uniform familiarity — is now the standard. Nearly all new luxury and boutique hotels arrive on the scene boasting about the details that make them unique, whether it’s a sincere connection to their surrounding neighborhood, a suite of guest offerings that are tailored to select lifestyles, or a design that forms the intersection of two roads that never thought to cross before. Hotels are hoping that guests will walk away having learned something new because of the hotel, not just because of the location outside. Who would’ve thunk?
This evolution isn’t surprising, nor is it especially profound. Those responsible for creating hotels in this young century simply realize that there is no reason your accommodations should take a backseat to your destination — they can just as easily be the destination. If your location is desirable — if, for example, you’re located amongst an otherworldy landscape of lichen and long-dormant lava fields on the edge of Iceland’s Þingvellir National Park — it’s probably good enough for your hotel to stay out of the way and simply cover the basics. But thankfully some folks decided to build a bold structure (shaped like a telephoto lens) that would be the main attraction wherever it was placed.
With contemporary hotels being so much more than just a place to rest — bringing along their own self-contained nightlife, dining, and art — they’ve been able to greatly increase the appeal of certain destinations. Boise is great, but it’s even better thanks to the Modern Hotel, a cultural hub that produces and promotes local activities and events. Groups like 21c even make it their mission to open hotels that create an instant art scene in underserved and under-appreciated American cities. For some travelers, the opening of a design-forward boutique hotel acts almost as a seal of approval that lends legitimacy to a location. If 21c opens a hotel there, “there” must be somewhere worth visiting.
And it’s that kind of daring that keeps us going as we near the end of our second decade in the business. We consider ourselves lucky to have chosen hotels as our passion all those years ago — few industries have changed as radically, and all for the better, in the time since. So, in keeping with the theme, specificity will also be the mantra of Tablet in 2019. We vow to continue to eschew the impassive and the indistinct and focus instead on the particular and the precise. Mies van der Rohe said that “God is in the details.” Whether it’s a hotel or a restaurant or a piece of art, it’s the little things that separate the good from the great. Those are the things we choose to celebrate now and forever.