I have been wowed by Holiday Inn! Can’t believe I am saying that. I really like the new “Social Hub” concept they recently announced and think it is going to be a real winner! It’s a combination of the front desk, bar, and business center all put together into one area of about 5,000 square feet where you can eat, play and work. The image on the left gives you an idea of what it may look like.
I think that the entire spa industry should watch this “Social Hub” development and consider copying it (oops, did I say that?) I meant “be inspired” by their concept and adapt it to the spa arena. We’ve talked about the trend of “Social Spa-ing” for years now but the truth is, I haven’t really seen it done well yet in a spa setting – certainly not by a brand. Well, here we are – Holiday Inn may be paving the way!
Here’s the scoop:
- Holiday Inn just finished a $1 billion relaunch and rebranding. That’s big bucks and included a lot of research. (I always like to follow what companies do after they have spent a ton of money on research because it generally shows you what the research told them. Thus I can save myself hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hint: it works for website redesign also.)
- There are 3,400 Holiday Inns with 800 in the pipeline. The new ones will have the “Social Hub” concept because it requires new configuration and construction.
- They are testing this new “Social Hub” concept at The Holiday Inn Atlanta-Gwinnett Place in Duluth, Georgia.
- It will be a 24/7 “Social Hub.”
- Note this description from AOL Travel “In the Holiday Inn social hub, guests will be able to drink a cappuccino in front of a computer, eat at the bar, at a table or booth or on a comfy couch or lounge chair, sit and watch sports on screens, play Nintendo or just hang out.”
- To kick things off they are launching Stay Social where they ask people to go to their facebook page and share a favorite travel story – sort of a large oral history project. Holiday Inn Facebook page.
The various reports I read say Holiday Inn is testing this concept. That makes me laugh because I keep thinking, “they really don’t need to test it – trust me, it’s going to work!” I am absolutely positive. It’s just so perfectly “on trend!”
Spas…let’s get going. Relaxed social interaction is what people want! And not just those who stay at a Holiday Inn. Not that people know they want this…in fact they might say just the opposite. However, trust me, they do. This is something I learned as a result of my many many years working with the Golden Door destination spa in California where guests bonding with each other is the glue that brings them back year after year. (That’s true of most destination spas.)
While I am somewhat surprised that Holiday Inn is taking leadership on this instead of a higher end brand, there might be a very logical explanation. After all the W brand leans somewhat toward facilitating social interaction and those “Club Floors” at the high-end hotels have aspects of this. But I think there is a difference – and it may be an important one. Have you ever seen relaxed interaction happen effortlessly in a club floor lounge? My experience is that people keep pretty much to themselves…albeit enjoying the amenities. I think the fancy clothes, jewelry and general attitude of ”scene and be seen” creates somewhat of a pretentious atmosphere and that doesn’t foster relaxed social interaction.
One advantage the less expensive brands may have had is watching how their free breakfasts have been working all these years. They were a good Petri dish for developing this social hub concept without the often intimidating air that can accompany a more high-end setting where even the staff are prancing around in the latest high heels and sharp clothes.
At some point, people just want to get down.
Recently I stayed at a Comfort Suite while at the National Wellness Conference in Wisconsin. It was a pleasant surprise to see how breakfast time at my hotel turned into a pleasant social setting. The buffet, complete with a make-your-own-waffle-maker, was right near the lobby. People sat at various tables, some were on stools at high tops, some on couches watching TV, others on their computers. Some were in shorts and tops, others in jogging suits, a few in business attire. It all felt a whole lot like someone’s living room. I could relax and chill.
If spas are going to experiment with a really relaxed social setting, there is one ingredient that might help get things going (and I don’t mean alcohol however admittedly that does work.) The ingredient I would add is a “connector.” While we didn’t really need that at the Golden Door because people stayed for an entire week and the various interactions over time brought people together naturally, to get a social hub going quickly, I think a connector or connective activity would really help. This person could facilitate conversation, introduce people to each other, suggest several people sit at the same table, introduce a game or do impromptu mock-tails, etc. Nothing too organized, not a full time job. Just some attention to creating a bit of fun and interaction in the social hub area when it looks like it might need it.
Starbucks has successfully achieved their goal of becoming a “third place” for many people – a social environment separate from our two main settings of home and work. Holiday Inn is blazing the trail of a third place when you are traveling. Seems time for a spa brand – or perhaps spas in general – to offer a social environment where you can get down, de-stress and really relax.
Being in spa robes might be a plus….quiet hushed rooms and spa music, not so much.
My twitter address: @susieellis
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