If you’ve visited an inner-city hotel in recent years, you’ve no doubt noticed the shrinking guestrooms. Like everything else, space has become increasingly expensive, but thankfully a new wave of micro-projects is demonstrating that less can be more.
Despite the limited size, this condensed form of hospitality is evolving into an experience in its own right with a unique design vocabulary. So from retail crossovers to satellite spaces, here’s what’s next for the small-scale hospitality design and experience, and how designer, operators and developers alike can get more from less.
With shoppable retail elements now commonplace in hotel spaces, hospitality brands have turned the guestroom into a catalogue of sorts, immersing guests within a curated edit of its wares for an overnight upselling exercise disguised as a hotel stay. The Type O Loft in Sweden’s remote southern region sees the traditional Bed & Breakfast suite repurposed as an interactive single-room homeware advertisement, whilst more recently the one-key Pencil Case from Vipp has refined and condensed the idea further.
Retail-infused hospitality can be applied to projects of all scales, but the capacity for micro-hotels to concentrate these efforts is one of the form’s major strengths. Personalised experiences are a powerful purchasing motivator, and what’s more personal for a guest that being the sole focus? Similarly, according to the 2019 KPMG retail report, 78% of consumers prefer to spend on experiences as opposed to products, so turning the purchasing process into an experience in itself via a micro hotel stay can generate revenue in addition to room rates.
As guests come to demand ever fluid and customisable experiences, flexibility of form is perhaps the most important asset a modern hotel can boast. Beyond modular furnishings and some interchangeable programming elements, however, most hotels find it difficult to respond quickly to change. In the standardised, all-under-one-roof project, alterations of design and service initiative rollouts alike are often incremental, with any wide-scale efforts akin to steering a colossal tanker.
Micro hotels are much better positioned to embrace change. Prefabricated projects like the nomadic MoLiving are built with the capacity to swap out components from bathrooms to the surrounding landscape, with the entire unit able to up sticks and follow guests to pastures new. For the big-block hospitality monoliths this is an impossibility, but at the smaller end of the market this micro-strategy can be used to quickly plug gaps in demand, and even to test the effectiveness of new interior arrangements before they come online.
We’ve written before about the growing desire for disconnection, but in the context of micro-hotels the ability to go off-grid is within reach both geographically and architecturally. Where standard hotels will never be able to truly separate guests from technology and exposure to other guests, for projects like the cabin-based Arcana this isolation is part and parcel of the design. Under a banner of returning to the wild, this micro-hotel concept immerses guests within nature and removes the presence of anyone but the guest for a true sense of solitude.
Isolated escapes and natural wonders are also the name of the game at Maidla Nature Villa (lead image) in Rapla County, Estonia, which channels similar values through a micro-scale for a zen alternative to the conventional hospitality experience. It is difficult to imagine this level of off-grid distancing even at the most remote of wellness retreats. And indeed, whilst human interaction will always be at the heart of the hospitality industry, that doesn’t mean there won’t be those who prefer to go against the grain and eschew both the presence of service and other guests alike.
Extend ’til the end
If hotels are truly returning to full capacity, the conversation will inevitably turn to expansion. New space remains costly, and most guests would still prefer more square footage after being cooped up in lockdowns, so downsizing may end up a necessity for some. But rather than investing heavily in entirely new locations, micro-hotels can be deployed as a condensed piece of the larger product.
The zero-emissions Pearlsuite concept by Lazzarini Design Studio imagines a motorised hotel room that can be tagged onto resorts for a satellite space that carries the brand’s flag beyond its walls. Elsewhere, the placemaking potential of this niche can also see it occupy existing infrastructure – Marriott’s suite of dreams at Old Trafford saw loyal guests watching the match from the comfort of a pop-up executive guestroom, wherein Victoria Thompson, CEO of Alliances and Partnerships at Manchester United noted: “Whoever wins this opportunity will receive the same first-class hospitality as they would at any Marriott Hotels property around the world”. As such, it could be these joint partnership and cost sharing exercises that spur on the next generation of Micro-hotels.
CLOSE FOCUS: You don’t have much to work with, so use this as an opportunity to cut anything that doesn’t resonate. Editing down an entire brand into one room is a valuable exercise, and will highlight the core elements that make it tick.
ON THE ROAD: Working in smaller scales opens up the possibility of taking the hotel experience elsewhere. Meanwhile, try dropping a micro-hotel into a target location to test the waters without any costly commitment.
FREE SOLO: There are few brands that cater solely for solo travellers with a dedicated design philosophy. Micro-hotels are the perfect solution for these guests who prefer going it alone, and potentially a lucrative niche.
CARBON COPIES: Any operator serious about sustainability should explore the low-footprint, low-impact potential of micro hotels. Less space = less emissions. Likewise, they’re much easier to power by cleaner means.