In the virtual keynote session during the Skift Hospitality & Marketing Summit, hosted by Skift Hospitality Reporter Cameron Sperance, several leaders from the hotel and hospitality industry answered questions on lifestyle hotels, pandemic trends, and post-pandemic consumer trends.

Sperance kicked off the session, titled “Will Lifestyle Brands Take on New Prominence Post-Pandemic?” by asking panelists to define lifestyle hotels.

Amber Asher, president and general counsel at Standard International, believes guests play a major role in defining lifestyle hotels. 

“It’s really the guest that drives it,” Asher noted. “Nothing really suits exactly what we do. We’re not luxury, we’re not limited service. It’s really about understanding the guest’s wants and needs, and trying to match their lifestyle vs. providing a turndown service or whatever they would tick the box for at a four-star, five-star hotel.”

Martina Luger, chief marketing officer of Ennismore, suggested that lifestyle brands have a soft side and a hard side. The soft side believes in more than making money, putting emphasis on creating an emotional connection with customers, while the hard side focuses on the type of consumer. 

Sperance mentioned that for many brands becoming bigger takes away from the novelty and “cool” factor. He posed the question of how to avoid this situation, if possible, to the panelists.

“It’s not easy,” conceded Asher. “For us, it’s really the team. I do think we can grow and I think we can expand. We’ll probably have 20 to 25 Standards in the next five years. It’s really about getting the right people who are tapped into the things we care about, that are like-minded and immersed in the area and culture in the location that they’re in.”

Luger agreed with Asher, adding that keeping your original values as a smaller company is important. 

“People think because you get big, you lose authenticity,” Luger said. “I think you lose authenticity when you change the culture of how you operate. When you think everything is about return on investment …  Keep the same type of talent. Once you get bigger, it’s hard to attract certain types of people.”

Luger suggested creating smaller teams within a larger company to simulate the feeling of a more intimate company culture. In addition, she emphasized the importance of internal culture. 

“Have people understand the ethos of the brand, and then the creativity goes from there,” said Jane Mackie, senior vice president, global marketing, luxury and upscale brands, IHG Hotels & Resorts. “How do we bring it to life in this individual hotel? It all goes back to the right talent and the right vision, asset by asset.”

Sperance closed the session by asking the panelists if they see the lifestyle hotel sector gaining popularity post-pandemic.

“From consumer demand as well as the development community, lifestyle is definitely here to stay,” said Mackie. “The growth potential is really, really large.”

Luger pointed out that since the pandemic began, what consumers consider important has changed. 

“Investment in communities and giving back, particularly coming out of COVID,” Luger said, highlighting how consumers have become more conscious of what they companies and brand they’re supporting while spending their money. “Lifestyle will play a big role because those brands really have been kind of giving back and selflessly giving back.”