The new generation is reshaping the landscape of hospitality. The ostentation and stuffy style of luxury are giving way to a personalized and relaxed approach. In 2023, the number of rooms in such establishments doubled worldwide (reaching a total of 480,000) compared to 2019, the pre-pandemic reference year.
Several characteristics define a lifestyle hotel
A commitment to sustainability, extensive use of new technologies, and a distinct way of communicating and experiencing the establishment. The hotel is becoming a hybrid space, opening up to the outside world by transforming into a recreational and cultural hub for its city and its residents.
The first examples of this trend emerged in the United States. “Pioneer” Alex Calderwood wanted to transform the lobby space of his Ace Hotel into a cool place. This example was followed by the Kimpton chain of lifestyle hotels, which amplified its success by introducing social hours, a concept that offers free wine tastings to blend and retain both hotel guests and external customers.
In Europe, some of the pioneers of this trend include Philippe Starck, co-founder of the Mama Shelter chain with Serge Trigano, and later partnering with American-Iranian entrepreneur Sam Nazarian in the SLS chain of lifestyle hotels, which has since been absorbed by one of the leaders in this thriving new sector: Ennismore.
The French “Feel Good” Model on the Rise
Nevertheless, some are embarking on this adventure independently. This is the case with the French “feel good” model pioneered by the new brand First Name, whose first hotel opened in the city of Bordeaux. Leading the company are three entrepreneurs with impressive backgrounds: Yann Caillère, Jérôme Bosc, and Éric Omgba. Yann Caillère, the former General Manager of Accor and Sofitel Worldwide, took the gamble of creating this new brand by incorporating the experiences gained from positioning brands like Sofitel and Mc Gallery. He attributes the success of this category primarily to the idea of the hotel as a place that brings together a cultured and trendy clientele and emphasizes the importance of connecting with local economic and cultural realities. “First and foremost, it’s about choosing the location,” he explains. “We opened our first First Name establishment in Bordeaux, and we plan to open 4 or 5 more hotels in the coming years in other cities. While many are focused on renowned cities like Paris or London, we are targeting mid-sized cities. Bordeaux is a perfect example. It’s a ‘brand city’ thanks to the globally recognized prestige of its wines. However, these mid-sized cities still lack trendy places. Yet, the clientele is there, and there is significant demand, especially from younger generations, and we need to be ready to meet that demand.”
Regarding the business model, he reveals, “Our revenue is divided into two categories: 60% of the income comes from rooms, while 40% comes from dining and events. We have invested heavily in our cultural agenda with concerts, DJ sets, musical brunches with live music, and exhibitions of local artists’ artworks. The concept of ‘local’ is crucial in choosing these cities and other locations where we will open new hotels. The goal is to establish a close connection with the artisanal and artistic aspects of the places. Sourcing locally allows us to personalize our establishments, introduce the region to our guests, and have a lasting impact. These cities are rich in craftsmanship; for example, we work closely with the coffee roasters L’Alchimie. Our bathroom amenities come from the workshop of Oceopin, which produces local maritime pine seed oil.” For the first First Name hotel in Bordeaux, Yann Caillère predicts an annual revenue of approximately 12 million euros by 2026.
France continues to be a privileged playground for the expansion of this hotel model. In recent years, such places have multiplied. Take, for example, the Loire Valley Lodge, a unique establishment located in the Indre region, set within a private forest spanning 300 hectares. This lodge places a strong emphasis on the connection between nature and contemporary art. The lodges, constructed from wood and raw materials and perched 4 meters high among the trees, feature enormous windows that open up to the forest. Suspended treehouse cabins, a garden of plants and aromatic herbs, and a hot Nordic bath amidst the trees, all created by several internationally renowned contemporary artists – this offering appeals to an urban and cultured clientele increasingly drawn to leisure time in harmony with nature and art.
On the other hand, the small and committed chain, Wanderlust, has drawn inspiration from American road trips and the Beatnik era. Here, architecture and aesthetics pay homage to Californian motels from the Seventies. Environmental commitment is a priority: there are no minibars in the rooms to reduce waste and energy consumption, plastic use is restricted, and local supply chains are utilized for food sourcing. At Wanderlust in Chamonix, 80% of the objects and stylish decor in the establishment come from the second-hand Selency network.
While the hotel industry is benefiting significantly from the post-Covid global tourism recovery (the sector demonstrated its resilience by achieving a 9% higher revenue in 2022 compared to 2019), France dominates the lifestyle category market. Last year, this category saw a 30% growth. This trend is expected to continue: according to analyses by the international auditing firm KPMG, France is projected to create 18,000 new hotel rooms by 2025.