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How the sharing economy and fashion industry are reshaping hotel amenities
According to the latest Euromonitor’s World Travel Trends report, millennials are beginning to leave their suitcases at home and rent out clothes when they reach their destination. In response, a number of travel startups and hotels are catering to a growing demand for pay-as-you-go conveniences.
Labeled as “bag free, hassle free,” this trend is giving rise to a new industry aiming to appeal to those seeking a simplified way to travel. For instance, New York startup unPack provides a suitcase full of clothes and toiletries that can be delivered directly to a customer’s hotel room or Airbnb accommodation.
The co-founders of unPack say their inspiration came from observing “very mobile” New York residents struggling with their luggage around the city. Their unique service is one that could represent a new era of clothing rental services that are targeted specifically at the travel sector.
Hotels seeing potential in amenity rentals
Hotels are also tapping into this growing desire for on-demand services by renting out apparel to guests. At Starwood’s Westin brand, guests can hire stylish athletic gear for their gym workouts. At a mere US$5, it’s a tempting alternative to packing bulky running gear and sneakers into their luggage.
In New York, The Dream Hotel has taken a more niche approach by offering a “sneaker concierge service.” Guests can ask the hotel to purchase them a pair of sneakers (in many cases these are rare editions) and have them waiting for them in their hotel room on arrival.
Hotels are also partnering with fashion brands to expand apparel services even further. When guests stay at Virgin Hotel Chicago, they can buy clothes from Gap, which the hotel concierge service can deliver directly to their room.
Meanwhile, fashion store Pimkie has teamed up with hotels in Antwerp, Brussels, Milan and Paris to offer a “Mini Fashion Bar.” Closets are stocked with a range of garments carefully selected by stylists and fashion bloggers. Guests can rent items during a stay and contact the hotel “Fashion Concierge” to have items exchanged if they aren’t a good fit.
The appeal of renting
Pay-as-you-go clothing and fashion services are appealing in a couple of important ways. First, they provide incredible convenience. A last-minute booker or business traveler no longer has to hurriedly pack a case before racing out the door to the airport. Now, they can contact a company like unPack and have a case full of clothes waiting for them at their hotel.
The other benefit is that travelers can get access to luxury labels and fashion accessories. Buying an extravagant designer dress might be completely out of reach for many people, but the option of hiring one for a special evening on vacation could be an indulgence considered worth the splurge.
Unsurprisingly, the report by Euromonitor revealed that of all travelers, millennials are most likely to find this kind of service appealing. A survey by Westfield Shopping in the UK and the US found that nearly 50% of millennials were interested in being able to hire clothes on a monthly basis.
The idea of hiring a wardrobe of clothes on vacation would have seemed pretty alien a few years ago. But times are changing. The modern travel industry is witnessing (and helping to cultivate) a new generation of independent traveler who feels perfectly at ease with this notion.
Why the trend towards renting?
In recent years, travelers have come to see renting as a completely natural thing to do on vacation. While renting vacation apartments and cars has been happening for decades, the idea has truly taken off in recent years with the huge growth of the sharing economy.
Perhaps more than most brands, Airbnb has given “sharing” a certain social cachet. Staying in a stranger’s house on vacation might once have carried a stigma. Now, it reflects a lifestyle choice that communicates a belief in economizing and exchanging luxury to experience something more authentic. In many ways, Airbnb has made the idea of sharing feel fashionable.
The success of brands such as Uber and Rent the Runway further reveals how consumers are increasingly comfortable with sharing and value convenience. The rise of an on-demand economy has also led consumers to expect quick and easy access to virtually any product or service they can imagine.
As lifestyle changes become hardwired expectations, hotels will need to reconsider how they can offer greater flexibility, convenience, and choice to a new generation of traveler. In fact, offering clothes and shoes could be just the beginning of a much bigger trend of pay-as-you-go conveniences.
Specialized amenity rentals
The report by Euromonitor also stated how hotels could start making more specialized products and amenities available for hire. For instance, Candlewood Suites has a lending locker equipped with a range of cooking equipment including blenders, crock pots and grills.
Every hotel could theoretically offer their own menu of amenities catering to the unique needs of their guests. A hotel appealing to tech-savvy millennials could hire out desirable products such as GoPro cameras, games consoles, or virtual reality headsets. Along with eliminating the need to pack their own technology, guests could benefit from getting access to the latest gadgets on the market, especially when they can be used to create shareable content that helps to promote the hotel.
Advertising a pick-and-mix menu of amenities could also be used as a powerful marketing strategy. Package deals could include discounted rates on desirable items for hire, and renting behaviour from past stays could be used to devise offers to incentivize repeat bookings.
A new era of pay-as-you-go conveniences
The emergence of the “bag free, hassle free” travel trend reveals a fundamental shift in the way travel is considered. Broadly, it reflects a growing desire for people to look for ease, comfort, and convenience on vacation.
Hiring out running gear and supplying ready-stocked wardrobes represents the start of an on-demand trend that could quickly expand into something much bigger. Along with a new breed of travel startups, hotels could cash in by offering a diversified range of pay-as-you-go conveniences to meet the myriad needs of their guests.
As the growth of the sharing economy has demonstrated, many travelers are completely comfortable with the idea of renting. Hotels can and should look to capitalize on this mindset by integrating unique rentable amenities into their own guest experience. By doing so, they could attract a wider range of guests and begin to cultivate a highly profitable new revenue stream.
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