With increasingly blurred boundaries between work and leisure, the hospitality industry faces significant challenges as well as opportunities. A new generation of human hospitality concept creators seems to have understood that remote workers and traveling freelancers need something more than the usual travelers.
Being myself a remote worker, I’m constantly exploring the options places offer to be able to comfortably work and sightsee while meeting new people and taking the best care of myself. During a research project, I’ve come across the work of MA people, an agency specialized in concepts and brands for hotels with a joyful and fresh approach to marketing. Wanting to explore what hospitality can do for this new type of workers, I thought they could be just perfect for an interview!
Today, I sit down with Magdalena and Manuela, the lovely founders of MA people to chat about their unique approach to hotel concepts and branding, the trends in the hospitality industry, and why placing people at the heart of every hospitality business is crucial for people’s happiness while driving sales.
What do you do and how is your approach to the hospitality industry unique?
We’re MA people – a boutique consulting agency based in Zurich and specializing in crafting fresh and impactful concepts and brands for hotels. Our ultimate vision is to make the world a better place through our innovative hotel concepts, which leads to happier huMAns including employees, guests, and company owners.
When Manuela and I started, we wanted to truly put all our energy in something we firmly believe in and where all our passion lays: good people and excellent service. We aren’t only saying that but place people at the heart of everything we do from concept development to the hiring process. In a rather traditional hotel consulting industry, our values make us unique: they’re the basis of all our work, projects and decisions.
The name of your cool company is MA people. Can you explain how you came up with such a name and what’s a human hotel concept?
Hospitality and traveling are all about human interaction and the very human trait of empathy. Your entire traveling experience depends on the people you have interactions with. We’ve always been fascinated by people. Having worked for the tourism, hospitality and other people’s businesses for years, we understand and experienced first hand that nothing can sustainably improve business results as much as putting “humans” at the center.
However, what we didn’t understand was that if humans are so important to business and success, why are so many companies acting so ‘anti-human’? Why are people in this industry not happy and satisfied? And most importantly, the question that led us to found MA people – how can we change this in order to make people happier and businesses thrive?
“If humans are so important to business and success, why are so many companies acting so ‘anti-human’? Why are people working in the hospitality industry not happy and satisfied?”
We started by observing humans, talking to them and listening to gain insights and understanding of their needs and expectations. The focus on humanity is embedded in every hotel concept we craft.
Boundaries between work and personal life become blurred. How do you see this shift in the hospitality industry?
With work and leisure mixing even more in the coming decade, for the hospitality industry, this means that any distinction between business and leisure will disappear.
Business clients already seek fitness and entertainment activities, while vacation guests demand advanced business facilities and services. The hospitality trend of Pad’n Breakfast/Online Hotels, which is shaping the hotelscape is the result of this shift. For example, guests increasingly opt to work from their bed. As a consequence, we see integrated storage for files and notepads. Moreover, the new urban hotels are re-defining the purpose of their hotel lobbies. Resembling the style and the purpose of urban business hubs and co-working members clubs, these hotel lobbies are far from the old-fashioned reception areas.
Every trend generates an opposite movement. In this case, it’s called Digital Detox or Offline Holidays, which comes from the desire to escape being online and reachable 24/7, to reconnect with the essential. Some hotels focus on Digital Detox, for guests who search for sensory experiences and a reconnection with nature.
We often hear how Millennials are totally disrupting the ways of living, traveling, and working. Which kind of hotel experience do they expect?
Millennials are one of the most relevant target groups in the hospitality industry today. The significant difference from the previous generation lies in their enthusiasm for speed: fast internet connections, fast service, and fast responses. As they live in the real-time world, they expect seamless connectivity all the time. Hence, free Wi-Fi and smart technology are just basics for Millennials.
However, what they expect from a hotel experience is more, such as:
- Cool community areas, which they regard as the heart of the hotel. All Millennial hotels emphasize their community areas and strive to outdo the competition in coolness, style, local integration as well as smart technologies.
- Functional accommodation. Millennials value functionality and smart use of spaces more than size. The rooms of CitizenM are about the size of the bed and have bespoke amenities, smart technology as well as a trendy shower.
- Flexible and available 24/7 food & beverage options made of locally sourced ingredients.
- The hotel social and local responsibility. Being passionate about contributing to positive change, Millennials assume that green schemes and community programs like at Zoku are the norms in hotels.
What are your TOP 3 pieces of advice to designing a hotel concept for “workations”?
In a nutshell, workations is the mix of work and vacation for digital nomads. Nowadays many companies send their employees or entire teams on workations as part of incentive schemes to boost their team spirit, motivate and inspire them. In a homely and informal environment, they get a mix of work and networking activities with sport, yoga and other leisure activities.
Here are our TOP 3 pieces of advice:
- Make workation a fun and memorable experience. Your guests want to experience something new, be inspired, and meet like-minded people and entrepreneurs. So, besides focused services and activities make sure to create a lively environment and inspiring communal spaces.
- Offer outstanding value for money. Workations are still mainly associated with low/reasonable costs. Learn from Millennial hotels by providing smart, human, modern, and communal products and services as well as and adding value exactly where it is needed.
- Get the basics of remote work right. Understand nomadic work life and philosophy and offer required hardware and services such as free and fast Wi-Fi and quiet work areas. Combine them with authentic and trendy leisure activities and communal areas to enable guests to connect, bond, and exchange ideas.
Both of you travel a lot around the world. What are the 3 most memorable and outstanding hotel concepts you have stayed at and why?
Yotel London Heathrow: Space at its best
Located inside Heathrow Terminal 4, each cabin of the hotel has super comfy bedding, a flat screen TV, a pull-out workstation with a desk, and an en-suite bathroom with a monsoon shower. It packs all the essential elements of luxury hotel rooms in a smarter, more compact space.
The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia: Nature at its best
The Datai Langkawi is a captivating destination resort that blends smoothly with its natural surroundings. The villas with private verandas enjoy the lush of the rainforest that teems with wildlife and a tranquil beach awarded one of the top 10 worldwide by National Geographic. Besides the superb location, genuine and friendly service is what brings this hotel concept to life and into every guest’s heart.
Milaidhoo Island, Maldives: Island chic at its best
When creating this concept, we focused on re-interpreting luxury for the new high-end guests as well as combining a laid-back atmosphere with spotless service and individualized lifestyle moments. Opened last November Milaidhoo Island has received great feedback from guests as well as industry insiders. We’ve been there only recently, and we were satisfied to see what an incredible job the Milaidhoo team did to bring this concept to life.
What are the trends shaping the future of hospitality?
Digital technology and the technological (r)evolution including social and mobile is a game changer in hospitality and will continue to shape and influence how the industry operates.
Individualisation and personalization/customization of the guest experience via data interpretation throughout the customer journey (from decision making to booking to check-in & -out) will gain importance as well.
Also, the sharing economy will further impact design, service, branding and marketing messages and “co-living” with a focus on spaces and experiences that bring people together will grow further.
From a consumer perspective, sustainable and socially conscious brands will continue to evolve as the desire to travel, to learn and give back to local communities. At the same time, health and a healthy lifestyle will also strongly impact the tourism offerings of the future.
What are the winning features of next generation hotel concepts?
Winning hotel concepts have a strong base – they are solidly built upon the investor/owner or hotelier’s passion, vision, and motivation combined with a detailed market research and analysis. Furthermore, to be sustainable and profitable they’re based on the main trends that are shaping the future of hospitality and tourism.
However, the most important feature of all the top-notch hotel and hospitality concepts is putting humans at the center of everything. In fact, the concepts that implement and explore their human side will win. And that is what truly drives and generates sales and profits.
Interact with MA people: