With increasingly blurred boundaries between work and leisure, the hospitality industry faces significant challenges as well as opportunities. For example, remote workers and digital nomads have different needs than the “holiday” traveler. Besides a comfortable and central accommodation, the former also need a safe place to work and meet new people.
A new generation of hospitality concept creators understood that the game has changed. MA people, an agency specialized in concepts and brands for hotels, is one of those. With a fresh approach to marketing and service design, they help hoteliers design concept that cater the needs of the new generation.
Today, I sit down with Magdalena and Manuela, the lovely founders of MA people, to chat about their approach, the new trends in the hospitality industry, and why placing people at the heart of every business is crucial for people’s happiness.
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 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 put all our energy into something we 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.
Can you explain how you came up with the name MA people? 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’ve understood 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 and listening to them to gain insights and understand their needs and expectations. Every hotel concept we craft focuses on humanity.
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.
The millennial generation is 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.
What are the 3 most memorable and outstanding hotel concepts you have stayed at and why?
Space at its best at Yotel London Heathrow
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.
Nature at its best at The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia
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.
Island chic at its best Milaidhoo Island, Maldives
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 in November 2016, Milaidhoo Island has received positive 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 top 4 trends in 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
- 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 with a human side will win. And that is what drives and generates sales and profits.
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