Why is this interesting? - The Future Hospitality Edition

On autonomy, travel, and the opportunities for new hospitality models

Colin here. There’s plenty of writing and speculation about the future of autonomous vehicles. You’ve got battles between brands, the inevitable moral questions of crashes, and debates about the technology best suited to build the category. But a question at the top of the list for me is what autonomy will mean for short-haul business travel? What does a world look like where instead of going to the airport two hours early, taking an hour flight, and then commuting into a city center, we can just take the whole trip in an autonomous vehicle (while either sleeping or working)?

There’s already quite a few prototypes of this type of vehicle, and they approximate something more like a business class cabin on an airline than a car. Also, media companies should surely be salivating. When people don’t have to focus on driving, this represents a tremendous amount of “found” time for music, movies, and other consumption. Maybe we’ll finally be able to watch all 74 episodes of that new Netflix show.

Why is this interesting? 

The real opportunity here is for hospitality to build a new business model. We’re used to the city center hotel, the standard overnight rates, and the comforts that come along with the whole package. But how will these change if instead of taking that ugly early flight to Chicago, we get into a business class-style sleeper seat and arrive in the city in the morning? This would obviously impact the hotel business (which admittedly has played with fractional stays), but it will also open up new opportunities to rethink hospitality. 

It seems to me that the idea of an arrivals lounge that you’d see at a high-end airport might fit the model much more functionally than a normal hotel. These lounges could offer a place to arrive, have a hot shower, enjoy a healthy meal, and potentially grab a quick nap before your day of meetings. It might not be the typical 24-hour book-in situation, instead offering different economics and a different experience. Luxury health clubs like Equinox are interesting in this arena as well, as they already have the footprint and a morning workout can help jumpstart an otherwise groggy day.

A new-ish startup like Hydra Studios, which provides “a network of elevated wellness spaces that provide a place for members to workout, shower, nap, meditate, and more” might be staring down a much larger business model. Right now, they are focused on the near-term priority of providing spaces for the “in-between” moments for urbanites like a shower before an event after a Soulcycle workout. But this type of shorter stay, refresh, and nourish model looks more interesting when paired with the scenario outlined above. And while the hospitality world is in an interesting phase of innovation right now in terms of home-sharing and the explosion of capital funding new ideas, it seems like this type of offering is not far off the mark of what will be needed. (CJN)

Purchase of the Day: 

I wrote about my first time playing Sonic in an earlier WITI. Now, in a timely development, you can buy a mini-size version of Sega Genesis which is coming out in mid-September just in time for hibernation. Amazing. (CJN)

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Thanks for reading,

Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)