Private, but together: the new micro-hotel sleep experience of Motto by Hilton

Oct 25, 2019

Hostels are hot, but branding them as such is not – especially in the US where the concept has never been embedded in travel or youth culture.

Even so, America is about to be initiated with the hostel concept as things heat up further with a breed of fresh hospitality brands. Call them boutique, budget, micro-, millennial, cubes, or pods – many of the new travel accommodation offerings in the US are drawing on one of the best elements traditional youth hostels offer: inviting and social communal spaces.

One of those is Motto by Hilton, a new brand announced by Hilton in October 2018. Motto has been dubbed a ‘lifestyle micro-hotel’ and promises to offer travellers ‘affordable style in coveted urban destinations’. Ahead of participating in the inaugural STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference in the Americas 19-20 November 2019, Motto’s Director of Brand Management Emily Silberstein agreed to speak with us about the new micro-hotel format and its links to hostel accommodation concepts.

Motto by Hilton will offer “affordable style in coveted urban destinations” – which destinations are those and why are they coveted?
We are evaluating prospective Motto by Hilton locations based on insights we’ve learned about where our guests want to explore. Some are staples (i.e. New York City or London) while others are more emerging hotspots (i.e. Savannah or Indianapolis). Today’s travelers want to experience popular urban destinations, and we want to put them in the heart of the action with an offering that is flexible and accessible, especially in locations where space is at a premium, whether they are traveling or a local stopping by for work or play, solo or in a group.

For example, we have several Motto properties in various stages of development in top destinations such as Atlanta, Washington D.C., New York City, Savannah, Lima, Mexico City, and London to name a few.

Hilton President and CEO Christopher Nassetta has said that Motto by Hilton will bring to market “something the industry has never experienced with its flexible and affordable room product, desirable locations and guest-empowered service.” What makes now the right time to bring this to market?
The hotel industry is one with great growth potential, and the desires and needs of travelers are constantly evolving. Therefore, demand for innovative and distinctive hotel brands is higher than ever.

With Motto, we started by evaluating the emerging lifestyle market to understand the opportunity to enhance the shared room concept. Extensive research showed that travelers who stay in hostels do not like rooming with strangers and often just book with friends or family. They want more from their experience but are limited by current options in the market. We also found that guests are focused on value, location and experience above all else, and their needs were not being met at an affordable price point.

So, as we continue to develop Motto, we will validate our research with potential owners and guests to ensure we are truly delivering on unmet market needs, literally building the brand alongside them.

Hilton has reportedly examined ‘lifestyle hostels’ globally to assess opportunities in travel accommodations featuring shared and social spaces. Can you tell us about this research and how the findings shaped the Motto by Hilton concept?
We initially started exploring the lifestyle hostel space, gaining inspiration from certain core elements such as the community vibe, local design and connection, and the ability to travel in a group and feel a sense of togetherness.

Using these findings,  Motto by Hilton offers an innovative solution to accommodate both a private sleep experience as well as groups who are looking for that sense of community and togetherness. Rooted in insights, the team developed a first-of-its-kind, patent-pending ‘linking room’ concept – rooms will connect in a chain so guests can book 2, 3, 4, 5 or more rooms in advance to accommodate travelers in groups. As a key feature of Motto, these rooms create a unique social and group environment. When developing the brand, we found that 30 percent of Motto guests would book connecting rooms for group travel, 40 percent of group leisure travelers view connecting rooms as highly important and 90 percent of Motto guests are willing to pay to guarantee connecting rooms.

In addition to guest rooms, the Motto Commons will also offer a central gathering space for locals and guests alike. The Motto Commons will be at the center of everything, providing access to and seating for the coffee house, bar and check-in. Everything in the Commons will be an extension of the community through partnerships with local bars, coffee brands and food vendors, and will have varied seating (work, group, lounge, private rooms), convenient power plugs and plenty of natural light.

Is Motto by Hilton a hostel-inspired concept? Why not call it a hostel?
Motto capitalizes on the best elements of a hostel – activated social spaces, great locations, locally relevant design and food and beverage and communal vibe – but also offers guests efficient, well-designed rooms that provide a premium, private sleep experience. As mentioned above, research showed that travelers who stay in hostels do not always enjoy rooming with strangers. With the introduction of Motto, we’ve created a competitive brand offering that focuses only on prime, urban locations, as well as a flexible, non-prototypical design. Guests will get a great sleep experience with premium mattresses, blackout window shades, white noise apps and other sound-absorbing materials in Motto guest rooms. Additionally, our patent-pending linking room concept which allows guests to book multiple linking rooms in advance is a prime differentiator from other brands and hostels.

Hilton has said the group’s research indicated that ‘hostel-goers did not want to share rooms with strangers and wanted an enhanced hostel experience’ – Based on your research, what were the things that hostel users did appreciate that made it over to the Motto concept?
As mentioned above, when evaluating the lifestyle hostel market, extensive research showed that guests often travel in groups, but there are few optimal group travel options within the hotel industry. When developing the brand, we found that 30 percent of Motto guests would book linking rooms for group travel, 40 percent of group leisure travelers view connecting rooms as highly important, and 90 percent of Motto guests are willing to pay to guarantee connecting rooms. Therefore, the ability to link 2, 3, or 4+ rooms is a concept that has been an integral role in the development of the Motto brand. Hostel users appreciate efficient rooms, activated social spaces, food and beverage designed by local brands, and the prime location.  

Do you think that young travellers from North America have different preferences than young travellers from other world regions when it comes to travel lodging? How has Motto by Hilton integrated any of these considerations to the Motto experience?
Globally-minded from the start, Motto recognizes that young travelers from all over the world have different needs and preferences when they travel. Research showed us that generally, Europe and Asia Pacific are much more used to and familiar with hostel and micro-hotel lodging options than we are in North America where it is becoming a growing trend. In developing Motto, we’ve actually been able to take key learnings from those regions and implement them.

With Motto, we are targeting travelers who are looking for shared or communal experiences in prime, urban locations, whether traveling for work or play, solo or in a group. Research showed that these travelers are willing to make smart trade-offs to experience higher quality meals, authentic local culture, moments and memories.  They plan trips to new places frequently, are sought after for travel advice, seek spontaneous moments, often travel in groups, look for affordable options and have higher expectations and values when engaging with products and services.

Motto by Hilton will be plugged into the Hilton Honors loyalty program – was it necessary to adapt anything about your loyalty scheme for the Motto target audience?
Motto by Hilton will participate in the award-winning Hilton Honors loyalty program which is made up of 94 million members. Members will have access to benefits such as Digital Key, flexible payment options using Points, exclusive member discounts and free wifi to name a few. Additionally, through Hilton’s Connected Room technology, guests can use the Hilton Honors app on their mobile phone as the in-room remote control to their television programming, lighting, temperature and window shades – a unique and sustainable design element of Hilton’s Travel with Purpose initiative. Motto is the first Hilton brand to fully implement Connected Room across all hotels.

Also, to give guests increased flexibility, specific to Motto, we are currently working on a cost-effective credit solution for Gold and Diamond Hilton Honors members, such as a voucher guests can use on-site at the bar, coffee shop, etc. Additionally, multiple Hilton Honors member will be able to receive points for a group stay at Motto.  

Tell us something about yourself, Emily – What kind of traveller are you? What do you like about working in the hospitality industry? What excites you most about the future of travel or young travellers?
I consider myself to be a spontaneous traveler – I may plan out an upcoming trip in just under a few weeks (depending on where it is and who I am traveling with). I also love travelling with my dog, so anywhere my husband and I can bring him is ideal. When traveling with my two young children, we tend to seek out trips that are driveable.

I love working in hospitality because – you guessed it – the hospitable culture. People are genuinely caring and passionate about what they do. It also gives me the opportunity to explore the world and experience new places and people. And I cannot say this without mentioning that Hilton was recently named the #1 Best Place to Work in the U.S. and #2 Best Place to Work in the World 🙂

Finally, what excites me about the future of travel and young travelers. For starters, there are so many more options today than there ever were before. With Motto for example, we saw in our research that young people (70%) are looking for affordable lodging options in prime destinations where they can have awesome experiences, but, in the past, they may have had to stay outside of the city or away from the action. With Motto, being in the heart of it all will be accessible. Additionally, I would say the evolving technology today is pretty incredible. It takes away some of the more transactional parts of a hotel stay and frees you up for those meaningful connections and experiences.

Meet Emily and learn more about Motto by Hilton at the STAY WYSE Hostel Business Conference in Miami, Florida 19-20 November 2019 – there’s still time to register.