Ian Schrager does not know for sure what his hotel guests want – but he will give it to them anyway. He has never done data, focus groups, marketing surveys or interviews. He just trusts his entrepreneur’s instincts, and so far they have not let him down, according to a new podcast, part of the Amex Shaping Insights series featuring figures in luxury, travel and technology.
Schrager, co-founder of Studio 54 and a link between non-traditional boutique hotels, tells journalist Fiona McCarthy that he has eliminated the welcome ritual at his new public hotel in Manhattan so guests can make a line to their rooms via contactless technology.
He believes that the guests at Public “do not want to go to a hotel, sit down, have a glass of champagne and have a chat at the reception. You want your key and get up there. Check-in and check-out are invisible. Not existing. That’s what people want today. ”
And while technology can make the day-to-day mechanics of running a hotel cheaper and easier, there is still plenty of room for personal interactions with staff. “The guest will have many more important places than talking at the reception,” he says.
In fact, it is absolutely crucial to create the “emotional connection with the guest. How do you get it? I do not know. You hope that at the end of the day the alchemy happens.” That alchemy, he believes, comes from promoting diversity, creating an environment that makes guests feel comfortable and free – and through a fierce attention to detail.
“Not everyone sees the details,” but it does not matter, because he and his team have such a laser focus. He uses the chairs in the lobby as an example. “You talk about the stitching, the nails, the legs, the bottom of the legs. It all comes together when the whole is more than the sum of its parts – that’s magic. ”
Diversity is another major contributor to that magic. “The secret to having a very successful public space is diversity. You want to get that spice of life, the energy, the flammability. When you have that diversity, you get a kind of feeling of freedom. ”
This pursuit of freedom — and his own well-documented history of Studio 54 — continues to inform Schrager’s work. “The new luxury is a spiritual luxury, not a material one,” says Schrager, arguing that not much has changed in the last four decades since the glitter ball stopped spinning in the 54th Street club.
“If you jump forward 40 years – we are looking for the same thing. That feeling of freedom and comfort when you are treated nicely, when you feel cared for and protected, and nothing you do will hurt you – but without the chaos and everything that went on in the nightclub. ”
The future, he says, will be about further democratizing luxury and breaking down more barriers to hospitality.
He predicts “a merger” between business and leisure travel, noting that this is already happening with people going to their golf club “to play and do business.” He also likes the idea of all-inclusive city hotels, “where people pay a price and have access to everything.”