The Solution: 5 Ways To Get A Hotel Humming [UPDATED]

Welcome to The X Challenge: where we invite brands and businesses to submit a challenge they’re facing and seek insights and solutions from the WXO community.

In The Brief, we asked the WXO community if they could come up with some ways to help Zoku, a hybrid hotel brand seeking new, experiential ways to utilise its spaces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are the four solutions we thought worth sharing…

Solution 1: Don’t Reinvent The Wheel, Go Shopping

The respondent: Jason Lambert is an art director and senior concept designer with 15+ years of experience delivering creative solutions to build emotional connections with a diverse clientele.

The solution, summed up:

Zoku should experiment with short-term ideas to keep the business afloat that may become long-term, even once our shared pandemic experience subsides.

Optimistically speaking, our shared experience during the last year will likely seem short-lived in the next 6-12 months. I do think that some level of normalcy will prevail for most of the world, and we should design with that in mind. In the next 12 months, I would encourage any company to experiment with short-term (that could become long-term) ideas to keep their business afloat. Short-term solutions don’t come with a large sum of capital attached and in a perfect world, leverage partnerships and sponsors.

A handful of ideas that may help drive guests to the hotel include:

  • Leverage what has worked for you in the past. Showcase new stories for your live theatre nights, such as Magic Castle, and Adventurers Club.
  • Room galleries like Art at the Rendon, Madcap Motel, and projected mapped room demos.
  • Host gaming tournament “pods” complete with amenities; dining, masseuse, guided meditation, etc.
  • Provide box seats for sporting events.
  • Be a YouTube space for creative production.
  • Host a trans-media brand experience with a pop-up shop; Batman: The Dark Knight, Flynn’s @ Comic-Con, etc.
  • Create space for one-on-one personal training, both physical and mental.
  • Participate in outdoor movie nights, art walks, or an open-air food market such as Smorgasburg.
  • Consider more flexibility with your spaces by offering daytime, overnight, and long-term rentals.
  • Sounds crazy, but… day care!

What are the risks in this solution? What could go wrong?

The biggest risk to any business is not doing anything in moments of downtime. It’s fairly simple to define the scope of the work by asking ourselves some rational questions upfront:

  • What are the present and future Covid outlooks in the regions in which you operate? How will that influence the scope of your experiences and how they will be scheduled?
  • What kind of capital do you have for these new experiences? Are you open to sponsors and partnerships?
  • Can you adopt an existing experience? Additionally, can you partner with another hotel or creative agency that may be further into the development and delivery of a new experience?
  • How long are you committed to these new experiences that may take some time to develop?

What are the benefits of this solution? Is this incremental or radical change?

With the solutions you choose, they should align and enhance your business story. You will likely be known for catering and hosting such events and that starts to define your hotel’s culture. Being conservative with incremental change in our new environment would likely be the most responsible business position.

Solution 2: Think Like A Knowmad

Be Tribal. Photo by Israel Gil

The respondent: Morten Raahauge in Copenhagen is a certified Experience Economy Expert who has been working in experience design for a decade. He won the 2011 OECD Transport Achievement Award and an internal service award in Deutsche Bahn for implemented experience design in Arriva (public transport).

The solution, summed up:

Zoku should treat its customers like a nomadic, or “knowmadic”, tribe – and its spaces as the festival that brings them together.

I first heard the term “knowmad” from Ronald van der Hoff, the founder of workspace platform seats2meet. It refers to the new breed of highly specialized travelling workers who can work on any project for any organization and from any place in the world.

What’s true for most traditional nomadic people in the world is that they gather for yearly festivals – to celebrate, to trade, to meet, to share culture and, possibly, to find a future spouse.

So in bringing together these “knowmads” that form a sizeable chunk of its audience, Zoku should ask itself the same questions as any clan or tribe:

  1. What is the culture of our tribe? The language? And the tacit knowledge that they just “know”?
  2. How do we recognize another clan member – for example, through the use of emblems?
  3. What is the festival equivalent of Zoku? And what would Zoku look like if it was a festival?
  4. If Naadam Festival champions the skills of riding, archery, throat-singing, wrestling etc, what are the skills that Zoku masters?
  5. How can Zoku create a culture which is “by design”, as with Disney?

If Zoku focus on answering all of the above, they can transcend the role of a hotel to become something truly transformative – a series of experiences revealed over time. Not just “time well spent”, but “time well invested”.

Meetings at Zoku. Photo by Zoku Artist in Residence, Lucas Vasilko

For example, seats2meet call themselves a serendipity machine. How can Zoku likewise become a place for relevant yet unexpected encounters? Is my neighbor a specialist in some field I need help in? Is the guy across the hall a marketing wizard? Could they benefit from my knowledge? Moreover, can Zoku facilitate our meeting without me even knowing? Could they pre-book a lunch meeting if I accepted? Because we are a tribe, and Zoku both knows and respects my needs.

It’s all about, as Zoku states, providing the “physics” of a network, but in a respectful way.

Solution 3: Create An Experiences Menu

Yoga session. Photo by Carl Barcelo/Unsplash

The respondent: Yelena Petrovic is an expert in hotel design management based in the Middle East, as well as an architect and interior designer. She is passionate about hotel design and the hotel guest experience and is used to dealing with very demanding clients.

The solution, summed up:

Zoku should create an “experiences menu” that allows guests to transform the function of their Loft spaces on an hourly, on-demand basis.

Zoku already has an identity, a story and all the attributes needed to attract avant-garde bearers of ideas, but also remain attractive to regular customers. Sometimes it’s only small and simple tweaks that are needed to lead to great success.

Photostudio hire. Photo by William F. Santos

I would propose introducing the following to Zoku’s “menu” of experiences to provide a different use for its spaces on an on-demand, pre-booked basis:

  1. Private yoga sessions and relaxation time after exercise, with healthy juices and snacks provided. Sessions could be two, three or more hours per customer depending on their requirements, inclusive of cleaning afterwards. There could also be an option to add equipment such as yoga mats when booking.
  2. Private tuition sessions, such as preparation for university exams, inclusive of snacks and cleaning afterwards. Again, the timing would depend on class duration.
  3. “Daycations” for locals, limited to certain hours as per request. Groups of friends could unwind in the Loft over drinks or food, prepare for meetings, watch movies, etc. 
  4. Allow artists, painters, writers, graphic designers, illustrators and so on to book the space as a studio. The Loft can accommodate the artist on an hourly basis with food and drinks provided, so they can work without disturbances. The Loft could also be converted into a photographer’s studio. 
  5. Transform the space into a games room, where users could either be connected to other players over the Internet or play alone.

Solution 4: Partner With Conferences To Make Mini-Events

Work ‘mini-break’ treats. Photo by Marcus Loke/Unsplash

The respondent: Tiffany Bennett is a director and Experience Creator / Director at JOURNI Marketing in Adelaide, Australia. She believes that customer experience is the key ingredient to building a successful business in today’s world and is a forgotten step in marketing.

The solution, summed up:

Zoku should partner with live events and conferences to host miniature, Covid-safe versions that are a hybrid of digital and IRL content.

My idea for the new experience for Zoku is something I’ve been thinking about ever since Covid-19 disrupted the whole live events world and in particular conferences, conventions and learning events.

I used to love attending a few of these events every year. Part of the experience was going to another destination and staying in a hotel away from the family – like my own mini-holiday – as well as connecting with other like-minded people. I know that events have adapted and are now delivering their content through virtual platforms, but unfortunately they’re missing some of the key elements that motivate people to spend time and money on attending.

My idea is for Zoku to become a remote partner of such conferences and offer packages where people can book to stay for the duration of the conference, watch online content either alone, in small groups in their rooms or in a larger event space, and come together for lunch, dinner or drinks to discuss their thoughts and ideas from the day.

Zoku communal space. Photo courtesy of Zoku

By working with the events as partners, the hotels could set up the event branding, have welcome packs in the guest’s rooms, and even invite local businesses to set up a small exhibition space similar to an in-person event. There could be so much done to make it an immersive, memorable experience that people simply couldn’t create in their own homes or offices.

Solution 5: The Zoku Club – A Life Enhancement Center For Both Guests And Locals

The respondent: John Hays has spent 15 years working extensively in all facets of resort and hotel development. He developed his Zero Point Collective concept as an effective way to share transformational, regenerative and life-affirming experiences from around the world with those in the everyday world who need it most, so they can live each day more effectively, mindfully, passionately and collectively as one global leisure family.

The solution, summed up:

Zoku should create a revolutionary type of “experience spa” that is a life-enrichment center and addresses the consumer’s highest aspirations and deepest desires for wellbeing, transformation, travel, healthy lifestyle and personal growth, all in one dynamic, vibrant space within Zoku. 

This is a social club for the discerning adventurer devoted exclusively to providing members with regenerative or transformational experiences. Whether for guests, those in the local community or nomads living in the hotel, it’s a market-defining amenity that fulfils their longing to find community, co-creation, collaboration and connection.

To enter the space is to step into a dynamic, vibrant sanctuary whose sole purpose is to awaken unexplored possibilities, connect to dreams and create a path to personal expansion using:   

  • A Gathering Space and Chill Lounge: a calm lounge that provides an ever-evolving array of experiences where members can be in an immersive environment to explore or simply to chill.
  • A Community of Fellow Seekers: group activities in the space itself or in the local area with others who share a common outlook from a network of fellow enthusiasts across the globe.
  • Personal Growth Programming: carefully curated content that features expansive and life-affirming choices from multiple life disciplines, but all with the power to transform.  
  • The Alchemists: certified Experience Coaches to design and customize a path for the seeker, while making sure goals and milestones are adhered to along the way to create new habits. 
  • Regenerative Travel and Goods and Services: an aggregator for both transformational travel experiences and consumer products that offer members “soul moments” with lasting impact. 

Working as one, these elements offer the ultimate guest experience while creating a resort-like space for those from the local community to enjoy, so both can come together for a value-based, passion-driven leisure experience and share the pleasure of each other’s company. 

Ultimately, the Zoku Club would be a one-of-a-kind destination focused on leisure, travel and community that would deliver the positive, adventurous lifestyle that is highly desired and idealized by the same people who believe in Zoku’s ideals, mission, and purpose… but now have a reason to participate with the magic of Zoku daily.

Over to you…

What do you think of the solutions? Like? Don’t like? Or perhaps you’d like to build on them? Or maybe you could do better? Our mission at the WXO is to provide a platform for experience designers and stagers to showcase their ideas, and debate the best way to create better experiences, so don’t hesitate to share your solution here.

And if you have a challenge you’d like to inject with some fresh thinking from the WXO community? Click here to fill out The X Challenge Brief Form to apply to have your challenge to be the next X Challenge.