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Design Hotels: Why contemporary furniture is not enough
Wednesday, 13th March 2013
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB Berlin 2013
US economist and "urban theorist" Richard Florida said, 'Cities are the new countries.'

Design Hotels go a step further and the German thought leader Claus Sendlinger claims "Neighbourhoods are the new cities". He shows the way to the side streets of the world's most creative locations and on which of the five luxury levels you should position your hotel.

Born in Augsburg, Germany, in 1963, Claus Sendlinger, looked back on many years of experience in the event and travel industry as well as marketing of lifestyle hotels in a keynote speech at the ITB Berlin.

Sedlinger is a product of the youth-culture generation which, according to him, was born from the "colorful-culture-concept" found in New York's legendary Studio 54 Club. Eventually, the founders of MTV picked up on this, and through mass-media transmitted this "cultural revolution" – paving the way for the first lifestyle generation. Soon after MTV's founding, the still undefined concept known as "lifestyle" took on a new form with the founding of Condé Nast Travel magazine.

Claus Sendlinger, Design hotels AG

"With the birth of Condé Nast Travel, for the first time we find a credible and an incredibly visual source of inspiration for travelling", Sedlinger told 4Hoteliers.

"Today the market, world-wide, is filled with such magazines. They not only inspire, but they also tell a lot about the mind-sets prevailing in society. Today, when I travel, I cannot resist stopping off at a newsstand to pick up a local lifestyle magazine."

Wallpaper first time defined the term "lifestyle"

In 1996 the magazine Wallpaper was founded and, for the first time, defined the term "lifestyle", in the current sense. "But even the term can be misleading", Sendlinger admitted. He told his ITB audience that "lifestyle" does not mean any one particular thing, "because everyone defines it a bit differently for themselves". But he did understand Wallpaper's concept, underlining that he enjoyment and pleasures of life now went beyond bars and restaurants – moving on into hotels, electronics "and virtually everything that is surrounding us today."

After getting his degree in public relations, Claus Sendlinger embarked on a career in event planning and PR for hotels and clubs. This opened his doors to the lifestyle market and at the age of 23 Claus Sendlinger founded Coordinates GmbH, an incentives and events agency.

In 1991 he laid the foundation for Design Hotels with Travel Trends, a label providing high-end lifestyle vacations. In 1993 Claus co-founded Design Hotels Inc. in Sausalito, California, which began as a marketing agency for hotels and later incorporated a reservations system.

A design hotel needs more than just a visual character

"It took me 5 years to figure out an effective business model for my hotels. The democratization of design and affordability played one role in my concept. I also found that beautiful things could be functional or placed dynamically. Just having contemporary furniture was not enough. An all-around concept was essential," he told hoteliers.

What Sendlinger found was that a solid concept was needed – before the installation of art or a decision of architecture was made. "The concept is crucial… the design hotel needs to be branded with something other than only the visuals. For me, that something has a lot to do with sounds and smells as well as well as integration into the local environment, whether it be urban or natural. These are important factors which bring life into my concept of a design hotel," he said.  Sendlinger added that corporate responsibility and sustainability are crucial factors for future strategy.

Tell the guests a story and let they feel the uniqueness

"Only once these factors are in place, can one decide on the visual strategy. In the end, the hotel needs to tell a story and the guests need to feel this uniqueness," Sendliger told 4Hoteliers.

These are precepts which Sendlinger followed during the expansion of his enterprise. He tapped into new markets across the globe as lifestyle tourism picked up momentum. The creative network and services generated through Design Hotels then formed the basis for the foundation of Lebensart global networks AG, which was renamed to Design Hotels AG in 2004.

Sendlinger concluded his presentation by suggesting what "Lebensart", (German for lifestyle) meant to him. He suggested would-be lifestyle hoteliers to use the luxury industry as their key motivators in creating a design hotel – pointing out to the five stages of luxury that an entrepreneur should follow:
  • Freedom of choice,
  • discernment and worth,
  • emotion and experience,
  • responsibility and awareness, as well as
  • intellectuality and poetry.
Arts have become rare in business world

Through freedom of choice, intellectual property and access to information plays an important role in establishing a brand. But that brand needs uniqueness and public awareness. Luxury brands usually attract people accustomed to this lifestyle.

But they want to add value to their lives by being offered something different, with deep, discerning meaning – such as connection to a brand's heritage, for example.

With emotion and experience, Sendlinger says that focusing on traditional quality, artisanship and exclusivity are essentials of modern day sophistication, arts essentially lost in the "mass produced" business world. But sophistication which is not socially responsible can stymie growth in the long run.

With this in mind, an entrepreneur can add value to his business by considering charity and other forms of sustainable behavior. And through intellectuality and a poetic sense, that business can be perceived by its guests as one in tuned with nature – "since nature is the key".

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.

Roland also heads the annual
4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams for the 5th consecutive years.

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