BROOKLYN, United States — For the past 10 years, market reports have indicated that consumers claim to be increasingly influenced by growing environmental concerns. However, despite the consistency of these reports regarding consumer sentiment, there are precious few businesses that have succeeded in convincing consumers to alter their spending habits in order to decrease their ecological footprint.
One brand that is succeeding in doing so however is 1 Hotels. Its Brooklyn Bridge hotel, with its rooftop’s cinematic skyline playing host to the sixth BoF500 Gala in September, has held events for Conde Nast, Goop and Gigi Hadid. Opening in 2017, the property is the latest 1 Hotel to open from SH Hotels & Resorts. Guests can expect state-of-the-art, energy efficient heating and cooling systems, and rainwater reclamation systems, low-energy lightbulbs throughout the hotel and green cleaning solvents, along with smaller touches like access to electric cars, Keetsa mattresses and living green elements in each room.
By combining innovative new technologies with consumers’ evolving attitudes towards what constitutes attractive functionality and responsible service, the hotel is positioning itself in a growing segment of the market — driven by the increasing spending power of ecologically conscious Gen Z and Millennial consumers.
To hear more, BoF sat down with SH Hotels & Resorts’ president Arash Azarbarzin to hear more about attracting conscious consumers and reimagining luxury along more sustainable lines.
What is 1 Hotels seeking to achieve with its mission-based hospitality strategy?
We want to act as pioneers in the industry. We believe we are the first mission-based hospitality company. That mission states that we want to create a sustainable hotel experience. A hotel is a unique opportunity for being a platform for change — our guests are making themselves at home in our hotels and thereby experience changes that result in a more sustainable lifestyle. You see this in the simplest example of bringing nature and plants indoors. We also strive to have no plastics in our guest rooms.
Upon creating the brand, our chief executive and founder Barry Sternlicht set out to create more than a hotel — he wanted a business with a purpose. Through building and designing the hotel, we seek to prove that you can live well while being ecologically sensitive with minimal impact to the environment. Integral to the design and building is that it is experience driven — from beetle kill pine wood from Colorado in South Beach to the reclaimed wood from Hurricane Sandy that is used for private events at Brooklyn Bridge, each hotel takes on the surrounding environment as part of our goal to integrate seamlessly.
What guided your approach to building and designing the hotel?
Not only do our guests want luxury, but the simple idea that they are doing good for themselves and the environment by staying with us are both added benefits. We expect the conscious consumer market to keep on growing in the years to come — as the environmental issues become more prevalent, people are going to continue looking for ways to integrate sustainability into their own lives.
The hotel’s green credentials are important because they allow us to align with industry best practices that are vetted by third parties and are comparable to our peers. They prevent us from “green washing” and encourage our teams toward shared industry goals, whether it’s in energy efficiency in the design of our hotels (LEED certification) or standards around removing single-use plastics out of our operations (Plastic Free Miami Beach or Oceanic Standard). We are giving our clients a luxurious experience and creating a true loyalist. We aren’t taking anything away from them, we are just doing it differently by giving them the luxury experience they want and expect.
What are the challenges in marketing a more sustainable offer?
Fortunately, we haven’t encountered much difficulty in marketing the brand. While some of our guests are more interested in the sustainability story than others, we have found that a significant portion of our guests take away something from staying with us — whether it’s the “no paper” in our hotel rooms, elimination of plastics throughout our properties, or the idea of materials having a “second use,” like the desks in our rooms at Central Park that were made out of wood from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
However, our sustainability story is a big part of the marketing of the hotel. From a partnership perspective, we look to align ourselves with companies that are also mission driven, like Town & Country’s Philanthropy Summit, or are conscious of their impact on the environment, like Tesla. We want to work with companies that are conscious of their impact on the world and the people who live in it. Aligning with similar companies only amplifies and legitimises our cause.
What are the plans for the future?
The response has been great and extremely positive. We have a very loyal clientele ranging from those who care about the environment to those who just want to stay at a beautiful hotel and enjoy a 5-star experience. As a result, we are looking to expand quickly with properties in West Hollywood, Cabo San Lucas in Mexico, and Sanya in China in 2019. We have a robust pipeline in the next 5 years that will have us grow from 5 to 25 hotels.