Micro Hotels: How Tiny Rooms and Communal “Living Spaces” Are Taking Over

From tiny homes to micro hotels, living spaces are shrinking. We survey the pioneers who have cashed in within the hotel industry and how normal-sized hotels can do so without shrinking.

Have you felt the pendulum swinging? After years of a “bigger, better, faster, more” mentality, there has been a sudden shift in mind-set. Micro is the buzz word on everyone’s lips. But why? And how can hotels and management companies jump on the trend without sacrificing existing spacious guest rooms to the gods of minimalism?

The Movement to Tiny and Minimalist

The resurgence of conscious minimalism, with a very modern spin, went from a slow trickle to a massive tsunami almost overnight. First, tiny homes began popping up. Unexpectedly, these petite abodes became all the rage. But what were these new tiny home owners to do with all their belongings? In stepped unexpected overnight smash Mari Kondo, a Japanese organization guru, who told us to chuck anything that didn’t “bring joy.” Small spaces, streamlined belongings, and form-meets-function design became de rigueur.

The Biggest Names in the Micro Hotel Trend

The Japanese have had micro on their radar for decades via the capsule, or pod, hotel. Designed as a space for weary white-collar businessmen to sleep for a few hours before returning to work, these tiny compartments were as bare-bones as accommodations could possibly get. That was just the precursor to these brands that have ushered in the recent wave of micro-accommodations and communal experiences.

Pod Hotels – The Modern Micro Hotel Pioneer

Pod Hotel was the first to hit the New York City scene in 2007 and hasn’t looked back yet. With innovative, engaging communal spaces and a mod, upscale IKEA vibe, Pod has the micro hotel concept sharpened to a fine point.

CitizenM – The Micro Hotel for the Boho Chic Set

First launched in Amsterdam in 2008 and now expanded to four other European cities and NYC, citizenM feels a bit like the apartment of your most hopelessly chic friend. Perks include rain showers, bedside “mood pads,” and a respectable cup of morning coffee queued up for you.

Yotel – The Sleek Minimalist Micro Hotel

Inspired by the small, luxe environment of a first-class airline cabin, Yotel’s flagship location is in Midtown NYC but locations can now be found in most major European airports. The brand balances an attention to design (ex: all-white decor) with fun communal spaces (ex: rooftop film clubs).

Arlo – The High-Style Designer’s Micro Hotel

Thanks to four-star design by AvroKo, Arlo Hotel is the micro hotel for the high-style, creative set. Warm, refined minimalism in the rooms and communal spaces is balanced by surprises like a general store with a curated selection of small-batch “indie snacking bundles.”

Marriott’s Moxy Hotels – The Micro Hotels Geared Toward Millennials

With selfie elevators stocked with props and “living room” communal spaces meant to look and feel like your neighborhood coffee shop, Marriott is betting big on going small for millennials (who can handle the price point that a micro hotel can provide). They’ve announced a full slate of Moxy properties scheduled to open in the next two years.

When Rooms Go Small, Hyper Local Common Areas Are a Big Deal

Every independent hotel – and perhaps just every hotel – now strives to make its food and beverage outlets and spa destinations in their own right. In short: Many of these micro hotels have got it right with their highly tailored, bespoke communal spaces reminiscent of the kind of living room, rooftop deck, or pool patio we all wish we could have. But beyond dressing up old spaces in new clothes, what can non-micro hotels do to capitalize on the trend?

Experiential Travel: How Standard-Sized Hotels Can Go Micro and Hyper Local

The micro hotels that are hot right now are offering a chance to “live like a local” through exposure to local brands, local experiences, and local culture. All part of a growing trend, this kind of experiential travel allows travelers to be immersed in their chosen destination. We’ve brainstormed a list of ideas that may allow regular-sized hotels to take advantage of the trend. We’ll admit, some of these ideas are of the pie-in-the-sky variety, but hopefully they get you thinking of opportunities you could execute.

  • Host a pop-up marketplace for local artisans on a function room or outdoor area. With pop-up markets like Indie Craft Parade and American Field drawing huge crowds, this is another idea that makes for great destination marketing to both travelers and locals alike.
  • A rotating artist-in-residence program can bring the local community inside your hotel’s walls, infuse guests into the destination, and spruce up a tired communal space. Find the artist, showcase their artwork, perhaps invite them to come speak about their work as an event, and tell their story to your guests.
  • Go the other way around with your own pop-up shop in nearby high traffic areas. Reinforce your brand by selling branded and unique destination-centric gifts. Look for a spot in your destination’s major metro market, taking a cue from Lark Hotels.
  • Reimagine your communal spaces for millennials. Whether it’s for work or leisure, this generation wants to be able to meet up, mingle, and relax together. Take a cue from Pod 39’s charming rooftop bar, where guests can chat and sip beneath the open sky and twinkling strands of lights.
  • Have a little extra parking lot space next to your beach? Rent a fleet of Airstream trailers, and offer a chance for fun-loving travelers the chance to experience a kitschy, throwback vacation.
  • Is there an on-property wooded glen that’s the picture of peaceful relaxation? Add a few tiny home hotel rooms for the traveler who wants the private cottage experience but can’t quite afford a bricks and mortar cottage.
  • Looking to add some local flavor? Once a week, invite a fleet of food trucks to turn your parking lot into a multicultural foodie extravaganza. Not only can you market this as one of your hotel’s attractions to potential guests, but it can be marketed to the local community, drawing in more locals. Not only will this idea draw traffic and build brand awareness, but food trucks often pay either a set fee or a percentage of their profits out to the owner of the land where they park – and a little extra revenue is never a bad thing.

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