How can luxury hotels compete with AirBnb

Legendary New York hotelier Ian Schrager has unveiled Public, a hotel concept designed by Herzog & de Meuron to counter the threat of Airbnb.

The hotel, located at 215 Chrystie Street in New York’s Bowery district, offers luxury without frills as well as an emphasis on social activity – an aspect that the home-sharing rival cannot offer, Schrager believes.

“For some reason the hotel industry in general is in denial about Airbnb,” he told Dezeen. “I think the only way is to come back with a stronger idea than Airbnb.”

“Flaunting luxury and offering it at a great price, and offering the kind of communal/social atmosphere that Public will offer, is something that Airbnb cannot. So to me, that’s the best way of dealing with that, which I perceive as a real threat in the industry.”

Public New York features 367 guest rooms, two restaurants, three bars including a rooftop terrace, and a multimedia performance space that can be configured for film screenings and theatre performances, talks and readings, art exhibitions and dance parties. It also contains a number of private apartments with interiors designed by John Pawson.

“We’re trying to approach luxury as a process almost of subtraction, rather than addition,” Schrager said, referring to the hotel’s pared-back luxury, which he describes as “tough luxe”.

“There’s been an arms race in the hotel world with the offering of amenities and services, and we kind of took a step back and said ‘what’s really important to people?’ So we cut out things that we thought were irrelevant, that didn’t make sense anymore.”

Frills that have been cut include room service: “If you want room service, sleep in the lobby,” Schrager jokes.

“We don’t have bellmen, because everybody has suitcases on wheels,” he adds. “We cut out all those costs, and pass them onto the customer. But we’re not dumbing down or cutting down the level of sophistication. We’re just cutting out the things that people don’t care about. Gold buttons, gold epaulettes, fine bone china.”

“I do believe that Public is the first new idea since Steven and I introduced the boutique hotel 25 years ago. I do think that this is another disruption within the industry, providing really, really great luxury service at an affordable price. Just think about it, it’s a paradigm, it’s a new idea.”

Part of the thinking behind Public is to help the hotel industry fight back against home-sharing site Airbnb, he said, adding that the sector is repeating the mistake it made when it ignored the rising threat of online travel agencies.

“Airbnb is having an impact,” he said. “Airbnb are already indicating their ambitions to open more hotels, and offer more and more services. The thing to do is those things that Airbnb won’t be able to do, which is communal and social aspects of staying in a hotel, and all the other exciting entertainment that we can offer that they can’t. They don’t offer social experiences.”

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