Locke - Pandemic-Resistant Hybrid Hotels

The design-led brand Locke represents one of the worlds leading and fast-growing companies in developing 'Hybrid Hotels' or 'Aparthotels'.

Over the last decade, accommodation types have been almost equally split between hotels and home rentals, such as Airbnb. Whilst home rentals are usually more convenient and spacious than hotel rooms, their downside is usually the lack of service and extra amenities. On the other side, traditional hotel rooms come usually with better amenities and level of service, although they tend to be more expensive and less spacious.

Over the last decade, accommodation types have been almost equally split between hotels and home rentals, such as Airbnb. Whilst home rentals are usually more convenient and spacious than hotel rooms, their downside is usually the lack of service and extra amenities. On the other side, traditional hotel rooms come usually with better amenities and level of service, although they tend to be more expensive and less spacious.

Over the last decade, accommodation types have been almost equally split between hotels and home rentals, such as Airbnb. Whilst home rentals are usually more convenient and spacious than hotel rooms, their downside is usually the lack of service and extra amenities. On the other side, traditional hotel rooms come usually with better amenities and level of service, although they tend to be more expensive and less spacious.

Recently, a new category has started to emerge, blending the best of the two worlds: the so-called 'Hybrid Hotels' or 'Aparthotels'. As the name suggests, aparthotels consist of spacious apartments which are serviced as hotel rooms.

Over the past few years, hybrid hotels have been revived by the initiative of a few pioneering brands. The design-led brand Locke represents one of the worlds leading and fast-growing companies within this category. The brand has developed an innovative hybrid concept able to compete with both traditional hotels and home rentals on the mid-market space.

Opening seven properties in the past four years of which three during 2020 alone, the brand is an exceptional example of business innovation and resilience, managing to thrive through one of the most challenging years the hospitality industry has ever witnessed.

A new way to experience a hotel stay

With seven properties across London, Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin, and other six currently under development in Dublin, Berlin, Lisbon, Munich and Copenhagen, Locke is one of the most ambitious and fast-growing hybrid hotel brands in Europe.

Already from the opening of the first hotel in 2016, the brand has been seen as revolutionary within the hospitality landscape. The success behind Locke lies in its unique philosophy, strategy and branding, radically different from the competition.

But what does differentiate Locke from the rest? Essentially, the way a hotel is conceived. For Locke, a hotel is made to be lived in, not just slept in: it is a place where you can unwind in your own, wonderfully designed space, and where you can ultimately find the time to connect with yourself but also engage with others.

Creating a new hybrid concept

To better understand the concept developed by Locke, we first need to point out the difference between traditional hotels and aparthotels.

Traditional hotels are usually developed to accommodate guests for short stays, where the stay itself is more a necessity than a pleasure. They are great if you want to live the 'city life' and have a bed and a hot shower for the night. Even with extra amenities, such as restaurant, bars, gym and the high quality of the service, their offer tends to be focused on the overnight itself. Especially within cities, among the most popular hotel types are 'boutique hotels', namely those medium-small hotels offering a contemporary vibe, unique atmosphere and central location.

On the other hand, aparthotels are serviced apartment complexes adopting a hotel-style service and management system. They are ideal for those who are looking for longer stays and combine the advantages of apartment living with the facilities of a hotel. Aparthotels have the advantage to make guests fill at home but at the same time provide them with extra services that make their stay more comfortable.

Locke's hybrid hotel concept takes inspiration from both worlds adding unique features that make their hotels unique. In fact, every Locke hotel blends the design, quality of the service and management of a boutique lifestyle hotel with the traditional aparthotel format. Working with some of the best interior designers, Locke creates spaces that inspire people and make them feel looked after, getting rid of the 'boring' and standardised aparthotels features.

Locke works with world-renowned architects, designers and the community to create original, inspiring spaces to live in central locations" - lockeliving.com

Every Locke hotel is made of a group of serviced apartments, with fitted kitchens and spacious living rooms, available for either short stays or long term lets. The apartments come in different sizes and features and have a contemporary minimalistic design, instantly recognisable across all properties. The designers have worked to recreate a home-like atmosphere but adding a subtle 'modern-luxury' vibe that makes guests feel in a premium living environment.

But Locke's true success lies not only in the apartments but in what has been created around them. Adopting the philosophy that a hotel shouldn't be just a place to sleep but a place to live, Locke has created a 'democratic space', inspired by boutique hotels but less pretentious and more sociable. All the hotels in fact include flexible co-working spaces, all-day restaurants, cafés and lounge bars, gyms and yoga studios, and even locally-inspired cultural programmes provided by local hosts.

You’ll also find the things that make being away from home something to look forward to. The thoughtful design, delicious food and good vibes of a boutique hotel. A calendar of events to discover. As well as a team of hosts who are always here to help. - lockeliving.com

The endless possibilities let every guest free to choose what suits them best: whether a lazy stay in the spacious apartment or an immersion in the local atmosphere in one of the many bars and communal spaces, Locke has an option for all.

Thanks to its iconic design, each Locke hotel is recognisable and unique at the same time: the design reflects always the spirit of the neighbourhood where the property is located, and most of the hotels are realised in collaboration with local architects and designers. According to Locke, every hotel is conceived to be a 'Vertical Neighbourhood' where guests can experience the local atmosphere.

Targeting the modern traveller

Tapping into the needs of those who feel a hotel doesn’t fit their way of living, the unique offer developed by Locke has been developed with a clear target audience in mind: those young creatives travelling for work or leisure, who would prefer to stay in a more stylish place than a traditional business hotel, a space to call 'their own' while they visit the city.

Especially focused on the long-stay guest market, Locke's offer seems perfectly developed for those millennials, remote workers, digital nomads and business travellers who want (or need) to spend some time in a new city without giving up the comforts of their homes.

We believe life shouldn’t stop when you’re away from home. So when you stay with us, you stay on your terms - whatever they may be - lockeliving.com

Flexibility and personalisation at the core

The concept developed by Locke though is flexible enough to be appealing to all kinds of travellers. The possibility to book apartments for single or multiple days (or even months) makes the offer appealing to any kind of traveller. As opposed to traditional aparthotels then, Locke is more flexible in its nature: its offer can suit both long-term guests or city breakers indifferently. With this target in mind, it came naturally for the brand to focus on gateway cities across the UK and Europe.

On top of a flexible stay, Locke also gives the possibility for guests and non-guests to book apartments and private spaces for meetings, conferences, or simply to run private events with family and friends within the premises of each property.

We give you the freedom and autonomy to travel your way [..] Book for a night or a year. Cook at home or explore the city. Wake up with yoga or a Bloody Mary - lockeliving.com

It is clear then how the concept of flexibility becomes a critical success factor for the brand. The combination of different booking options, appealing to both long-stay vacationers as well as short-breaks aficionados, together with the possibility to rent spaces for private events expand significantly the customer portfolio of the brand.

Strengthening brand values through locality and people

With its strong targeting and positioning, Locke is able to attract a clearly defined audience, finding a relevant market niche to sustaining the business in its rapid growth. As all successful brands though, Locke is not only basing its strategy on market indicators but on solid values, which are used to support the brand from its foundations. For Locke, the values of 'locality' and 'people' represent the main driving forces for the business.

With the word 'locality' Locke refers to the specific context where every property is located. For the lifestyle brand, a hotel shouldn't be self-referential: it should instead interact with the neighbourhood. From the design of spaces to the unique details and cultural programmes of every hotel, Locke sources locally to create a memorable guest experience.

The Kingsland Locke, one of the brand's newest property opening its door in London, and the company's fourth hotel in the capital, is an excellent example of how locality is used by Locke to enrich the guest experience.

From coffee to cocktails, music to muses, the locality is at the heart of all we do. We get under the skin of each neighbourhood, going beyond the guidebook so you can sample life as a local. Our aim is to bring together a culturally-curious community, united by mindset, not demographic. - lockeliving.com

Located in the heart of the vibrant Dalston neighbourhood, the hotel's interior has been designed by the local studio Red Deer, taking inspiration from the colours and urban heritage of the surroundings. Going beyond its appearance, the hotel lives off the creativity of the neighbourhood by partnering regularly with talented artists, artisans and creatives of Dalton for the development of the hotel's cultural programme.

Kingsland Locke's restaurant, microbrewery and coffee shop fit perfectly into the local gastronomic scene and are much-loved hang-outs for locals, too. Guests also have the possibility to pick up a bottle to enjoy in their apartments or even shop for the freshest cooking ingredients at a small grocery store within the hotel's premises.

Communicating the local spirit to its guests is therefore very important for Locke: the brand wants to give all guests the possibility to taste the life of the neighbourhood. Locke takes this task so seriously that it has trained every member of the staff to become a perfect host.

Differently from other hotels, Locke calls its staff members ‘House Hosts’. Hause Hosts are always available to advise guests on their stay and, more importantly, to give them insider tips on the city, keeping them updated on what's on in the neighbourhood and on the local scene.

Unscripted. Insightful. And on your side. Ask us what’s new and what’s on. Tell us your interests and we’ll give you insider insights on your new city. Whatever you fancy, and whatever you need, we have the knowledge and connections to make it happen. - lockeliving.com

Showing resilience through the pandemic

The global COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the hospitality sector more than any other over 2020. The high risk of contracting the virus in indoor spaces together with national lockdowns and international travel restrictions have caused the closure, in many cases permanent, of many hospitality businesses.

In a climate of global crisis and general shutdown, the business model of Locke showed exceptional resilience: the brand was not only able to keep all of its hotels running but even managed to expand its portfolio launching new properties across 2020.

The reason behind this somehow surprising countertrend lies in the intrinsic nature of the hybrid concept developed by Locke.

In fact, the hotel chain was granted permission to keep all of its hotels operative because a consistent part of the guests were long-terms renters. It would have been in fact inconvenient, as well as illogical, to evacuate the facilities and send guests back home. Also, as a result of travel restrictions, many guests prolonged their stay, and this helped the company to sustain its operations.

During the first wave of the pandemic though, Locke has not just been open for its permanent guests, but it has also hosted key workers and displaced travellers. Over the different lockdowns and local restriction tiers, the hotels became the reference point for 'essential stays' (namely, those stays connected to essential travel such as business trips), and long-stay guests, whether during the short re-opening phases the hotels were opening up their rooms, restaurants and bars to leisure guests.

During lockdowns, even if with social distancing rules in place, gyms, bars and co-working spaces have always been open for the guests who, if needed, were asked to complete self-certification forms prior to their arrival to confirm their stay was adhering to government guidelines. Also, to meet the needs of guests, Locke put into place flexible rates, with free cancellation on booking up to 24 hours prior to the stay for 1-6 night stays and up to 7 days prior to 7-28 night stays.

The flexibility and adaptability of the business model, combined with the extended-stay sector performing comparatively well throughout the pandemic were the key factors that helped the company thrive. As evidence of this, from March to October 2020 Locke properties maintained an average occupancy of 60%, with some hotels, such as the Bermonds Locke (opening in September 2020) retaining an outstanding average occupancy of 75%.

We have been incredibly fortunate that the extended-stay sector has performed comparatively well throughout the pandemic. While this year has been challenging for us all, we have benefited from the resilience and adaptability of our business model. This allowed us to push forward with our expansion plans in a time when very few hotels were opening. - Stephen McCall, CEO

Thanks to the extraordinary resilience showed by its business model, Locke was able to push forward its expansion plans, openings three new properties during 2020: the Locke at Broken Wharf (March) and the Bermonds Locke (September) in London and the Zanzibar Locke in Dublin (December).

The latest hotel, the Kingsland Locke opened its doors in Dalston (London) on January 2021. Between 2021 and 2022, further properties will be launched in Dublin, Berlin, Lisbon, Munich and Copenhagen.

The case of Locke shows the importance of investing in the creation of a flexible business model for all businesses in the hospitality sector. The crisis of 2020 was a test that only a few businesses managed to overcome unscathed, and as often happens, only the most innovative ones prevailed. Particularly, the case shows how the development of innovative hybrid concepts can be key to overcome unprecedented market challenges. The pandemic hasn't prevented the company to invest in the future, launching new properties and planning further openings, a factor that in the long term will be a competitive advantage.

Key Takeaways

Published on:
June 2020
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