BS: How did the Little National Hotel model evolve?
YD: We identified a need to provide an affordable, but luxurious base. We believe that the hotel is not the final destination, but rather part of the travel experience.
Luxury means different things to different people. We think of Little National Hotels as ‘smart luxury’, a combination of beautifully designed spaces, high amenity, in super-prime locations at a reasonable rate. Our target clients are business and leisure travellers, who want well designed and detailed spaces and who don’t necessarily spend an extensive amount of time in their hotel rooms. However, they do not want to give up on a luxurious experience when they are in their room.
We have streamlined our offering, leveraging the surrounding neighbourhood of restaurants, businesses and entertainment. We would prefer people to have an authentic local experience, rather than trying to provide an all-inclusive experience. We like to think we offer small rooms and a big experience.
BS: How does the model work?
YD: To combat high staff costs and high labour, we’ve focussed on what matters and streamlined our guest service. You don’t need a 24 hour doorman or a big room to feel like you’ve had a five star experience - what matters is a great bed, a great shower, luxurious touchpoints and professional and friendly service when you need it.
We have stripped away the unnecessary overheads. We focus on hiring the best reception, housekeeping and bar staff without the additional bell boys and doormen. We offer premium social spaces which are open to all of our guests and their invited visitors with self-service and a carefully chosen food and beverage service.
Little National Hotels are new build projects with integrated interiors. The combination of expensive real estate and high wages in Australia makes it challenging to provide hotel guests with good value. Our solution to this problem is to increase the key numbers by decreasing the room size. The cost of our 18 sqm room is similar to a 25 sqm room in other hotels, but a Little National Hotel room is far better appointed. However, by saving on floor area, we are able to compensate by increasing our overall yield of rooms.
BS: How does design support your business?
YD: We place great value on smart luxurious design. We have consciously developed our aesthetic to have a broad appeal. We target a large niche of very social travellers in the marketplace. Importantly, we do not target a particular “design” niche, believing that people of all ages recognise and enjoy considered, timeless and elegant design. Our sleeping spaces are highly planned, but there is a joy in the materiality and detail, and the rooms are small, yet beautifully presented. This is a crafted model that is consistent throughout all of our Little National Hotels.
Likewise with the concept ‘small rooms, big experience’, the social spaces within the hotels are integral to the overall guest experience and we always focus on great locations for our properties. Our social spaces are always given prime position in our hotels, but they are the first or last stop for our guests – the locations we choose are surrounded by better bars, restaurants and local experiences than most hoteliers could hope to provide.
Bates Smart are currently designing Little National Hotels in Newcastle and Sydney.