If you have visited Belfast City Centre recently you may have noticed a clutch of new hotels underway. This includes the proposed 5 star Linen hotel on Donegall Square, or the 23 story Windsor House, recently acquired by Hastings to build the “Grand Central Hotel”,
But it is perhaps the “Bullitt” Hotel, on the corner of Victoria and Ann Street, that has the greatest potential to shake up the industry. Focusing squarely on the millennial generation Bullitt dispenses with the expensive and under-utilised add ons to focus on what matters most. So out go bell boys and trouser presses, and in come super-fast broadband, espresso bars, and live music and events. The tired hotel restaurant has been ditched in favour of branded hipster venues – “Taylor & Clay” for food, “Baltic Bar” for a beer.
So why does this matter? Well Bullitt is perhaps inspired by W Hotels, and imports their highly innovative and achingly cool hotel philosophy into the local market. Launched in New York in 1998, W Hotels pioneered a new kind of luxury that incorporates popular culture, contemporary design, and an irreverent attitude. More a lifestyle brand than a hotel chain, W employs customer focused retail designers rather than spreadsheet focused hotel designers. It turned its lobby into a living room, and has been known to transform spaces into pop-up art galleries or retail boutiques. It is constantly asking “what’s new” and “what’s next”. As Paul James, Global Brand Leader states, “Design is core to the DNA of the W hotels brand.”
The focus for this is not so much to make money, but to provide a customer experience beyond the hotel. And of course in the 21st century experience sells – less than two decades since launch there are now 46 W hotels in 24 countries.
If Bullitt can successfully replicate this design led philosophy it will help deliver a great deal of innovation and excitement into the hotel market – and may have competitors revising their own offer in response. And at Oscar & Joy, whose company mission is to “bring design to life”, we welcome that as a very good thing.