When we think of connection, the retro dial-up tone of the 90s plays its shrill tune in our minds. We’ve come a long way in digital since then, and are now living in a kind of hyper-connected boombox. For luxury hospitality there is a new currency: connection. But as we speak to some of our hospitality clients we realise that the focus isn’t on delivering silent bubbles of disconnection. Rather, hospitality brands are cultivating environments for meaningful connection with our loved ones, likeminded individuals or authentic introductions to new sounds entirely.
Iain of White Line Hotels was the first to explain that disconnection from our daily lives through travel doesn’t look like silence: “I would rather be part of the scene than disconnected — engage, react and live.” Actually, he suggests, we are at our happiest when we replace transient interactions with meaningful conversations:
“As we become increasingly lost with information overload about what we should be doing and fake engineered escapism, genuine encounters will be the canvas for that ‘disconnect moment,’ creating spaces where memories are made and true friendships forged. That could be over the communal breakfast table, found wandering along the coastal pathways of the Aran Isles, learning to cook or by sitting in that perfectly placed reading chair in the hotel library.”
It is a trend that The Future Lab commented on in their Forecast for 2019, stating that “as we become increasingly dependent on technology to feel connected to one another, a new generation of members’ clubs will nurture real-life interactions to spark more meaningful connections between strangers.” Una, of architecture and interior design agency Atellior, confirms that she has seen a rise in connecting spaces in hotels. “All hotels now have spaces to connect. The Hoxton and CitizenM were amongst the first to pioneer this, but now everybody is jumping on the bandwagon.”
This theory is put into practice by a number of wellness retreats who not only encourage digital detox, but draw on the health benefits of connecting their guests with one another. Blue Zone research tells us that “the face-to-face interactions you have on a daily basis are one of the strongest predictors of how long you’ll live.” This is something that New York members club THE WELL pays heed to, taking on programming that “cultivates an open and supportive community of like-minded individuals, coming together to create meaningful, intentional connection.” Their members suppers are just one of the ways that they achieve this.
But alongside the meaningful chatter with like-minded individuals, travel provides the opportunity for us to connect with a new and more authentic sound entirely. “Disconnection is too harsh,” Una told us. “If you’re going to London then you’re there for a reason. Privacy, silence and refuge are one thing, but context is really positive and something that we celebrate in our work.” If architecture and design in hospitality is about reflecting the city, then is the hospitality experience about reflecting communities?
Iain supports this idea, explaining that he thinks “reconnect rather than disconnect will be the trend moving ahead — allowing me as a guest to connect to the landscape, nature, history, culture and have a dialogue with the neighbourhood.” This is something you can find at Pomoeria, a private house on the border of Saint-Émilion where the owners are happy to introduce you to their local friends: Bakers, restaurant and shop owners and winemakers. This is LS:N’s vision of empowered and empowering travel, that “as people become more aware of their travel privilege, brands are helping to alleviate feelings of guilt by providing purpose-driven travel experiences that put local residents first and ensure tourism spending remains in the country.”
This sounds like a good travel future: One where we escape the noise of our daily lives to re-connect with loved ones, experience new cultures, positively engage in local activities and, crucially, learn how to connect again.