The rise of Airbnb has revealed consumer preferences to be more flexible than previously assumed. Independent hotel company Room2 is responding in the UK by innovating in brand standards. It has signed $110 million in new net-zero hotels.
Room2 is a small UK company that illustrates a big trend in hospitality. Room2 offers apartment hotels, which it calls “hometels,” blending the advantages of professionally run lodging with the quirkiness and spaciousness of apartment buildings. Wherever possible, it aims to be “net zero,” meaning that it strives to operationally not contribute carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere.
Room2 is privately owned by the Lamington Group, a real estate investment, development and operational business, and it has only three locations in Britain: Southampton, the Hammersmith district of London, and Chiswick. It has a mixed model, owning the Hammersmith and Chiswick properties and leasing back to an investor the Southampton property.
In recent months it announced about $110 million (£100 million) worth of additional properties. Next year it hopes to open a 190-unit building in Liverpool. In 2024, it plans to open a 116-room property in York. In 2025, it hopes to open a 134-room one in Glasgow, and in 2026, it aims to open a 180-room building in Manchester.
The developers have also expanded into the management business. Earlier this month Room2 announced plans to run a nine-story apartment hotel replacing an office block in Belfast. The property is being developed by Oakland Holdings and is slated to open in May next year.
“We’ve got about 1,100 bedrooms in operation or development,” said co-founder Rob Godwin. “We want to get to 5,000 by 2028.’
Flexible Look and Feel
Room2 properties typically have restaurants and bars as well as work and meeting spaces, gyms, and laundry rooms. They’re spot on the megatrend that the hotel of the future is everything to everyone.
But the Room2 design aesthetic differs considerably from location to location. The lack of a consistent look suits co-founders Rob and Stu Godwin just fine. The two brothers from London had traveled for a decade as professional athletes, and they had developed strong opinions about how travel lodgings should be rejuvenating and “un-corporate.”
“We don’t have a brand look, but we have a brand feel,” Godwin said.
The Chiswick has an aesthetic inspired by the “arts and crafts movement,” which championed handcrafted pieces by local craftspeople. Yet its Hammersmith has more of a modern minimalist vibe.
The service is aimed at offering customization.
“We have a mattress menu so you can get a firm or a softer mattress,” Godwin said. “You can request to check out up until 2 pm as a free option. We allow pets. We’ve replaced check-in reception counters with staff members who carry tablets for checking you in. It’s all about making it more livable and inviting.”
The early response from customers appears to be positive. The Room2 Southampton is Tripadvisor’s number-one highest reviewed hotel in the city.
“We call them ‘hometels’ because we wanted a different category to describe design-led spaces where the experience is massively important,” said co-founder Rob Godwin. “We see them standing apart from serviced apartments, which can be very crude and corporate feeling, and from extended-stay hotels, which can mean rooms with kitchens.”
Carbon Reduction as Standard Practice
One more way Room2 seems to signal the future is that it has strong sustainability commitments that are part of its hotel development and operational plan but only lightly figure in its marketing. It claims that its Chiswick property, for example, has 100 percent of the carbon emissions emitted from conception through to end-of-life being reduced and rebalanced to zero.
While a handful of hotels have gotten operationally to net zero, few have also accounted for the full picture of building development. When possible, the company has preferred locally sourced and natural materials in construction. To meet the company’s net-zero goals for 2030, it needs most of the properties it launches from now on to be built according to the new best practices. It uses offsets for the rest of its goals.
“My view is that it’s the minimum standard if we as an industry are going to get to net zero and avoid a terrible catastrophe, which is pretty much on the horizon,” Godwin said. “The hotel industry is making too many incremental steps right now. They better jump on board now because they’re going to feel the pressure.”