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A new breed of niche lodging is emerging to cater to today’s travelers looking for affordable accommodations that reflect their interests and values—experiences, thoughtful design, minimalism (hello #vanlife). Hoteliers are connecting on a deeper level, attracting like-minded patrons who see their choice of accommodations as an expression of self.

We recently tested out one such concept, Fieldhouse Jones, which has genuinely earned its “poshtel” moniker. As Chicago’s latest example of upscaled low-cost accommodations, Fieldhouse Jones truly captures the camaraderie and social energy of a hostel without scraps of tattered Lonely Planet guidebooks crammed between the cushions of soiled sofas. The property was trendy and high-concept, yet managed not to feel overwrought or cheesy—not an easy feat.

Our Chicago adventure inspired us to look for other niche noteworthy hotels. Here’s what we found and why it matters in the crowded hospitality space.

 

Motto: Travel and style for all

Examples: The Anvil Hotel (Jackson Hole, WY), The Astro (Santa Rosa, CA),
Phoenix Hotel (San Francisco, CA), Hotel Eleven (Austin, TX), Moxy Times Square (NYC)
The Concept: Low-cost, high-design accommodations in notoriously pricey destinations increase accessibility, offering budget-conscious travelers an inclusive experience.
Challenge: The primary competition in these markets will be Airbnb, so pricing needs to remain competitive while they differentiate themselves with service and social atmosphere.
Why it Works: No one likes traveling to a stylish destination only to feel priced-out of the fun. When done well, these cheap but chic crash pads provide guests the wiggle room in their budgets to live it up all day and carry on the high-life experience until their head hits the pillow. Let the good times roll.

Motto: Rekindle the college spirit

Examples: Graduate Hotels and Study Hotels
The Concept: Stylish, affordable hotels at the heart of campus become a hub of social activity, giving college town visitors and alumni a taste of local campus culture in a fun, eclectic atmosphere.
Challenge: Capture the authentic charm of a college campus and upscale it for a grown-up experience at an affordable rate without coming across too staged or gimmicky.
Why it Works: The antithesis of charmless chain hotels that feel detached from the local scene, Graduate Hotels, in particular, manages to fuse campus culture, lively eclectic interiors, and a high-service hospitality experience in a way that’s equally inviting to out-of-towners and locals alike. A true melting pot.

Motto: Making room for black culture

Example: Homage Hospitality
The Concept: Create a welcoming oasis for the black community wherever they find themselves, with a particular focus on guests working in creative industries.
Challenge: Black culture is widely diverse—sensitivity to that fact and representation of all experiences is essential. Additionally, this concept only works when it comes from the community it intends to serve and could never be adopted by a large hotel chain looking to diversify into niche markets.
Why It Works: Founded by two Howard grads, Homage Hospitality’s mission comes from the heart. Not only aiming to look the part, but also act it—they’ve created a space that prioritizes hospitality to their community in a world that feels increasingly the opposite. It’s an appropriately aggressive message told through poetic language and dynamic interiors that pays off.

Motto: Live the brand

Examples: west elm Hotels, Nobu Hotels, Shinola Hotel
The Concept: Cult brands extend their reach into hospitality, creating spaces that embody the lifestyles they promote, where guests can be fully immersed in the fantasy.
Challenge: Depth of concept will be key to crossover success. Does the brand have a vivid enough story to tell? And does it translate to a lived experience?
Why It Works: At their best, these hotel concepts allow guests to see the qualities they love about their favorite brands applied to every aspect of their lives. One interesting example: west elm Hotels is opening their first location in a former Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Indianapolis where their signature mid century modern aesthetic will mingle with the historic Art Deco details of the space to tell a new and compelling story. These sorts of executions showcase a brands creativity, flexibility, and deepens their story in the eyes of consumers, ideally elevating their perceptions and cementing loyalty.

 

Having a clearly stated point of view may narrow your potential client pool, but it will elevate your brand in the eyes of the clients (or patrons) you really want to work with and keep them coming back for as long as your values align. Feeling understood and catered to goes a long way.