Whether you’re heading out on your first solo vacation or planning a new adventure in a town you already know well, picking a place to stay can make or break your trip. While we love a luxe hotel, we’re also always down to scope a trendy new neighborhood thanks to a hot Airbnb, so we’re super intrigued by a new travel trend dubbed invisible service hotels. They sound like the best of both worlds, and we had to know more. We spoke with Chad Ludeman, co-founder of Philadelphia’s newest (and chicest) invisible service hotel, Lokal, to get the full scoop on what invisible service means and why it’s seriously great.
B+C: Can you describe what invisible service means? What are some of the differences guests can expect, compared to a full-service hotel?
Chad Ludeman: There’s no front desk and no hotel staff on the premises on a normal basis at an invisible service hotel. We basically had to figure out how to let people into their rooms at Lokal and how to offer concierge services without any staff being there. Getting people into the rooms is done via electronic access codes, which are emailed to guests a few days before their stay. Pretty simple. The concierge service is more of a three-pronged approach:
1. Technology: We provide iPads loaded with take-out food and grocery apps that are billed to their rooms just like room service. Guests can buzz people in from their rooms if they like or they can go down to meet them at the front door. The rooms also feature Sonos music connected to internet radio and Spotify accounts, and Apple TVs that allow people to use Netflix, HBO GO, and rent movies via iTunes. Everything’s billed to the rooms. Our biggest issue is conveying to people that they don’t need to use their own credit card for these accounts.
2. In-Room Manual: Our in-room manual isn’t like your typical hotel guide, which is packed with sponsored recommendations. Our manual is uber-curated to give people the local insight on the best spots in five categories: food, drink, shopping, culture, and adventure. There are over 250 recommendations broken up into local places you can walk to and “Best in City” spots if you’re feeling adventurous.
3. Personal On-Call Service: While we’re not there in person, we are very available via phone, text, and email. Multiple people are linked to the main phone number so the best “expert” on the topic can respond. We also send out an email survey prior to each guests’ stay to find out how they take their coffee and why they’re visiting Philly. That way we can make sure their room is stocked just right for them and have a better idea on the custom recommendations we might need to provide.
B+C: What makes a stay at an invisible service hotel better than a traditional hotel or Airbnb?
CL: We’ve definitely gotten feedback from people who’ve used Airbnb that really like what we’re doing because Lokal isn’t someone’s home full of personal belongings you might be afraid to break, and it’s professionally managed, devoid of awkward or non-existent communication. It seems that there are travelers out there that like being left alone. They know how to travel and don’t need personal interaction.
It’s almost like when people rent a vacation house for a week or two. They don’t want the owner there breathing down their neck or creating awkward situations, no matter how nice they might be. Lokal is almost a mini vacation-house rental for a few days. We’ve definitely noticed that many of our guests seem to prefer not being bothered by anyone. They’re happy to be on their own and have more privacy and independence during their stay.
B+C: How can an invisible service hotel stay enhance a guest’s experience in a new city?
CL: The biggest way it helps guests experience a city in a new way is by making them feel like a local. They’re staying on a smaller street that larger hotels can’t fit on that’s largely residential, with smaller cafes and boutique shops owned by people that live above them or down the street. They enter and exit their room (which is actually an apartment) just like any other local does.
B+C: Well, we’re sold! What kinds of things do you suggest the Lokal’s guests do to really get the most out of their visit?
CL: I could answer that 100 different ways, but I get most excited when I see someone either getting delivery food through one of our apps and really enjoying the room while they eat in, or taking it down to a local park that we’ve recommended for a picnic. I’d also suggest hitting up a boutique shop on the way back from the park and chatting up the owner before grabbing a pour-over coffee or craft cocktail from another spot we’ve listed in our manual. The best part is you can do all of this without stressing or doing hours of research.
Would you or have you already stayed at an invisible service hotel? Tweet us @BritandCo and tell us what you think of it!
(Photos via Lokal)