Citizens only: Disrupting the hotel industry

Citizens only: Disrupting the hotel industry

Suzie Marsden / General Manager - Services, NZTE / Auckland

The founder of CitizenM, Rattan Chandha, had sold his Dutch fashion business Mexx. The most important thing he took from that business was an idea for his next. He had been inspired by the countless complaints from his fashion designers when they returned from trips, about all the things that are wrong with most business hotels.

If you have ever stayed at a mid-priced hotel you will identify with this; the eye watering minibar prices, being handed from person to person to handle your query "oh, that's housekeeping" "The concierge can help you with that", the tiny size shampoo and conditioner if you have long hair, waiting in a queue to check out or being duped in to drinking the strategically placed water beside your bed because you think it is free. And, on top of that, the general same-same, blandness of them all.
“CitizenM deliberately choose staff who don't have hotel experience but a great attitude and empathy”

The Better by Design US Study Tour had the pleasure of hearing CitizenM's story from Rattan's daughter, Noreen Chandha, in the roof top bar of their Times Square hotel. She told us how the first hotel in Amsterdam was born from these traveller frustrations together with the mega, consumer trend of affordable luxury. They wanted to create an incredible experience for the mobile traveller. They even named their hotel after their target customer – the mobile citizen. How could you not be customer-centred in a business named after your customer?

The main premise of their value proposition is to create inviting, social spaces that mimic your home – well, if you have the most gorgeously styled, achingly well designed home that is. They keep your room to the bare, stylish minimum. They've understood the most important things to have in the room and dispensed with the rest because most of us don't hang out in our hotel rooms a lot when we're on holiday or for work.

To disrupt the hotel industry, you don't hire hotel people; CitizenM deliberately choose staff who don't have hotel experience but a great attitude and empathy. They've trained them to do everything from making an espresso to helping you find your way around the city. You get free wifi, bottled water and on-demand movies and so much more. And their attention to the little things is superb, like your room key being able to be re-used for a luggage tag and re-used again as your room key for your next CitizenM hotel stay. All this is done with a quirky charm to their visual identity and tone of voice. The recipe is a winner. They've grown from their first prototype, opened in 2008, to a chain of six - with another New York hotel almost built and six more under construction - three in Europe and three in the US. They are also scoping locations in Asia.

There is soon to be an app for the growing community of CitizenM customers called Citizens Only. I for one will be joining the Citizens Only movement on my next trip to New York, or where ever they are located.