Heightened Expectations

Heightened Expectations Nakoma Lodge

Creating new experiences every time for the millennial traveler.

By Aytan Litwin

About four years ago, I was returning from a night on the town to my London hotel when I discovered that the rest of the city was also having their own night on the town. Unfortunately, it was in the lobby of my hotel.

It was quite the jolt! While just a few hours before that very space had been well lit and comfortable enough to accommodate all manner of businesspersons, it had been transformed into a nightclub so popular I needed to present my room key in order to gain admittance to the elevator bank. With my unfashionable cargo shorts and flip-flops, I’m sure they wouldn’t have let me into the club under any circumstances.

That hotel lobby’s day-to-night transformation struck me as a metaphor for our industry. Change that used to take decades to happen is now happening almost overnight. Flash forward to a few months later when I returned to the same hotel, I was surprised – although I shouldn’t have been – to see how the hotel had managed to keep itself visually fresh.

The lighting had been reconfigured and the furniture and casework had been swapped out too, the reclaimed wood replaced with a study of leather and chrome. By the check-in desk sat a small, museum-like display that told me the provenance of the bed-quilt I’d soon experience in my room. It also informed me I could purchase one myself, for approximately $850 dollars. (You’d think the fact that the fabric was salvaged from vintage chambrays would’ve defrayed some of the cost.)

Eye-Catching Interiors

Heightened Expectations DisneyMillennials set the trend for our industry. Is there anyone who doubts that? They document their travels on social media incessantly, which provides an invaluable, unpaid branding opportunity for those hotels that give them enough visual stimulation to become Instagram-worthy. That’s why it’s not enough to provide a single terrific experience; hotels need to create the expectation that the experience will be different the next time … and the time after that.

Boredom is fatal to millennial travelers and hotels risk their most important customers moving on, seeking a novel experience elsewhere. And when you look at the travel destinations Millennials are seeking, you can see that they are not interested in their parents’ itineraries.

The urgency to meet the expectations of millennial travelers extends to every detail of a hotel; in the Instagram-meets-Houzz-meets-Restoration Hardware world, it’s a daily battle to ensure guests’ rooms are worthy of admiration and attention.

This changes the foundation of our industry’s world. The old system of manufacturing custom furniture and millwork is unable to meet the needs of an industry that is reinventing itself for a new generation of guests with high expectations. The old system is too slow, clumsy and lazy to truly marry scale, speed and craftsmanship to meet millennial expectations – within your budget.

Active Management

That’s why, when it comes to custom hospitality interiors, the industry needs active management. By that I mean a supply chain that reinvents itself for each project, weaving together the right network of factories to match the job rather than forcing every job into the same manufacturing infrastructure.

Active management also means making sure the supply chain delivers on the vision of the designers and architects by keeping them close to the process, every step of the way. In other words, with a custom built supply chain, it’s possible to fully deliver on a designer’s vision and help create custom built designs – the kind of unique work that plays a big part in delighting your guests.

When an industry is changing dramatically – as the hospitality industry is – those who succeed must be able to understand and anticipate their consumers. But understanding and insight are not enough; hotels need to adjust their underlying business model as well.

Accomplishing the latter is something you can’t do on your own, no matter how prescient you are. You need business partners across the entire supply and value chain that you can rely on to enable your strategies to be executed fully and brilliantly.

That’s the active management described above, rather than the passive, hands-off, sluggish manufacturers of the past. Without that, the millennial-friendly hotel I checked into in London won’t be able to win back those customers and attract new ones. It’s a novel way to help everyone in our industry stay relevant.


Heightened Expectations Aytan Litwin



Twelve years ago Aytan Litwin, founder and CEO of White Space, identified a white space in how custom-designed furniture, casework and architectural finishes are created for the hospitality industry. The company redefines global production through its "active management” approach of marrying craftsmanship to speed and scale. White Space's ultimate ambition is to build a global supply chain that creates positivity throughout the entire manufacturing ecosystem - making the world a better place, for those who build our furniture, and those who relax on it. Litwin and his team can be contacted at info@white-space.com

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