2021, The Year of Roadtrips & Roadside Motels

December 14, 2020
Jeremy Wells

Road Trips are a perfect getaway from the mundane weekday life. Long roads on a steering wheel can rejuvenate the spirit of life even within the most spiritless character. But, with the advent of the Covid pandemic, road trips seemed like a distant dream. However, as travelers slowly find their feet again, road trips will likely be a more preferred manner of travel as compared to air travel. And here is where the opportunity lies for the motel industry to rejuvenate and revitalize itself.

The Opportunity

There is a common belief among the hotel professionals that the coming year will see an unfathomed boom in the hotel industry. Here are a few reasons to support the claim.

Appetite for Travel

The world has been in lockdown for a year. People have spent their days staring at the four walls of their humble abode. The travel enthusiasts have been itching to treat their eyes with the beautiful landscapes of the country-sides. It is high time when people would be eager to explore the world around them. People have been suffering from bubble fatigue and only a good vacation would bring peace to their minds. Thus, travel in the coming year is all set to see a sharp increase.

Hitting the Road

A small study conducted by the University of Illinois revealed that most people would be fearful of traveling by air even after the end of the pandemic. Post-pandemic, people would prefer long road trips instead of aircraft as they (almost 60%) believe that traveling by a personal vehicle is less risky as compared to other modes of travel as a larger part of the population do not feel safe around strangers in a closed space.

Here lie the opportunities for the motel industry. An increase in preference towards road trips opens up the doors to the revival of the industry. The footfall at motels for short stays or even overnight stays would see a sharp increase in 2021. Thus, it is the perfect time to plan ahead for the regeneration of the industry.

Reviving a Roadside Motel

The thought of taking up such a herculean task of reviving a whole motel could certainly send chills down anyone’s spine. However, at the same time hospitality professionals and investors wouldn’t want to miss out on this huge opportunity to get back into the business. So, here is all you need to do to achieve your end.

1. The Budget

Before embarking upon the journey of revival, one needs to fix the amount of money he is willing to invest in the project. Everything else, like designing, advertisement, and facilities to be offered, have to build around this key factor. Thus, the budget decision would impact all other aspects of the project. Many small roadside motels would not have a huge amount of money to invest thus if you can find an enthusiastic investor who believes in the potential capabilities of the proposed project, you can definitely get the much-needed head-start.

2. The Re-Design

Another major aspect of the revival process is re-designing the appearance of the motel, both the interiors as well as exteriors. Many hoteliers prefer hiring professional interior designers to revamp their outlook. Others prefer to avail the services of local artisans owing to their lower budget. The same is advised in the case of roadside and low budget motels. However, one has to keep in mind that the motel doesn’t lose its old rustic charm which made it a success in the past. The original essence of the hotel has to be kept intact and at the same time, the remodeling should represent the correlation with changing times. This can be a very tricky task.

3. Facilities & Amenities

Being different is the need of the hour. Your success would depend on how well you can stand out from your co-hoteliers. Providing facilities that aren’t offered by anyone else could go a long way in deciding the fate of your business. The facilities don’t need to be expensive, it can be as simple as lending books to guests or offering some music in the evenings. A small lawn gathering would provide a hospitable impression of the motel. Small things can make a huge difference. The focus should be on the optimum utilization of the available resources in the pre-decided budget to serve its guests with satisfaction.

4. Unique Selling Point

Almost every hotelier would ordinarily perform the above-mentioned steps. But even the most luxurious design can go in vain if the project is not marketed in a desirable manner. It is very important to catch the eye of tourists to sustain the business. This calls for an inward re-thinking to recognize or develop a core competency. It could be anything ranging from a luxurious pool or exquisite cuisines offerings or providing highly professional hospitality services through well-trained personnel. The designing process could be leveraged to create a competency in terms of appearance that appeals to the visitors.

5. Marketing the Property

In an industry where there are similar offerings from competitors, advertising becomes almost indispensable. The whole advertising campaign can be built around the USP recognized by the motel. It can be used as bait to attract more and more visitors. Roadside traditional motels often use bright glow sign boards visible from a distance to catch the eye of travelers. This could be an ideal way out if you are short on the budget. However, if the budget is no bar, motels could go for extensive marketing during the boom season to attract tourists. Providing discounts, coupons or vouchers can be a modern way to retain more visitors.

Case Studies of Revived Motels

If you are still in a dilemma whether to embark upon this sturdy task of motel revivalism, here are some examples of successful revival that were undertaken in the recent past for your inspiration.

Built in 1963, the Astro was rejuvenated in the year 2018. All thanks to the efforts of Liza Hinman, a local chef. Local artists were employed to reform the interiors and each of the 34 rooms was retro-hued. An LED signboard announced the comeback of the Astro with much pride. The motel offered complimentary fruits, pastries, and coffee every morning. The guests could order local snacks in their rooms as well. An interesting add-on feature of revival was that everything on display in the motel was for sale. This attracted more guests towards the motel and revival was worthwhile.

The Coachman Hotel was originally developed to cater to the needs of tourism during the 1960 Winter Olympics. However, owing to heavy investments made in 2016, this motel saw itself in a new light. With modern facilities like heated toilet seats and Apple TV in each room, this 42 room motel is now a prominent inn situated at the base of Heavenly Mountain. With additional features like a hot tub, a pool, and a fire pit, this lodge is now a preferred option for tourists. It also offers complimentary waffles and coffee to its guests. Its location has played a major role in its recent success as it is located just steps away from the ski gondola.

Listen to our podcast interview with Kathleen Bunnage, GM of The Coachman Hotel

This Drifter was re-imagined in 2017 by Nola for the sybaritic tourists. The main attractions include a pool bar serving frozen drinks along with Cuban and Haitian delicacies. The motel hosts a pool party every weekend for its guests. Although the rooms are simple and all linen, the Drifter was re-designed as a typical tropical resort with palm trees. The floor is studded with alluring Mexican tiles.

Final Thoughts

These fine examples of motel turnarounds might have instilled a new spirit of business in all the demoralized hoteliers whose business has taken a blow owing to the pandemic. But there is light even at the end of the darkest tunnel. And the hotel industry can certainly see the light shining in their eyes — opportunity knocking at their doors.

Success and failure would now depend on who grabs the bull by its horns and who stays hidden under an umbrella fearing a storm. No great thing was ever achieved without courage. Missed opportunities can be difficult to forget.

Thus, the time is right to put the accelerator on the pedal and tap the opportunity that now stands staring at your face. Best of luck with your journey of revival!

Jeremy Wells

Partner at Longitude°

Jeremy is the author of Future Hospitality and Brand Strategist at Longitude°. As a member of the Education Committee for The Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) and a content contributor to Cornell University’s Hospitality Vision and Concept Design graduate program, he is a committed thought leader in hotel branding, concepting, and experience strategy.