Hotels and matchmaker apps, a match made in heaven? Part 1 of 2
Hotel bars, restaurants, and lobbies have long been places where people gather to see, be seen, meet, and mingle. And as popular culture has demonstrated to us in countless films, TV series, and books, they often serve as the ideal backdrop for a meet cute, too.
Now, thanks to the advent of mobile technology, hotels are leveraging their longstanding supporting role to an active role encouraging more meetings among their guests and the locals living nearby.
For many of these hotel brands, facilitating these connections is part and parcel with their efforts to be “experience platforms” or to be known for more than just being a place where you stay when you travel. Leveraging technology in this way helps them serve as modern-day community centers for travelers and locals alike, and helps them fill their lobbies and bars with paying patrons.
Marriott’s Moxy earlier this month announced a brand partnership with Bumble, a location-based app primarily known for dating, but also extends to business networking, which markets itself as a “female-first networking app.” The venture designates participating Moxy hotels throughout the U.S. as “BumbleSpots,” where Bumble app users are encouraged to meet one another.
Sydell Group’s Line hotel brand also announced a partnership with Bumble this November, although its partnership is more targeted toward female users of Bumble BFF, the company’s friendship-oriented social networking app. To promote the partnership, Line hotels in Austin, D.C., and Los Angeles are hosting Bumble BFF exclusive brunches showcasing in-house hospitality and dining talent from each hotel that Bumble BFF users can attend.
Also earlier this month, Generator, a brand known for its boutique-like hostels, announced the debut of GenFriends, a proprietary mobile app that includes a “swipe” feature to “match” with other travelers, as well as the ability to join groups of other guests with shared interests.
In early November, Life House, a new boutique hotel concept that recently opened its first property in Miami, debuted its own Life House Platform which includes a social network feature that connects guests with one another.
In October, The Standard introduced an app of its own, called Lobby, where guests check in virtually and can chat with and make plans to meet fellow guests.
At Skift Global Forum in September, boutique hospitality pioneer Ian Schrager floated his own idea for a Tinder-like hotel mobile app as well.
“I think there’s no replacement for going to a bar and things like that,” Schrager said, “but I wouldn’t mind doing that swipe left, swipe right for people in the hotel.”
The concept of a “Tinder for hotels” is not a new one. In 2014, an app called HelloTel debuted and marketed itself as just that, although today, the app seems to no longer be available.
So why are so many hotel brands – even four years later – embarking on a quest to serve as matchmakers for travelers and locals alike?
“The travel industry has a unique opportunity to match new people with other people,” said Rami Zeidan, CEO and co-founder of Life House. “Everyone is traveling, and doesn’t necessarily have a home base or safety network of friends in a given location. Hotels have a particularly unique opportunity to connect people. So how do we solve for community through technology?”
For solo travelers, especially, a social network feature can help them feel less isolated, said Jason Rieff, chief marketing officer of Generator. While Generator’s GenFriends app isn’t just for solo travelers to use – it also includes other functionality such as offering discounts and serving as a mobile key – the company focused especially on the needs of solo travelers when developing it because it is Generator’s fastest growing market. Rieff said the company has seen a 17 percent increase in the number of solo travelers staying with Generator since 2015.
Both Life House and Generator have each developed their own proprietary apps, both of which are not necessarily meant to encourage romantic relationships, but to simply encourage social interaction among guests. GenFriends emphasises shared interest groups for travelers to join, and Life House’s Social Network encourages guests to interact with one another, as well as designated local residents who have been verified by Life House.
“It’s more awkward to be on a non-romantic social network meeting people, but when you travel, it’s more organic because everyone is outside of their home,” said Zeidan. “And this is more than just offering a hostel-like vibe with communal spaces. There’s space for this in the luxury space, and for business travelers, too.”
Marriott’s Moxy, on the other hand, has partnered with an app primarily known for dating, but both Marriott and Bumble emphasised that the partnership is about making “meaningful connections” that go beyond the romantic variety.
“It’s not just a hotel,” Moxy senior global brand director Vicki Poulos said. “It’s more about creating an environment that enables meaningful connections and builds relationships.”
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