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In conversation with Isabelle Spoor, unikateur GmbH | Munich, Hamburg, Bolzano

Interview 5 Minutes
Megatrends show us what people really need when looking for a vacation. And in any case, that is: not another room bunker, not another copy.

For 10 years, unikateur GmbH has been creating unique hotel concepts in the DACH region and Italy. Founder Isabelle Spoor, together with her team, develops and positions special hospitality brands, marketing them comprehensively. In an interview with ADDITIVE, Isabelle Spoor shares her thoughts on unique brand concepts in the hotel industry.
Ms. Spoor, what inspired you to specialize in developing strong brands for the tourism industry?

Quite simply: working with private hoteliers, often families, and their need, especially in touristically competitive or undeveloped locations, to present real innovations to stand out. Consequently, being able to operate economically successfully.
What benefits can hoteliers expect when developing a unique and extraordinary concept for their hotel business?

Hoteliers who stand out with a unique concept achieve, factually speaking, better and faster occupancy, especially as they can work in the market with less pressure and discounting.

Emotionally, the fun on the way to a strong hotel brand within the host community, as well as all involved partners and employees, is a central factor. We don't decide where the journey should go. Rather, we listen and help tailor the concept, including feasibility—a tangible business case—to the characters involved and their abilities.
How are extraordinary hotel concepts created, and what features make a hotel brand successful and unique today?

A good question, but for now, let's leave the theory from the textbook aside. For us, everything starts with ideas that captivate people— in our case, the hosts—over an extended period and make them genuinely excited. It is essential that the idea or concept fits people like a glove, so they are attracted to and can identify with the idea.

What makes hotel concepts or brands successful today is a long-term perspective and individuality. Success still comes to those who, beyond the concept, are capable of persevering, implementing, and having a longer breath than everyone else who gives up earlier.

Megatrends such as ecological sustainability, global and social connections, digital networking, and meaningful individualization show us what people really need when looking for a vacation. And that is: not another room bunker, not another copy.
What steps or processes are necessary to develop and implement an innovative hotel concept?

One of the first steps is definitely a classic analysis of the current situation, done in parallel with vision work. Even if it is annoying for "forward thinkers," this step is essential for further work. It also makes sense to work creatively with collages, i.e., visually—so that you not only promise each other the blue of the sky verbally but also visually penetrate to the essentials.

Next comes a phase of product development accompanied by a feasibility study. Once initial assessments are available, hosts know that the joint ideas have substance.

This milestone is followed by brand development with a so-called brand book for all involved, architectural concept with a pitch to find the right partner, and a communication concept. After that, classic approval, construction, distribution work, and pre-opening measures begin.
Does every hotel nowadays necessarily need a background hotel concept?

Yes, even in prime locations, good hotel concepts help achieve the last percentage points of occupancy and price enforcement. In addition, hotel concepts also help attract and win the right employees for the operation. However, the effort of the concept always depends on the set goals. Do you want to "only" skim off or convey meaning, be an innovator, realize your lifelong dream? Why not both?
Why do many hotels fail in implementing hotel concepts?

It is still common practice to either plan or build only with architectural firms or implement only individual steps because comprehensive approaches were previously only needed in luxury hotels. Afterwards, these individual steps are then transformed into marketing measures by individual disciplines. What remains—for the hotel, employees, and guests—is only about a third of the possibilities that one would otherwise have with a holistic approach.

What do we mean by individual steps? A logo is not corporate design, a name is not yet a brand, and a room concept is not iconic, thematic architecture that makes waves in the long term.
When is the optimal time to embark on the development of an innovative hotel project?

Before any land purchases are made, architects are brought on board, and major decisions for execution are made. So directly after the desire to realize a new future for oneself, the existing business, or a "new piece of land."
Even in prime locations, good hotel concepts help achieve the last percentage points of occupancy and price enforcement.

What should be considered in the pre-opening marketing of hotels? And what importance do online marketing channels have in this regard?

What hotels must consider in pre-opening marketing, but also generally in online marketing, can be summed up in one word: consistency. Meaning, plan ahead, be prepared for a lot, and, with all necessary agility, do not deviate from the strategy.

The younger the clientele (which, of course, also includes Silver Surfers at 65+ via iPad), the more relevant online marketing channels are. They are the ones that allow ROIs to be traced and increased compared to few other relevant booking sources—provided the right tool architecture for the respective concept has been efficiently set up in advance.
What trends are you currently observing regarding extraordinary hotel brands?

The majority of society often still thinks in the Industrial Age, although we are in a time with both great opportunities and challenges arising from the increasing individualization of all people seeking meaning and significance.

Accompanied by sustainability and AI, super-urban, super-vegan, super-ecological, super-analog, or super-digital concepts are still highly popular. However, today, the question arises more than ever: can I implement a soulful business if I invest with heart, mind, and budget?

Together with hosts, we answer the question of whether their reason why is reason enough to assess equity, take out loans, and use passion in the right place.