Photos courtesy of NEXT Hotel Brisbane
NEXT Hotel Brisbane is being dubbed the ‘injection of cool’ Brisbane’s hotel scene needs. We’re excited to be hosting our next Collective x Xero event at the venue next week, so we caught up with General Manager Alex Billing to get the lowdown on what goes into launching a new hotel and disrupting a traditional industry.
Was your aim for NEXT to be the coolest new hotel?
We never set out trying to be a cool hotel. Our success was in anticipating the real needs of modern travellers, and offering a level of flexibility that didn’t exist within the current hotel landscape. The aim of the brand was always to provide an experience that didn’t exist anywhere else – by looking at the needs of a modern traveller, not just what everyone has been getting from hotels for the past 30 years.
What do you think sets you apart from your competitors in the hotel scene?
NEXT Hotel was born from looking at what the guest wants, and working back from that. That’s where the free minibar and in-transit zones (sleeping pods and bathrooms that are accessible outside of your hotel room) came in. I think that’s what sets us apart. It was about creating an experience, not just a money-making venture.
We include these five-star touches within our four-star tariff because… why not? You should be able to have a chocolate bar and a bottle of water if you want, or have a beer and watch a movie – even just check your emails – without an extra cost. I really believe this is a main factor in our strong return rate.
What is one of the greatest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think the greatest challenge is always getting your name out there. Many hotels define themselves by standard hotel offerings, or by star ratings, but NEXT Hotel came in as a complete unknown, launching a product that was completely different. In many ways, though, that part has become easier. Guests have reacted so positively to their experience here; they love the delivery and they love the location. The product is genuinely resonating with the market.
One of the other challenges in starting the hotel was finding the right team. At the end of the day, no matter how well we integrate technology into our hotel, people are still the backbone of the hospitality industry. I feel very privileged to have a wonderful team here.
When guests walk through the doors, how do you want them to feel?
Above all, we want guests to feel comfortable. Our hotel is a corporate hotel for most of the week, and we want our travellers to enjoy their time here. I am a big believer that business travel doesn’t have to be a chore. Through facilities such as free wifi and a business lounge, we want guests to feel as connected as they’d like. Through our swimming pool, gym and pool bar, we want guests to feel as relaxed as they’d like.
We used to go to hotels to experience things you couldn’t experience at home – for a little taste of luxury. I think hotels have lost that. We’ve fallen behind. Consumer technology and residential properties are outstripping what we can offer in a commercial environment. We’re trying to take some of that back and give guests an experience they’re not getting at home.
NEXT has been recognised as an innovator in the hospitality industry. What innovations have you incorporated?
The most obvious is the way we have integrated technology – from the pre-arrival experience (being able to book, check-in and download your room key online) through to the controlling temperatures and lights from an app in your room. More than just technology though, is our innovation of space. We have our in-transit zone where you can come and go as you please, and our lounge with flexible work/leisure zones.
We see innovation as moving beyond technology into the guest experience. Our staff are multi-skilled, meaning that no one is locked into one role. All our team members are trained to deal with guest needs, which means you won’t be bounced around to siloed departments for a simple answer. I think this helps us feel a bit more like a boutique hotel.
So now you’ve opened, what’s next for the hotel?
The most important thing for any new and emerging brand is not to rest on your laurels. We’ve now been open a year, and we have been able to gauge what our guests love – and what they’re not so excited about. On a global level, we’re looking forward to our next opening, which is slated for Colombo, Sri Lanka.