If you’ve ever been to Austin, Texas during SXSW, you can attest to what a small city looks like with a sudden influx of over one hundred thousand festival goers. And with the sudden wave of economic tsunamis, you can also attest to the dramatic spikes in hospitality rates, lack of reasonable options in terms of price, location and comfort and also the general chaos that consumes lobbies, elevator banks, restaurants, bars and public spaces in general. Whether you’re into tech, music, and/or film, there’s a reason it’s called the “geek spring break.” For those who need to find headspace, artistic solitude or achieve flow however, it’s difficult to find a productive spot where you can focus, enjoy the comforts of home or better, create and recharge. That all changed for me in 2019 when I met Nitesh Gandhi, founder and CEO of Locale.
While at SXSW, I was invited to what’s called “The Beta Room” at the Camden (formerly Millennium) in downtown Austin. Curious as I walked into a luxury apartment building that instantly whisked me away from the madness just outside on a crowded Rainey St. I was instantly transported into a peaceful community where well-to-do people live and work. The rooftop pool and recreation center didn’t hurt much either. In this Beta Room though, was a glimpse of Locale and a new take on hospitality. Let’s start there.
Locale represents a new breed of what they call boutique “Aparthotels,” which combine high-end apartment living with short-term hotel stays. I guess you could think of it as an Airbnb for lavish apartments. Locale describes it this way…
Locale aparthotels balance the versatile needs of today’s business traveler, where being able to disconnect is just as important as staying connected. So, whether it’s for a few weeks or months (or just a few nights), there’s no need to pick between a hotel or Airbnb. Aparthotels are the best of both worlds.”
Essentially, through Locale, you have access to dedicated blocks of branded lifestyle experiences that are allocated as these short-term aparthotels. They’re not random apartments either. They’re stylized as thoughtfully curated Locale spaces to attract a discerning and also highly digital clientele. My dear friend and long-time business partner Stephanie Agresta and I refer to this consumer as the “Techset.”
Among the high-end yet standard amenities, Locales feature full kitchens, double vanities and walk-in closets, ensuite washer/dryer with Tide Pods, business centers, and gyms (but with products like in-room Mirrors and yoga mats), ultra-fast wifi, mounted monitors, 55” smart TVs as well as smart thermostats, shades, lights and locks. There’s more too. Want to learn how to do pour over coffee? Well, it’s in the room complete with Tweed Coffee and five types of sugar. Locally curated playlists? That’s there too. Filtered water, Parachute linens and towels, Fellow electric kettles, a 24-hour concierge and housekeeping on request, with all of this at a cost comparable or better than comparable hotels and Airbnbs. Beyond comfort and convenience, each room also serves as a showcase for desirable products.
That brings me to booking. Like any basic digital-savvy property, you can book directly through the Locale site. But what surprised me, was that Locale’s aparthotels are also available through sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com. I guess at the end of the day, no matter what type of property, it’s all just inventory.
I’m sure hotels aren’t thrilled with Locale and other startups bringing apartment inventory into the fray, but, like Airbnb, Locale isn’t looking to appeal to hoteliers or traditional hotel visitors. Local appeals to the digital customer, someone whom Gandhi describes as the intentional traveler, “someone who values personalization.”
“Connected travelers want something more,” he explained. “They want a space that’s not only smart, and we have a lot of smart features in our rooms, the room should also make you smarter.” He continued, “As such, there should be a level of intentionality in all we do. We’re a younger company, so we can push the envelope.”
This is the point of the Beta Room. It offered a taste of what it’s like to stay with Locale and this new breed of branded apartments no matter the locale (pun intended). And it was one of my favorite activations at SXSW, just down the way from my second favorite…the Bost Frames popup store and augmented reality audio demo. Locale was authentic, tactile, value-added and honestly, I wish I were staying there. But with locations in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Nashville and San Francisco, The Beta Room is now very real. And you can bet I’ll be staying at one the next time I visit one of these cities.
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