I once explained the concept of Airbnb to some Gen-X co-workers. They were appalled by the idea. I argued with them – “It’s just like when you rent a beach house for the week with your family!” They weren’t having it. “You guys are the Uber generation,” one told me. “You’re always getting in each other’s’ cars, sleeping in each other’s beds.” Touché.
I’m a millennial, but I haven’t fully crossed over to the Airbnb side. I still enjoy knowing where my sheets and towels came from, especially when only staying somewhere for a short period of time. Enter compromise: the new concept of “invisible service”. This type of hotel – a hybrid of a hotel and an Airbnb – was made for millennials.
Lokal is one such hotel in Philadelphia. Aptly named, it attempts to merge the comforts of home with the luxury of a hotel. Hidden in the heart of old city, you’d walk right by it if you didn’t know it was there. (My Uber drive almost drove right by as well.) A friend of mine lives on the same block and didn’t know it was there.
Their website states, “The inspiration for the Lokal concept came from how we like to travel. We want to stay in design-driven boutique hotels in the heart of residential neighborhoods and feel like we are staying like a local, rather than a tourist.” This defines not only me, but this blog, so I was excited to try it out.
The day before my arrival I was sent an email that contained instructions on how to get into the building: a code to be typed into the keypad and an additional code for getting into my room. There is no front desk or concierge, just a door that enters into what feels like an urban apartment building (and yes, I was on a third-floor walkup).
When I first walked in I felt like I wanted a glass of wine and to have friends over. This is what the modern traveler is seeking in alternative lodging – a sense of home, while away. Complete with a Sonos sound system, an iPad filled with service apps, and a bar cart (including cocktail recipes!) – I really did feel like I had the luxuries of home.
The rooms are named for the city itself – “Ben”, “Betsy”, “Billy”. I was in “Will”, named for the Fresh Prince whom was “West Philadelphia, born and raised”. Each room is adorably decorated by the design company Jersey Ice Cream Co. and I found myself admiring the kitchen and taking notes for my next renovation.
There’s also a printed guide of neighborhood restaurants and things to see. They even divided breakfast spots by cuisine which is perfect for me, because I’m usually on the hunt for a breakfast sandwich in the morning…
From a business perspective, I was filled with questions for the owner – What kind of investment did this require? How many calls a day do you get about the TV not working or the water pressure being too low? Who comes back to change all the access codes and how often? Do you ever mix them up? Aren’t those logo-branded coat hangers expensive? Do you count them after every stay and charge guests if one goes missing? I suppose these are all things that are working out, because they just opened a second location in New Jersey.
This is definitely not a hotel to recommend to your technology-challenged parents or your friend that likes being waited on and calling room service. My parents are still a bit confused why this is considered a “hotel.” But millennials are also known for our insatiable desire to travel, so it’s not our fault we found cheaper (and more comfortable) ways to do it. We may be unwilling to settle down, but that’s because we’ve found comfort in everyday life, wherever that may take us.