Culture is the new pop

A while back I had the pleasure to listen to a speech by Florian Wupperfeld, who told the audience – formed of hoteliers and investors involved with luxury hospitality – that “culture is the new pop.”

Florian works with Soho House, a private members’ club, and also has his own travel agency that offers personalized cultural trips for 65,000 euros per week. He’s a fascinating character, and I was especially impressed with what he had to say as my company, JOI-Design, also follows the mantra of European culture and heritage to differentiate ourselves from American and Asian interior designers when we develop concepts for our hospitality projects.

Culture is personally important to me. If time allows, I make a beeline for the art galleries and museums in most of the cities I visit – not just to expand my horizons, but also to indulge my little hobby of collecting museum mugs. (Pretty soon I will need my own museum to display them all!)

But then along comes the inevitable discussion about our next hospitality project’s art budget. And yet again I have to listen to the investor tell me he does not need art, he just wants to have some “decoration for the walls.”

I remember Florian’s words – and wish they were true!

The pertinent question to ask is: how many guests will recognize “art” and what percentage would be prepared to spend more money for a hotel room with a cultural surcharge?

Perhaps guests wouldn’t pay more to have a nicer picture hanging above their bed, but there is clearly a clientele that enjoys art and culture. And as Starwood proves every day with its brand Le Méridien (as do many independent hotels), there are enough potential guests around who appreciate such creative inspiration.

I don’t believe for one minute that the majority of guests are intentionally looking for “art hotels,” nor are trips costing 65,000 euros per week something many are rushing to splurge on.

So yes, hotels have definitely discovered a cultural niche which we can hope is a growing trend – but is culture the new pop?

Not quite yet!