It’s a start

I don’t know about you, but learning about Katherine “Kat” Lo’s Eaton Workshop hotel developments and her determination to make hotels gathering places to encourage activism and making the world a better place gives me much-needed hope in this day and age. Thank you, Kat, for developing a concept where ethics and profits mix, where you measure by the social and environmental good you do a bit more than the profit and loss statement.

I had the privilege on Wednesday of interviewing Ms. Lo, daughter of Hong Kong-based Great Eagle Holdings and Langham hotel brand Chairman K.S. Lo, to better understand her plans for the brand launching in Hong Kong and Washington, D.C., where the media has dubbed it the anti-Trump hotel (watch for more on our interview in the weeks ahead). She is also developing in San Francisco in Seattle and would like to further grow – maybe via management contracts – a brand with a social conscience, “a gathering place for an inclusive tribe of change makers and creatives.” The Hong Kong and D.C. projects recently soft-opened with a series of events and programming underscoring Eaton Workshop’s mission. Grand openings are coming in September.

Katherine Lo: “A hotel can be a model to move slowly toward the world that we want.”
Katherine Lo: “A hotel can be a model to move slowly toward the world that we want.”

The Easton concept is not new, as K.S. Lo launched the Eaton brand years ago. As it bumped along and the elder Lo watched the geopolitical world evolve, about five years ago he encouraged his activist daughter to take control of the brand and make a difference.

The rebranded Eaton Workshop is hybrid model of a hotel, media platform, co-working members club and wellness center, with an extensive content and programming agenda underscoring its core advocacy values at the intersection of arts and impact. Eaton D.C. will have 209 hotel rooms, a radio station, a 50-person cinema, a wellness center with yoga, meditation and alternative treatments, a coffee shop and juice bar, a restaurant and bar, a rooftop bar, an event space for up to 182 people, rotating art exhibits, and a co-working club that can accommodate up to 370 members.

From providing job opportunities for local youth to hosting artists-in-residences for refugees and activists, conferences for change makers, and public art, music and film festivals exploring topics of social change, Eaton Workshop wants to be a catalyst for today’s creative and awakened youth and a tribute to their mentors and predecessors. Eaton Workshop properties will be equipped with public spaces as a resource for the community and incubator for emerging talent. For example, at a chef’s table, chefs can offer master classes to apprentices. In each market, the brand will focus on mentorship of local youth through a variety of in-house offerings and programming, training and job opportunities.

Don’t be fooled. As altruistic as it may sound, Lo and her team have done all their due diligence, and the concept pencils out for profitability. Lo added that there is a growing belief that having ethical standards in a company’s corporate charter is ultimately more profitable.

While I know it is much easier for entrepreneurial-spirited, smaller developers to create “do-good” concepts, I think bigger developers need to take notice. The mix of hotel space with co-working space and thoughtful content makes perfect sense to appeal the next generation of travelers. As Lo put it, “A hotel can be a model to move slowly toward the world that we want.”

After I check the morning headlines, thinking about concepts like Eaton Workshop makes utopian sense. I, too, like to daydream, and Kat is making my romantic dreams about the hotel industry also being about nobility come true.