Experiential evolution 

Emerging wanderlust brand Selina often upcycles to create authentic, sustainable and impactful designs for its primarily millennial and Gen Z guests. 

Selina’s first Southeast Asia property, Selina Phuket is situated on the coastline of Rawai and features an expansive 24-hour waterfront coworking facility with a private pool and HOWM Beach Bar and Kitchen.

Contributed by Alicia Sheber 

Fueled by the freedom of working remotely, digital nomads seek to make the most of the travel opportunities this lifestyle affords. Selina, the London-based hotel brand whose forte is cultural immersion, is designed to satisfy their wanderlust.  

Tucked away in the heart of the Atlas Mountains just south of Marrakech, Selina Nomad Camp Agafay offers rustic glamping accommodations and connections with nature.

Options range from daily rates to monthly subscriptions for stays amongst 163 open and secured properties across 25 countries and six continents, with many more hotels on the horizon thanks to the group’s recent IPO brought about by a merger with special purpose acquisition company BOA Acquisition Corp. Selina’s resourceful approach to locations, properties and design partners syncs squarely with the authenticity, sustainability, social impact and programming content desired by its primarily millennial and Gen Z guests. 

“What’s special about Selina is that we feel very comfortable opening in a small town in Ecuador, and the same week, in Melbourne or New York,” says Rafael Museri, co-founder and CEO of Selina. “The most interesting communities are in secondary locations and off the grid.” 

Selina Union Market in Washington, D.C. is the brand’s signature U.S. property. The hotel’s décor is modern industrial, using the space’s history as a former seed factory to inspire design.

Before entering a country, the brand’s local “experience board” builds a roadmap ensuring plans include not just obvious destinations, but 10 to 15 lesser-known places, too. Rather than new construction, the team identifies underperforming hotels with good bones yet unsuitable designs and programming, and over three to four months, transforms them into something relevant. “The funds come from a third party, so we’re not the property owner but we lease it for 20 years,” Museri explains. “This allows us to grow faster than other lifestyle brands.” 

In each community, Selina’s internal design team identifies anywhere from five to 30 young artists and designers, often students, to upcycle old hotels’ existing furniture in workshops set up, especially for the projects. Items that must be purchased are frequently second-hand. 

Example of upcycling for guest rooms at Selina Boquete in the western mountains in Panama

Tables and bed frames are painted and refreshed, and even 30 to 40 old vans and buses have been repurposed into features such as reception desks and bars. Although artists receive design package templates and guidance about the right style direction, Museri says “quiet flexibility” is allowed for their creative choices. Since items aren’t ordered from catalogs, Selina’s in-house design team finds sympathetic replacements once something becomes unusable.  

The art is to design somewhere backpackers paying US$10/night for dorms feel as comfortable as those shelling out US$200-400/night for suites. “People want to feel they’re part of something more sustainable than traditional boutique design hotels,” Museri explains. “If you create authentic, simple designs with lots of upcycling and a bit of an ‘old’ feel, you’re going to find that the fancy dudes are still very comfortable.” 

Lobby space at Selina Evora, located near Porta de Alconchel’s medieval walls in Portugal

Music events, corporate retreats and membership programs are in the cards as Selina evolves.  

“I’m happy we’ve built a platform with endless opportunities,” Museri says. “We’re here for a marathon, not a sprint, and have a consistent, disciplined focus to continue building the biggest hospitality brand for millennials and Gen Z in the world. We’re going wherever is interesting and experience can be the lever.”