Local vibe drives Ennismore’s ambitions

“Lifestyle ecosystem” is the word Guarav Bhushan uses to describe the positioning of hotels in the Ennismore portfolio. The co-CEO, along with Sharan Pasricha, believes a combination of creative F&B, a locally infused environment and of-the-moment amenities such as co-work are what makes the lifestyle platform 67% owned by Accor special. It creates the very crucial point of difference in the very crowded lifestyle hotel segment. “What our owners and customers want from us more than anything else is a unique experience. That’s where it starts and stops,” Bhushan told HOTELS during a January interview. “Our entire focus is on integrating ourselves into the local community and not just being a destination for travelers. It is as much, if not more, about locals.”

Creating and enhancing that lifestyle ecosystem is what drives Ennismore as it grows from a platform that in mid-January stood at 90 hotels open (17 opened in 2021) and a record 157 in the pipeline. “SLS, Mondrian, 25hours, Mama Shelter, The Hoxton and TRIBE are the brands that are really powering our pipeline in different parts of the world,” he added. Other brands in the Ennismore system include 21c Museum Hotels, Delano, Gleneagles, Hyde, JO&JOE, Morgans Originals, SO/ and Working From_, the co-work platform that continues to be a major emphasis across the portfolio.

The co-working space at The Hoxton London in Southwark

Ennismore is also capitalizing on the muscle of Accor, which in October 2021 finalized a deal to take a 66.67% share of the company founded by Sharan Pasricha, who gained attention for developing The Hoxton brand and continues to hold a 33.33% share.

It is no wonder that the local audience is key to Ennismore’s success. Not only does it give properties the preferred vibe, but 40% to 60% of all revenue comes through F&B, and that business is predominantly generated by locals. So, that experience must be managed quite carefully.

Bhushan said there are some 40 different F&B concepts across the system today and Ennismore will develop several new ones every year to implement as the company moves into new markets. For example, as it renovates the venerable Sanderson and St. Martins Lane hotels in London, fresh and more relevant restaurants will be launched, as well.

“You really create a point of difference with relevant concepts which truly apply to London today, as opposed to a couple of decades ago,” Bhushan said. “Locals don’t like coming to hotels because they feel out of place… We’re trying to make these hotels feel like part of their communities. Travelers are actually more attracted to stay there because they think they’re in a place where they can actually interact with people from the neighborhood.”

The other local component driving business is co-working, especially at the Hoxton, and Bhushan said Working From_  will continue to be implemented across most Ennismore brands. “Combining co-working with a fully integrated lifestyle platform – I don’t believe anyone has done that really successfully. We believe we’re right at the forefront. Our numbers speak for themselves, and we will evolve that more.”

Public space at the TRIBE Paris

Success with co-work, Bhushan said, is all about execution and for Ennismore it means making it an integral part of the building envelop. “Where I am working from today, our office is in the co-working space at the Hoxton London in Southwark. We have 750 desks here all sold out with a long waiting list. But what makes it interesting and successful is that it’s part of a bigger lifestyle ecosystem. You have the hotel, the bars and restaurants, a destination where people are not just happy to work but where guests can come and stay. It’s the overall destination that makes them more attractive.”

Bhushan added that Ennismore is working through several projects that have elements of residential, co-work and extensive entertainment facilities built into single platforms. “Then you start to look at the rooms businesses as only one minor component of the overall ecosystem because a lot of the business is local. The co-working business, the bar and restaurant business – it’s almost entirely local.”

The way forward

If it seems like Ennismore has too many brands in the lifestyle space, especially considering most of these brands are no more than a decade old, Bhushan makes an interesting case for the mix. “The whole point of having more brands is to make sure you don’t dilute a brand by over scaling,” he said. “We want to make sure that we can get scale with the entire Ennismore platform, which you need to run a profitable business, but you don’t want to necessarily scale each brand. We are trying to keep each brand authentic, focused on making sure they have a purpose, a mission. That way, we can stay true to what the brands stand for and they can stand the test of time.”

Bespoke brands are also a little more difficult to develop, but 2021 was a pretty good year for the Ennismore pipeline.

Again, Bhushan pointed to the design-driven affordable luxury TRIBE brand as one of the highflyers in the Ennismore stable. “It fits the need of the market at the right level,” he says. “It is attacking that segment, which so far has been dominated by very functional products. It is bringing a type of product – with its look, feel and experience – that is quite different.”

He called it uncomplicated, authentic and cool, built around being in a neighborhood where people can hang out, have a coffee or drink, at a very affordable price point. The TRIBE in Paris, Bhushan says, even has stand-up comedy shows in its lobby. Again, he suggests doing things differently to build a sense of community and making people feel at home matters now more than ever.

Looking more geographically, even though Ennismore brands are not managed by region, Saudi Arabia, not surprisingly, is a hot spot for the group as it recently signed an MOU with Riyadh’s Tourism Development Fund (TDF) to explore the establishment of a US$400 million fund that would bring Ennismore’s lifestyle brands to at least 12 destinations in The Kingdom.

“Combining co-working with a fully integrated lifestyle platform – I don’t believe anyone has done that really successfully. We believe we’re right at the forefront. Our numbers speak for themselves, and we will evolve that more.” – Guarav Bhushan

TDF would identify locations and provide financing options for projects throughout the Kingdom, while Ennismore would lead on programming, design and operations for an estimated 2,000 keys.

“The deal is very much on track,” Bhushan confirmed. “Investors are very keen to participate. We are offering something which is quite different with our unique set of brands, and it has really caught the eye of the local investor market. Tourism Development Fund wants to do this deal because they really believe with a young population in Saudi that these brands are the way to go, particularly as they try to develop a domestic tourism infrastructure, as well.”

In total, Ennismore, as well as other lifestyle and entertainment businesses, account for about one-quarter of Accor’s pipeline, according to Bhushan. Ennismore continues to leverage Accor’s scale in sales, distribution and loyalty, as well as its 150-plus developers all over the world looking new projects. “Anywhere where scale is applicable, we leverage Accor.”

As for managing in a unique role as a co-CEO with Pasricha, Bhushan said they have been friends for much longer than they have been co-workers, and they make all key decisions together. “Sharan is an amazing visionary when it comes to product, brand and innovation. So, he spends a lot of his time and effort focusing on everything that the customer is touching and feeling,” Bhushan said.  “I focus a lot on running the day-to-day operations, the development and financials. We complement each other perfectly.”

On the performance side, Ennismore has simply been focused on driving its business and Bhushan said it has been outperforming the market. “We’re trying to focus on delivering the right experience, and our trajectory for recovery has been quicker than the market average… Frankly, we have just been trying to run the best possible business we can, and that’s gone down well with our owners… Last year was the litmus test and we came out of it as a healthy, profitable business that is growing rapidly.”