Belvar is the hotel management company behind Moxy, a range of hotels designing unique interiors and bringing their own signature approach to hospitality. We talk to the business’s Commercial Manager, Josefin Baff, about adapting to changing trends and attracting a new generation of traveller.
Tell us more about Belvar.
Belvar is a global hotel management company with its head office in Norway. We currently operate 13 Moxy hotels and three Courtyard by Marriott hotels. In the coming years we will also add the ‘extended stay’ brand Residence Inn by Marriott to our portfolio of hotels. To cater for the food and beverage needs at our locations, we have also developed our own restaurant brand called Gård Nordic Kitchen, which will enter the UK market at the newly opened Moxy London Heathrow later this year.
Belvar will open six new Moxy Hotels in 2018, while another 20 newly-built hotels are planned to open between 2019–2020. Currently the business has approximately 10,000 new hotel rooms under development in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Norway, Italy, Belgium and Poland.
Why have you launched Moxy?
The Norwegian owners of Belvar had an idea of launching a hotel that was a game changer in the hospitality arena. Together with their real estate partner, Vastint Hospitality, they presented the idea to Marriott, who loved the concept. Moxy was born, and Belvar became the preferred operator of Moxy in Europe.
Since 2014, Belvar has been opening Moxy hotels all over Europe. What do you think is underpinning this fast growth?
When Belvar’s owners thought up the concept they saw a gap in the market for something very different. We think there is a demand for a hotel aimed at the budget savvy traveller where Moxy has redesigned the traditional economy hotel experience. Since launch, the demand for the hotels have proved to be strong, hence the fast growth.
You are due to open hotels in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and York. Can you tell us more about the projects and what makes them special?
We choose locations that we know will have high traffic, such as town centres and airports. Our hotels in Glasgow and York will be in the city centres and our Edinburgh location will open at the airport. Regardless of which Moxy you visit, you should feel the local touch of where you are. We always decorate each hotel to be unique for its location, using locally sourced pieces that are retro and vintage.
Moxy sees itself as a different player in the market – how so?
Our hotels are aimed at the new generation traveller who is looking for a unique and fun experience, design, the latest technology, comfort and value for money all under one roof. All Moxy hotels have a funky bar with a playful crew (staff) and a food and beverage concept that is a nod to the local location. We give the guests the chance to ‘break the rules and play on’. It’s just a way of doing things differently in the hotel arena.
How are the interiors different?
We partner with an interior design firm called APTO. The Belvar Development team works closely with this partner on each new location to find the ultimate design and operational solution according to the Moxy brand standards as well as our company standards.
All of the interiors are fun and eclectic with bold design and communal areas. Concrete floors and walls lined with intriguing art and fun references to local culture are complemented by ambient lighting and accents of colour. There are bright and buzzy entrances with a Moxy library, and tech areas with abundant USB ports, where people can connect and catch up with friends and family. Most hotels have a gym, where you will find our signature pink punch bags. Bedrooms are fitted with sound-reducing walls, 42” LCD flat screen televisions and floor-to-ceiling art pieces. They are uncluttered and simple with stylish bathrooms. In the living room (lobby) of our Moxy Hotels you will find unique signature items. This week Moxy London Heathrow opened with a full-size Mini Cooper car in the lobby, and later this week Moxy Milan Linate enters the market with an Italian cathedral-style domed entrance, which you won’t find in many hotels.
What was involved in launching your own signature restaurant?
Our signature restaurant, Gård Nordic Kitchen, is more to do with Belvar’s Norwegian roots than Moxy as it is a Nordic fusion restaurant. The concept works very well in our three Courtyard hotels – Amsterdam, Brussels and Gdynia – and at our Convention Centre X Meeting Point in Oslo, where it is already in operation. It will roll out for the first time at Moxy London Heathrow later in the summer.
Since Moxy arrived in 2014, what have been some of the biggest disruptors in the hotel and hospitality sector?
The sharing economy has vastly increased since we opened. The continuous growth of Airbnb gives more alternatives but has also made the consumer think differently about the hotel product they want. We are definitely getting demand in this segment because of what we are offering. New brands are rapidly changing the face of the industry, leading to a wave of innovation. It’s interesting that established chains are now introducing radically different concepts and launching millennial-focused offerings in the economy portfolio.
What are some of the hard truths and immediate opportunities for the sector?
People looking for accommodation now have more choice than ever on how to spend their money. But if you stand out from the crowd and offer something really different and unique, you will do well. People don’t want to pay for the swimming pool if they are not going to use it. They want somewhere where they can chill out, that is tech savvy, with a great atmosphere, a bar that serves great drinks, food if they want it and a great night’s sleep without all the fuss. Moxy ticks those boxes and there are plenty of people looking for it.
What is fuelling the appetite from investors to the hotel sector?
The opportunity to invest in hotel real estate with a globally recognised and established brand behind it. The hospitality sector is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries in the world and hotel rooms tend to be a lower-risk, hands-free investment.
People are also travelling more. Therefore, there is strong growth in this market in general and investment companies are increasing their exposure to hotels.