The Standard is here to play. Sort of. As the hotel industry figures out how to navigate hospitality in the age of Airbnb, the boutique hotel chain is focusing on its strengths. “It’s forced us to do better what we’re really good at, and what we’re really good at is bringing people together,” says Standard International CEO Amar Lalvani. “That’s something [Airbnb] can never do.”
That’s where the hotel lobby–and The Standard’s new Lobby app–comes into play. The idea behind the app is simple: Hotel lobbies used to be a place for spontaneous conversations, to meet and mingle with people from around the world. “I think of it kind of like the movie Lost in Translation, the beautiful, spontaneous, unexpected things that can happen in a hotel,” says Lalvani. “Now what happens in a hotel lobby is everyone is looking at their phone.”
To fight those iPhone-instigated isolationist tendencies, The Standard is unveiling a virtual lobby where guests at the hotel (you must be checked in to check out the app) can chat with each other and even *gasp* make plans to meet in real life. “We’ve created a platform that connects social networking to a physical space all for the purpose of putting your phone down and making a human connection,” explains Lalvani.
Hotel guests who want to play can create an alias on the app–revealing as much, or as little, detail about their real identity as they feel comfortable doing–and can then chat incognito with other guests who are happy to play along. If things go swimmingly, you can send a photo (or a GIF) and even invite a fellow guest to meet up IRL, perhaps in the real world’s hotel lobby. It’s a bit cheeky, a bit daring, and could possibly lead to fun adventures, which is exactly what the team had in mind.
“We understand that people often become a different version of themselves when they travel, especially when the stay in hotels,” says Jimmy Suh, Standard International’s chief commercial officer, who created the app. “They become more adventurous, more spontaneous, and more curious. This app is meant to bridge that spontaneity. Beautiful things can happen when two strangers come together and have a great time.”
That said, both Lalvani and Suh deny that this is a Tinder for Hotels app. “If someone wants a hook-up, there are plenty of hook-up apps out there, and people will have a much bigger pie on Tinder or Grindr,” says Suh.
The app is exclusively available for hotel guests to use during their stay, and all its content disappears upon checkout, leaving no digital trail. However, if this sounds like a precursor to an SVU storyline, there are some safety features built in. First, no real names are used without the user’s consent. Second, it’s easy to block users, decline requests, and if someone is misbehaving, they have built-in reporting features.
“You can report a person who is crossing boundaries and it will go to the management team of the hotel, and they will remove that person from the app,” explains Suh, who acknowledges that the app could be controversial, but hopes the legitimate use doesn’t dampen the potential fun.
This isn’t the company’s first app. A few years ago, it debuted One Night Standard, an app that lets guests get a good deal on a spontaneous room booking, which it extended to other hotel brands through its One Night app. “What we like to do is connect the dots between what we think is happening in the world and how we can introduce them in our hotels,” says Lalvani. “Lobby is the next product that we think changes the game in this space.”
The Lobby app debuts at The Standard, High Line today and will be available in the App Store and Google Play.