Selina builds on connections

LONDON—Six-year-old global hospitality platform Selina is in a growth phase, expanding out of its origins in Central and Latin America to bring its connections-focused brand to the world. With corporate headquarters in London, the company also has offices in New York; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Panama City.

In the last few months, Selina opened its first two properties in the U.S., with the Selina Chelsea NYC in December 2019 and the Selina Catahoula New Orleans, which opened in February. These two are part of the 65 the company currently has opened, including those in Latin America, Portugal and the U.K.

“We have two properties opening up in Miami in the next couple of months, and then we have several other deals under development—in DC; Miami; New York City; Woodstock, NY; and several other locations,” Yoav Gery, president, Selina, said.

Making the leap to the U.S. market will benefit fans of the brand, according to Gery.

“The brand grew up in Latin America, but we always knew that we wanted and needed to be global because our travelers are from around the world and we wanted to give everybody the opportunity to travel around the world,” he said. “It was always a global company. We knew we were going to enter the U.S. and Europe next, and we targeted some key cities in the U.S. Miami already has a very Latin vibe to it. And you need to be in New York. It is the hub of world in many respects.”

Selina Catahoula New Orleans opened in February.

The brand is not designed to just be in one type of market. “The nice thing about this brand is that it can be everywhere,” he said. “It can be an urban location. It can be a resort location. It can be in the jungle in Central America, and it can be on the beach or a remote desert destination outside of L.A. As we looked at the U.S., we realized we had dozens of opportunities, both from urban locations to more remote locations outside of those urban hubs. The U.S., both in terms of inbound and outbound travelers, was obviously an integral part of the global expansion.”

All of the brand’s locations are about making connections. “Our mission statement is to enable meaningful connections,” said Gery. “That is really the guidepost for everything we do in all respects—in how we find properties, how we design properties and how we operate properties. It is ultimately intended to be a collection of hotels where people can meet locals and travelers, and work, play and sleep, all in one environment. There are other brands that dabble in various aspects of that, whether they call themselves lifestyle or millennial hotels. There are companies that do coworking or companies that do wellness. We really encompass all of those features and do it across the system of a lot of hotels, which is something that distinguishes us from even other brands that compete near or around our space.”

The brand helps to build those connections by working with locals via a local experience board.

“We have a local experience board everywhere we go. Theses are interesting locals—whether they are creatives or young people who are in the know, or just interesting people in that market—who will tell us, ‘You really want to be in Chelsea,’” he said. “‘You really want to be on the Lower East Side.’ ‘You really want to be on the Upper West Side.’ When we open the properties, we are really designing and programming the spaces for locals. We want the food, the music and the feel to be right for locals.

“Take Chelsea as an example,” he added. “If the local gallery set comes to our hotel as a breakfast, lunch, dinner, or late-night event space, the traveler is going to come.”

He continued, “We really do target locals everywhere we go in whatever market we are in. They are the core customer who creates the buzz, creates the energy, actually gives it that local feel and with that, comes the rest of the customers.”

All of the hotels—no matter the location—offer coworking space. “The idea is that all of our spaces, all of our locations can double up as a coworking space on the go,” said Gery. “You can be on a beach in Panama. You can be in the heart of New York City. You can be in a secondary location in Peru, wherever it might be. Our travelers can work for a day, for a week or a month, and digital nomads who travel through Latin America or through Europe will be able to stay in our locations, but be able to work there and always have a fixed, comfortable work environment. That is part of the offering that we give all of our customers.”

Gery said that the brand’s customer demographics are diverse, but all share the desire to make those connections. “In terms of the type of customer that we have, it is a pretty broad-brush approach,” he said. “We are not targeting one age group. We are not targeting one financial segment. This is not a one-star hotel or a five-star hotel. Because of the way that we design and operate our spaces, we appeal to backpackers, who may only have $20 in their pocket. We appeal to the couple in New York City that may have $500 in their pocket. They can each get the type of accommodations that is right for them. The key, though, is ultimately the public space connecting all of these people together.”

He continued, “We have all segments and all ages coming to our property. It is all around the folks who want to seek experiences, gather adventure along the way and meet other people.” HB

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