When you’re choosing between a vacation rental and a hotel stay, both have their benefits and drawbacks. Vacation rentals offer creature comforts like a kitchen and living room and typically provide more space at a better value; hotels deliver amenities like daily housekeeping, a pool, a gym, on-site restaurants—in other words, you can relax without having to clear the dishes.
Those differences sometimes make it hard to pick. Enter Element by Westin’s new Studio Commons, which could be a game changer for groups and families. The new multiple-room layout brings homesharing features to the minimalist Element hotels, an eco-conscious brand designed for short- and longer-term stays.
Unveiled this week by Element by Westin, which is owned by Marriott International, the newly launched Studio Commons spaces connect four adjacent guest rooms (which range from 250 to 280 square feet each) to a larger communal kitchen, dining, and living room area (ranging from 600 to 650 square feet).
The entire Studio Commons unit is a private, keyed-off space designated for the group who has booked it (so you’re not sharing the communal area with strangers). The standard layout features king beds in the adjoining rooms for a total of up to eight guests staying overnight.
Kids of all ages are welcome to stay in the Studio Commons rooms; the concept was designed in part to accommodate families traveling together. The area can also be used for entertaining: The Studio Commons communal space can host up to 20 people.
Guests staying in the Studio Commons rooms will have access to all Element hotel amenities—saltwater swimming pools, a 24-hour fitness center, a bike-lending program, complimentary breakfast, and wine and beer happy hours.
The hotel-meets-homestay concept debuted at the new Element in Scottsdale, Arizona, in June, and at the Element in Boulder, Colorado, in July. Additional Studio Commons units will be introduced at Element hotels that are slated to open in Sedona, Arizona; Sacramento, California; Ontario, Canada; and Minneapolis, Minnesota, within the next year. There are Studio Commons currently planned for 37 properties in Dallas; New York; Houston; Detroit; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Ontario, California; Portland, Oregon; and Orlando, Florida, among future additions.
Forging connections through shared activities
So, why did Element hotels go this route? In part because of research the company conducted indicating that travelers are craving connections. The brand surveyed 1,235 Americans age 18 and over, and one-third of respondents said they would prefer to spend their savings on shared experiences rather than on material things. Nearly a quarter (23 percent) of respondents reported that they search both hotel and home rental options when looking for lodging.
Twenty-one percent said they’re ultimately looking for multi-generational travel experiences that will help them to forge closer bonds and lasting memories.
To foster those connections, Element is also offering packages to its Studio Commons guests that are designed to encourage bonding through group travel experiences. For instance, at the Element in Boulder, the whole crew can volunteer at a local animal shelter; take a cooking class in the communal kitchen; or go horseback riding, hiking, or zip lining.
To get a sense of the rates, the Studio Commons spaces at the Element in Boulder start at $800 per night, which includes the four individual guest rooms, common living area, and kitchen.