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Advice & More May 2016

At the Core

Hotel Living - A Charmed Life for Our Second Half

By Marilyn Cappellino

Hotels offer an independent lifestyle that’s neither annoyingly intrusive nor fully alone. The loose interconnectedness of a hotel’s population, combined with its industry’s emphasis on hospitality, serve as effective antidote to the boredom, sometimes loneliness, that often accompanies retirement.

It’s possible that my vision of hotel living has been slanted by the glamour of early Hollywood. I think of apartment hotels, and what comes to mind is Holiday Inn (1949) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, or Frank Sinatra in Hole in the Head (1959). Who wouldn’t like to share in Crosby’s easy ambiance? Sinatra’s cool camaraderie? Imagine Astaire dancing in a ballroom adjacent to your bedroom. How could you not love the idea of living that kind of life, especially if you’re an active retiree?

I’m attracted to places that offer choice, and hotel apartments provide plenty. You want to cook? Do so in your own efficient kitchen. Not up to it? Call room service. Feeling friendly? Take the elevator to the lobby’s cafe.

Want a night cap? Choose to sip in either your cozy living room, or in the chatty bar downstairs. In any weather, use the swimming pool or gym without first having to slip on boots or lather on sunscreen. Not bad. After years of working by the rules, living by the clock, and driven by the calendar, I think all retirees should enjoy such liberties.

Hotels offer an independent lifestyle that’s neither annoyingly intrusive nor fully alone. The loose interconnectedness of a hotel’s population, combined with its industry’s emphasis on hospitality, serve as effective antidote to the boredom, sometimes loneliness, that often accompanies retirement. Given ever-present desk personnel, cleaning crew, a rotating body of guests, and an array of on-premise businesses like spas, barber shops or coffee counters, hotel resident enjoy instant community with much opportunity for social interaction.

The biggest draw for hotel dwellers is freedom from property maintenance. Plumbing fails, electricity shuts down, a leak needs plugging, walls need painting, cable needs repair, and none, not one of these is something you have to fix. Instead, you call management. With one click of a cellphone, you have a repair person....for everything. How attractive is that?   

I’m not alone in my thinking on this. In 2006, anthropologist Leslie A. Browning of the Statistical Research Division of the U.S. Census Bureau wrote a paper titled “People Who Live in Hotels: An Exploratory Overview.” Her study showed that the number of hotel residents has been rising steadily since the 1980s. “People from all walks of life are settled, on indefinite stays or cycling through hotels,” says the author, who notes that the hotel industry has eagerly responded to the increasing demand. “Accommodating settlers, sojourners and regulars reflect innovative business strategies adopted by most hospitality brand families and property owners.” Those strategies have resulted in residential styles ranging from low-end daily rate motels, to mid-range extended stay hotels, to high-end hotel-managed luxury condos.

What is clear is the lodging industry is accommodating. In 2014 it earned $176 billion in U.S. sales revenue, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA). On average, 4.8 million guests were hosted each night. Many of those guests were seniors. AHLA estimates 39 percent of the industry’s leisure travelers are aged 55 plus. My guess is a fair number of those travelers are the “sojourners” Browning spoke of as persons using hotels for temporary or permanent residences.

If I were seeking a hotel to live in, I’d lean toward one defined as “mid-size, mid-range, limited service with food and beverage.” That means my ideal would have 75-149 rooms, and a front desk staffed 24/7. Its standard nightly rate would hover around $200, though that rate would likely be adjusted significantly on a long-term rental arrangement. A moderate property matching my ideal would not offer room service, but would likely have a breakfast cafe or casual restaurant. A bonus for me would be a side dining room where I could invite family and friends for an occasional holiday dinner.    

As in other property considerations, location is everything. I’d want my hotel in the heart of a vibrant and walkable community. On the inside, I’d like a suite close to some permanent neighbors. A couple of floors with a dozen or so residents would be nice. Beyond that, I prefer the energized atmosphere of travelers coming and going irregularly.

There can be some disadvantages to living in so public a building. The occasional rowdy guests, weekends with junior league hockey teams, or holidays when visiting families commandeer the pool can disrupt a resident’s routine. But, these annoyances tend to be short term.

Sure, my vision of the good life may be slightly inflated by old-time motion pictures. Still, the notion is attractive. When retirement is near, hotel living is an option worth considering.

 

Hotel Categories/Nightly Rate Estimates

People Who Live in Hotels: An Exploratory Overview,” (2006) www.census.gov.

Luxury: rates in the $100s or $1000s per night
Upscale: rates in $100s, under $500 per night
Midscale: rates in the range of $80 - $200
Economy: rates $55 or less

Note: Rate for long-term stays are generally negotiated with specific hotels.

 

Marilyn Cappellino is a syndicated columnist living in Buffalo, NY, a rebounding city where, she happily notes, her five grandchildren also reside.

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