A-STAY is a flexible hotel based on the principle of self-service, located in the centre of Antwerp, Belgium. Its team wants to revolutionize the hospitality experience of tomorrow. How ?  They explain below.

Thomas Vandenbergh, CEO ad interim of A-STAY
Thomas Vandenbergh, CEO ad interim of A-STAY

Can you explain the principle behind A-STAY ? What gave you the idea to launch this hotel ?

A-STAY was born with a new type of traveler in mind, a traveler emerging from the millennial mindset.  This mindset wants freedom, flexibility, transparency and is a die-hard fan of using technology to make things easier.  At the same time peer recommendations and a sense of community is super important to them when travelling.  

A-STAY is an answer to a lot of these wants and needs. We give our stayers freedom and flexibility by offering self-serve experiences rather than depending on others to serve you.  Check-in and check-out happen at self-use screens, there is no reception.  You can tap your own beer at the bar.  Order the food you want to taste via delivery apps and pick it up at the delivery point in the Playground.  At A-STAY, you book a room, then decide if you want to add on services you think are important enough to pay for. 

 We also aim to be as inclusive of the city we are in as possible, inviting our stayers to participate in events we organize in the communal area.  It’s a way for us to showcase Antwerp as if our stayers were locals.  We want our stayers to unfold the city they are visiting, on their terms.

What technologies and innovations have you implemented that you are most proud of at A-STAY?

We are the first hotel we know in the world, who uses a palm scan to give our stayers access to their rooms, and, as we develop more, other experiences.  As you check-in at the screens, you will be prompted to scan your palm.  A palm scan is the safest biometric identification method in the market at the moment.  It was important for us to find partners in technology who could co-create this first in the world experience with us.  Partnering up to co-create is our favorite thing to do, because we don’t assume we know it all.  

Self-serve check-in screens and other tech at A-STAY (view video here).

That said, the team at A-STAY is the ultimate hands on team.  While we were preparing to open A-STAY, and in true start-up mode, the whole team assembled each and every one of the 200 palm scanners we have at the property.  We’ve all had our hands at creating the experience and it is something we can be proud of.  Additionally, we don’t really consider ourselves “finished” innovating. Just recently, we started working with Junker Makis Robotics and their autonomous robot SAM. SAM uses UV-C light to disinfect an interior space.  We are right now asking our stayers to give feedback on SAM, both for our sake, but also to help another start-up to create their product.  We know how it feels to start from nothing.

Do you do pilots with various PropTechs startups ? How is it going and how can they contact you ?

We welcome any ideas on how to take hospitality into the future.  Hospitality can be a very traditional space and we feel it’s time for change.  PropTech start-ups can submit their participation in wanting to become a pilot project at A-STAY by contacting us here :  they just have to fill out a simple form.  We are looking for anyone who thinks that their product or service could benefit stayers at A-STAY.  We have a large communal space called the Playground, where stayers hang out often and where products can be tested. We also have an urban garden, a gym, 192 rooms, a meeting room and a bar.  All of these touch points are places where we can ask stayers for feedback.

What are the areas in PropTech that you would like to see further developed ?

It’s less about specific areas and more about being open to any solutions which enable us to provide the stayer experience we are aiming for; a fair, flexible, playful and community building short or long stay.  A solution or enhancement which contributes to our stayer’s journey is welcome, even the untraditional ones.  For us, considering our extensive use of technology, we naturally gravitate and understand products and services which enables self-service and personalization. 

We want to become a lifestyle brand; the first brand which pops up in the mind of the traveler of tomorrow.”

What has been the impact of Covid-19 ? It might be too early to tell right now, but do you think that in the near future the audience will choose you, above other actors, because you offer a secure model and particularly suited to the crisis ? 

There was an impact, yes.  People stayed home, not feeling comfortable to venture outside.  But we made the decision to stay open throughout, work on our safety precautions and it served us well.  The recovery, once restrictions were loosened, had as much positive impact as the negative impact of the lockdown.  People were craving some type of escape from being at home, even for just a couple of nights.  Yes, I think our stayers feel we are safer than most public places, simply because of our “more tech and less staff” approach.  Our stayers are in control of managing their stay using technology and our staff, our Locals, are there to otherwise help and to uncover local tips about the city.  We are slightly obsessed with safety and it pays off.  Us working with the robot SAM is an example of how obsessed we are.  We want to find innovative ways of doing things, even in a crisis situation.  We see ourselves as a resilient team.  We know we have to roll with the punches, stay alert and make quick decisions.  That’s how companies survive these days. 

Do you think that more and more accommodation will be inspired by your model in the hospital sector ? How do you see the hospital industry of the future ?

We aren’t too concerned about whether others will follow, copy or do as we do.  It’s a compliment if they do and there are no hard feelings.  We don’t fear competition, nor the future.  Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t naïve, but we do have a strong belief that the best way of predicting the future is by making it. There are obvious trends of course.  The way the millennials travel is different to how generation Z will approach it, but the common denominator here is that the focus should be on what the consumer wants and needs and that products and services are made in co-creation. 

You have the ambition to launch at least 10 new projects in the next 5 years. A-STAY also having the specificity of being anchored in the Antwerp scene, being linked to many local partners : Do you already have partners in these different places ? Do you plan to make any modifications to the model according to the local scene ?

We do have very interesting positions in cities with a forward vibe, where we are close to where it is all happening and also steps away from main public transport so that our impact on the environment is as low as possible.  The way we approach partners is all in the spirit of being a “good neighbor”.  We will look at what concepts, businesses and start-ups are in the neighborhood and then offer A-STAY as an outlet, or give our stayers the benefit or our partner by asking them to visit them.  It’s a give and take.  As an example, in February, we partnered with Ampere, a known nightclub 50m away from A-STAY in Antwerp. Together, we pulled off an intimate 4-hour DJ session for a lucky few at A-STAY.  This then continued at Ampere for a larger crowd. It was a way for a neighboring business to offer a different experience, and a way for us to help and offer something extra for our stayers.

On the tech front, the beauty of them is that they are extremely scalable, which means that the more locations we have the more we have the opportunity to invest in even more amazing solutions. It’s a real virtuous circle. 

And finally, what do you hope to accomplish in the next few years ? Where do you want to be in 10 years, for example ?

We want to become a lifestyle brand; the first brand which pops up in the mind of the traveler of tomorrow, whether they travel for business or leisure.  We want to be known for being the place which  always thinks ahead, a place where co-creation is key and pushing the boundaries is evident.  All that while having fun doing it.  

For more information : https://www.a-stay.com/

For Proptech startups interested in the pilot projet : http://a-stay.proptechlab.be/

Liuba Diederich