Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

A high-end travel operator will actually build a hotel from the ground up, just for you, the way you like it.

For your next vacation, forget about taking inspiration from Instagram. You’re going to go where nobody has been before, on a trip that nobody has ever taken—and that nobody after you will ever take again.

That’s the promise of Blink, a new ephemeral vacation service that the high-end travel outfitter Black Tomato is launching Thursday. Here’s how it works: You pick a country or region, and Black Tomato will find a pristine parcel of land on which to build you a fully customized pop-up hotel, complete with staff and meals and excursions. You choose everything from the view to the bed linens to the bottles in your pop-up wine cellar. It’s tailor-made travel in the most literal way ever.


Dinner for a group at a pop-up hotel in Bolivia’s salt flats. Source: Black Tomato

“People use the words ‘tailor made’ so ubiquitously these days. What does that even mean anymore?” said Tom Marchant, co-founder of Black Tomato, who conceived of Blink as a response to the traction he saw from pop-up retail concepts. “Temporary experiences really excite people,” he said. “They create a sense of urgency.”

For Marchant, this is the direction that luxury is moving in. He says his personal definition of luxury is something that’s truly unique and can’t be replicated, and hoteliers far and wide agree. But there’s only so much customizing that a hotel can pull off. “Bespoke bath amenities” will be bespoke to a property’s design, not to the guests’ individual wishes; “customized excursions” are often just tweaks to tried and true itineraries.

1x-12Bell tents in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula—one of seven styles of accommodations you can choose from with Blink. Source: Black Tomato

But those who create a trip using Blink will have—by Marchant’s calculations—751,074,508,800 total trip combinations to choose from after all the granular details are factored in.

So where to begin? An epic location. Black Tomato has built its name off exceptional access to remote places, and Marchant’s team has spent roughly 18 months laying the groundwork for this new project. “Blink is available anywhere in the world,” Marchant said—and he means it. (Yes, that includes the Arctic.) But he and his team will inspire clients with such far-flung and exotic locations as the salt flats in Bolivia or Australia’s Kimberly region. Safari-goers might set up in Namibia or the Kalahari; culture fiends can head to Rajasthan or Myanmar’s Inle Lake; and action fanatics can choose from ski trips in Switzerland, northern lights spotting in Iceland, or riding the sand dunes in the Moroccan desert. These are all among Marchant’s favorites—and hardly compromise an exhaustive list.

1x-13Camping out in style in the Moroccan desert. Source: Black Tomato

Once the general location is set, travelers can get into the nitty gritty of designing their pop-up hotel from the ground up. In an effort to leave no trace behind, Marchant chose semipermanent (but high-design) tents as the format for all Blink pop-ups, but you can choose from a variety of styles: canvas, domes, bubbles, yurts, tropical villa tents, and a few more. Then everything from the layout of the beds (yes, real beds) to the patterns on the seat cushions and the brand of bath amenities is up to your personal whim.

The process can take place online—Marchant likened the experience to “choosing from a room service menu”—or over the phone with an expert, though he also clarified that guests can be as hands-on or hands-off as they want to be. (Even the customization process is customizable.)

1x-14A pop-up Pisco bar for pop-up hotel guests in Valle de la Luna, Chile. Source: Black Tomato

 Depending on the remoteness of the location and how established Black Tomato is in that area, it can take three to five months to execute a client’s vision. Not only does it require a logistical superstorm to get all your preferences lined up and installed on site; Black Tomato also has to staff each camp individually. For some guests, that might mean daily housekeeping and a couple of great guides; for others, it could mean a sommelier, chef, and an astronomer for expert-led stargazing sessions. Blink trips include meals, excursions, transfers, and everything in between. “We create the full package,” Marchant explained.
Blink’s service is fully end to end—you’re in remote places but with plenty of staff to fawn over you (and light candles at night). Source: Black Tomato
Blink took a lot of work to get off the ground—but it will quickly become a well-oiled machine, Marchant hopes. Black Tomato expects to start small, commissioning roughly 10-20 trips in the service’s first year and ultimately scaling it into the hundreds. “We have the infrastructure to support growth on this,” Marchant assured, but he also recognized that it’s not a trip that everyone can (or will) take. “It’s not a mass proposition—it’s about the right people at the right time in the right place.”

As for the pricing, that’s fully bespoke, too. According to Marchant, prices can range from $65,784 for a group of six that wants to spend three nights in Morocco to $177,600 for a group of six spending four nights in the Bolivian salt flats. “Neither of these are including airfare, but Black Tomato can arrange flights from anywhere in the world,” he said.

1x-16Blink can easily set up multiple tents for a group—or cater to couples seeking privacy. Source: Black Tomato

And while these sample bills were both representative of group trips, Blink is as appropriate for couples as it is for larger affairs. “I can see a lot of proposals and engagements happening with Blink,” Marchant half-joked. “The concept works on many levels: honeymooners looking for the ultimate secluded and private experience, family groups looking to celebrate a milestone event or birthday, groups of friends looking to escape together.” After all, it’s as easy to create a single tent as it is to set up five domes or bubbles in a row for your own private pop-up lodge.

1x-17A Blink yurt in the Bolivian Andes. Source: Black Tomato

Regardless, each camp will be dismantled as soon as you leave—removing every last trace of its existence—and it’ll never be built the same way again. In other words: Blink, and you’ll miss it. “That’s what gets the hairs on the neck standing up,” said Marchant. “Right now travelers just talk about hotels and Airbnb. Just wait, in 10 years’ time there’s a chance people will be talking about this—semi-permanent tents—instead.”

Design Your Own Pop-Up Hotel and Sleep Literally Anywhere in the World

Hotels are making a major change to be more flexible for travelers

Hotels are making a major change to be more flexible for travelers

Having the flexibility to choose when you check-in or check-out of a hotel can make traveling much less stressful.

Standard Hotels recently announced a new program called Standard Time, which allows guests to choose their check-in and check-out times across all five of its properties in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

the standard east village The Standard in New York’s East Village. Facebook/The Standard, East Village NY

Guests will have the option to choose Standard Time from the website’s drop-down menu when choosing their room type. The service includes a fee of about 5% of the rate, and guests will be contacted prior to their stay to determine the estimated check-in and check-out times.

The option might not be able for every room type, and the company recommends booking ahead to ensure you have access to it.

the standard hollywood The Standard in Hollywood, California. Facebook/The Standard, Hollywood

The option of customizable check-in and check-out times at hotels allows guests to have increased time and a more relaxed stay, which is why hotels like the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, North Carolina, properties of Capella Hotels and Resorts, and The Peninsula Beverly Hills offer similar services.

Hotels are making a major change to be more flexible for travelers

5 Outrageous Luxury Hotels Now Underway

5 Outrageous Luxury Hotels Now Underway

Scores of luxury hotels debut all over the globe each year—and while every shiny new development strives to shatter the industry’s gold standard in terms of services and amenities, some aim to stand out from the pack in a far more daring way.

The following soon-to-be lodges—from a waterfront resort meant to emulate the shape of microscopic sea creatures to a flashy new “coconut” ripening in Dubai—defy design conventions to the extreme, showcasing outré shells unlike any other: whimsical architectural masks molded out of ingenuity and ambition, glazed with a touch of crazy.

#1: The ‘Loopy’ Olympian

In anticipation of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Seoul-based architecture firm Planning Korea has designed a one-of-a-kind seaside resort in Gangneung, inspired by the ecological structure of plankton.


The building—best described as a rectangular figure eight—will rest on the shore of the East Sea. A combination of condominiums and hotel suites (with 946 rooms total), the glossy development—designed to optimize occupants’ views of the water and surrounding mountains with two crisscrossing slopes rimmed with gardens—will feature a massive four-seasons pool at its belt, situated beneath an LED-lit ceiling that can double as a media facade.


Sited on a 29,493-square-meter lot just half a kilometer from the Games’ soon-to-be stadiums, it’ll offer accommodations to Olympic participants and attendees, and serve as a venue for some of the event’s conventions.

A tiny “village” showcasing low-level duplex accommodations—meant to echo Hanok, a traditional form of Korean housing—will also lie at the foot of the building, peppered with pools, shops, and eateries.

#2: The Semi-Submarine ‘Cave’

About 22 miles from Shanghai’s city center rests an old quarry in the satellite city of Songjiang, near the base of Tianmenshan Mountain. Long abandoned, the 295-foot-deep, water-filled pit is undergoing a serious facelift, with a luxury hotel currently being embedded into its towering cliffside.


“Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental”—planned to become one ofIHG’s flagships in China—will consist of 380 rooms spanning 19 stories (including a couple of submarine levels that will contain an aquarium, restaurant, and guest suites), with only two floors protruding above the crag’s surface.

Completely integrated into the surrounding naturescape, the Atkins-designed “cave hotel”—scheduled to debut sometime this year—resembles a lush hill draped with a glassy “waterfall” (a slyly-disguised central atrium that links the quarry’s base to the ground level), positioned across from a genuine cascade located on the other end of the quarry.


Complementing the lake at its base, the five-star lodge’s lowest floor will consist of a water sports and leisure complex, while an outdoor sports hub cantilevered over the quarry will offer more extreme activities such as rock climbing and bungee jumping. To boot, the project will boast a bevy of sustainable traits; topped with a “green roof,” it’ll harvest solar energy via photovoltaic panels and extract geothermal energy from the earth.

#3: The Armored ‘Block’

Casino gaming and resorts developer Melcro Crown Entertainment has tapped Zaha Hadid—world-famous for her uber-eccentric, out-of-this-world creations—to design the fifth hotel tower in the City of Dreams (the firm’s flagship property in Cotai, Macau).

Slated to open in early 2017, the peculiar 40-floor structure—a sculptural monolithic block encased in an exposed exoskeleton, with two artery-like bridges stretching across its hollowed core—will house around 780 guestrooms, suites, and sky villas, plus a sky pool, lounge, and spa on top of a mix of restaurants and meeting/event spaces.


Planned to showcase a 98-foot-high lobby atrium with a crystalline interior, the eclectic development will likely outshine Crown Towers, presently regarded as the resort’s premier accommodation (other lodging locales in the kaleidoscopic “city”—home to “House of Dancing Water,” the largest water-based theatrical production on the globe—include the Grand Hyatt Macau and Hard Rock Hotel).


#4: The ‘Coolest’ of the Bunch

Poised at the site of a historical cement mining pit and lake in the Hunan province’s capital of Changsha, Coop Himmelb(lau)’sDawang Mountain Resort will contain a one-of-a-kind “ice and snow world” (complete with its own indoor ski slope), water park, commercial hub, and upscale hotel once it’s finished.


Spread across approximately 1.3 million square feet, the complex will tout a rather unusual centerpiece in the form of a “sculpted shell” spanning 558 feet from one side of the quarry to another, marked by a “central glass cone” designed to funnel natural light onto the sunken and hanging gardens and tiny isles nestled beneath the translucent structure.


A separate 328-foot-high tower will stand at the south end of the development—the designated site of a soon-to-be five-star hotel comprised of 270 single- and double-bed guestrooms, plus 60 executive suites (with access to an exclusive lounge), and a six-room presidential pad—all overlooking vistas of Tongxi Lake, Dawang Mountain, and the Ice World below.


The curvaceous building—which evokes the image of a cylindrical mold of jelly petrified into glass in the midst of wobbling—will have a spacious lobby leading to a restaurant and bar on its first level. Versatile conference spaces will sit on level two, while beauty, spa, and fitness facilities will occupy its third story.

#5: The Palm’s Billion-Dollar ‘Coconut’

Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah will soon bear yet another pricey piece of “fruit,” with the manmade archipelago—one of three artificial islands in the UAE city—plotting to add yet another item to its long list of lodges by 2017.

Dubbed “The Royal Atlantis Resort and Residences,” Kerzner International’s up-and-coming hotel—an extension of the already-existing Atlantis, The Palm—will soar 46 stories into the air above the isle’s crescent, a coconut’s throw away from its pink predecessor.


Conceptualized by New York-based architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the building—a “porous,” watch link-shaped development (or aimlessly-stacked Lego creation)—will feature 800 hotel rooms on top of 250 luxury homes, many of which will come with private outdoor expanses graced with pools and gardens.


Sporting an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, the sweet resort—whose interiors will be dressed by London-based company GA Designis being touted as a “foodie paradise,” with several upscale restaurants (led of course by award-winning chefs) inked into its blueprint, on top of an assortment of retail spots. One of the structure’s coolest components is undoubtedly its sky pool, set to sit 295 feet off the ground near its median.

5 Outrageous Luxury Hotels Now Underway


Hotels join the crowdfunding craze

Hotel crowdfunding

Hotels join the crowdfunding craze

The online money-raising craze that made possible both the Pebble smartwatch and the Oculus Rift virtual reality system is now becoming a trend in the hotel hospitality industry.

Crowdfunding is being used to help raise funds to transform a historic building in San Francisco’s gentrifying Mid-Market neighborhood into a hip, high-tech YOTEL-branded hotel.

In a joint venture with a Kuwaiti real estate company named AQARAT, New York-based real estate investment firm, Synapse Development Group is spearheading the redevelopment of 1095 Market Street. If all goes according to plan, the antiquated office building will soon become a 203-room hotel—the city’s first financed via crowdfunding and located just blocks from the headquarters of tech heavyweights Uber and Twitter.

“We thought crowdfunding a small portion [10 to 15 percent] of the equity on this deal would fit with the ethos of the neighborhood, given the demographic of the young, millennial, tech-heavy crowd that is there day-to-day,” Justin Palmer, Synapse’s CEO, told CNBC in an interview last week.

“It’s a good way to encourage local buy-in on the project,” said Palmer. “These people can reap investment benefits as owners and also actually visit the property, go to the restaurant, the roof top bar and get owners’ discounts on room rates.”

How to build a hotel through crowdfunding

Synapse isn’t the first company to crowdfund a hotel, however. In 2014, the Hard Rock Hotel in Palm Springs used the platform to raise $1.5 million to help refinance and renovate the property. For a minimum investment of $10,000, individuals became equity owners and received a package of VIP guest perks.
Real estate crowdfunding site RealCrowd is hosting the YOTEL San Francisco offering, which is open to accredited investors. In addition to equity ownership, investors are being offered Kickstarter-type perks, such as t-shirts, annual parties and personalized perks at investment tiers starting at a minimum of $25,000.

“They’re trying to marry the concepts from the last generation of crowdfunding, when you were just a supporter to being also an owner,” said Mitch Roschelle, partner and real estate advisory leader at PwC, “but there are a lot of complicated security laws you need to deal with.”

A lot of those security laws are still quite new, dating back to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, which was signed into law in April 2012. That eased some fundraising and advertising restrictions for small companies.

With real estate crowdfunding growing globally, from $1 billion in 2014 to a projected $2.5 billion in 2015, Roschelle thinks it’s a growing trend — and one that makes sense for hotels.

“A lot of crowdfunding has been in the intellectual property space, for movies and start-up businesses,” said Roschelle. “It was inevitable that crowdfunding would make its way to properties where investors could visit or even stay at the very place they funded.”

According to Crowdnetic, which tracks crowd financing, since September 2013 there have been over 300 securities-based crowdfunded real estate development and investments offerings out of 6,260. Twelve of those have been for hotel properties.

Of that number, “10 … have been successful, and I would not be surprised if the early successful hotel offerings spurred other hotel and lodging properties to come on board with this still-new capital-formation tool,” said Janet Rosenblum, Crowdnetic’s director of research.

Synapse’s YOTEL underscores how the real estate industry is grappling with major changes in how to build and finance projects.

“With technology and the regulatory changes, there’s been a transformational shift in how people manage their money,” said Adam Hooper , co-founder and CEO of RealCrowd, “We’re still building a stadium and I don’t even know if the game has started yet.”

Hotels join the crowdfunding craze

How Luxury Hotels Decide If You Deserve a Perk

Treats get smaller, more frequent and more personalized; tents for children, beds for dogs.

It’s one of the mysteries of travel: Why do you sometimes enter a hotel room to find free treats—a bottle of wine, a plate of snacks—and sometimes get nothing? Not even a lone chocolate on the pillow? Even at the same hotel?

Hotel amenities, as these gifts are called, are undergoing a transformation, particularly at the luxury hotels where their presence is most common. In general, the treats are getting smaller, more frequent and more personalized. At the same time, they are getting more elaborate for children and pets.

Luxury hotels say that amenities can differentiate them from competitors, particularly now that even midtier brands boast upgraded mattresses, fancy shampoos and crisp duvets.

How Luxury Hotels Decide If You Deserve a Perk

How Hotels Became More Than Just a Place to Stay

What’s become of hotel design after the design hotel?

Thomas de Monchaux surveys the clever retrofits and site-specific structures that are redefining where we stay—and what we want when we travel.

How Hotels Became More Than Just a Place to Stay

Europe’s best new boutique hotels

Some travelers never stray from giant hotel chains, preferring familiarity and the reassuring presence of a pants press.For those willing to throw their loyalty points to the wind and spend a few extra dollars, there’s the world of boutique hotels.

Europe’s best new boutique hotels –

Sleep Tight

Capsule hotels at airports

Sleep Tight

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