In a virtual interview with PCN+, hotel enthusiast and founder of Hotel Hopping Adriana López expresses her unconditional love and current thoughts on the status of the hotel industry, including how travelers can still choose a safe and comfortable stay during a worldwide pandemic.
Growing up in Miami surrounded by family in the hospitality industry, López always knew she wanted to work within the travel industry and hotels, but didn’t exactly know where that fit in creatively for her. She decided to go to Hospitality School at New York University where she learned how to work in sales and marketing, revenue management, and restaurants. “You name it,” she says. “But I didn’t necessarily love the operations aspect of it. So one summer I traveled to London and I just started taking photos and writing about my favorite parts of the hotels, aspects of the designs I liked, and the restaurants that were in the hotels.” López began documenting everything through photos and writing on her Instagram, which received a lot of response and interest. She decided to partner up with a photographer friend at the time to create content for hotels and hospitality brands through a more professional manner.
“And then it kind of just took off from there,” López reminisces during the interview. “It started off as a hobby and then I started to partner with brands, travel more, and get some amazing opportunities. Highlights of this is definitely traveling and meeting some amazing like-minded people, whether it be in the Miami bloggers scene or in the hotel industry, it’s just been really eye-opening… It’s been a really long trajectory, but it’s evolved into something that I’m really passionate about.”
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What are your top recommendations on where to stay in Miami?
I would definitely say that Faena is my favorite luxurious property in Miami. It’s just this ultra-glamorous, luxurious hotel experience. You walk into this grand Cathedral-style lobby that’s lined with gold leaf columns and these super mystical floor to ceiling murals on the wall. It’s just like no other hotel lobby you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s just so over the top, it’s so bold. But somehow it’s just executed so well. And the level of service there is like nothing else that you will experience. You feel very special when you check into Faena. You really see Alan Faena’s (the Founder’s) vision come to life which is incredible that [someone] can create something so beautiful and so grand. You also cannot miss the $15 million woolly mammoth sculpture in the back.
What are some of the more fun COVID-friendly activities to do in Miami?
If you are coming down to Maimi, say you’re looking for a spa weekend or you’re looking to get pampered or do a detox, I really love Carillon Hotel. They actually just launched a touchless spa experience which I think is really cool. They offer services that are socially distant but you’re still getting this pampering experience. Outdoor experiences that I love – the [South Beach] 1 Hotel has a great rooftop that I really enjoy for drinks. There are [also] some hidden gems on the mainland which I absolutely love and some of the COVID-friendly ones I’ve been going to recently are Casa Florida. They have an unlimited oyster night on Thursdays which is just amazing. It’s this great outdoor seating area and they play some really fantastic music, you feel like you’re in Tulum almost. They have all these pink accents and it’s kind of like a motel in a sense and it just has great energy. There’s a school bus in the back where you can go inside and enjoy your drinks with your friends and take pictures, definitely instagrammable. Another place that I do frequent which is also outdoors is 1-800-LUCKY, in Wynwood. I love 1-800-LUCKY because I am an Asian food fanatic and they have so many different Asian dining options. It’s one of the only places in Miami that has a DJ playing every single night. You go there and you want some ramen or a glass of saki with your friends and then suddenly there’s a DJ blasting music and it just turns into this night life experience.
What are your thoughts about hotel parties? Is that something we can even talk about in 2020?
In 2020, that’s questionable. However, I just love hotel events because there’s just so much room for creativity, whether it be a brand hosting a penthouse party for a product release or an art basel event where they’re curating the space and they are activating the space. There’s just so much opportunity for creativity. And now with COVID, there’s definitely a pause on the hotel events but I just think that there is still opportunity to create some awesome events. We are just adapting to this new normal but I don’t think it means that we are going to eliminate hotel parties completely because we don’t want to be in crowds. I’m seeing a lot of businesses adapt really well. Hard Rock, for example, has a new concept where they are doing “movie and a meal” night. You buy a ticket for four, watch a movie and they serve you dinner in your own little area with a little couch. So as long as hotels are adapting, I definitely think that we can continue to have safe socially distant parties.
How can travelers navigate around COVID-19 safely?
It’s definitely a touchy subject. I know I was pretty hesitant to travel. To be honest, I’ve only traveled once up to this point since COVID started. I went to Jamaica. All you can really do is take the necessary precautions. We had to get our COVID test before we could even apply to enter, and then get tested there. They actually had a system where we would record our temperature everyday and document it on an app. Obviously it depends on where you are going, a lot of places don’t even require any of that testing so it can be a little bit scarier. But the only thing you can do is just be careful. Choosing hotel brands that you really trust is also a big factor. I have stayed at a few hotels since COVID started and there were definitely hotels where I felt much more comfortable than others just because there was a certain brand standard for cleanliness and they were more established than the others. I think that’s crucial right now, you know choosing airlines, choosing hotels that you do trust, because no one wants to be traveling during this time and feel uncomfortable.
What do you envision the future of hospitality to look like?
COVID aside, I really do think that millennials have changed the nature of the industry and will continue to change [it] for our future. They have had a huge impact. The future of hospitality is definitely, number one, a more sustainable one. I just think that millennials in general advocate sustainability in the business that they choose and the accommodations that they choose when they are traveling. Before the emphasis used to be so much on things like hotel design, food and beverage, or what hotel has the best nightlife. This generation wants a more meaningful hotel experience so we are really moving towards something that is a little bit bigger than ourselves. We’re seeing hotels now that are slowly but surely adopting more eco-conscious practices because they are realizing that there is a sense of accountability and we have to do our part to reduce the amount of plastic that is in our oceans and help reduce the waste that is being produced because for a lot of hotels in the past, that wasn’t something that came to the front of our minds.
[Question from live audience] How do you bring that amazing smile that hotels deliver to your home?
Personally, I love interior design, so I’m always taking in the interior design when I visit hotels, and try to mimic that in my own home. There are alot of companies now that are also releasing scents for your home that smell like hotels. That’s also another way that you can make your home feel like a hotel. Personally, I love having hotel books so I have a stack of books on my coffee table and there are some hotel and hospitality books there that kind of remind me of a hotel I once visited or hospitality design books – I love that. Hotel design is my everything. If I wasn’t doing this and if I had the talent, I’d probably be an interior designer for a hotel.
What are your top hotel design books?
Hospitality Design has a series of books that they release, sometimes they have some special edition books that are amazing. Aside from that, Small Luxury Hotels of The World has a great coffee table book. Architectural Digest has some that just feature hotels. There’s a ton. I could dive into those books and see you in three hours.
Any travel hacks that most people don’t think about?
Apparently, if you book at least five weeks in advance, between Monday at 12 am and Tuesday at 9, that’s when it’s cheapest. I heard that [it] actually works. Another thing I always do is that when you are looking for a flight or any travel deals, always search in incognito mode. That way it doesn’t read your cookies and it will not know what you were searching, otherwise the prices will go up. There are some different apps and websites that you can go on if you don’t have specific travel dates in mind. One of them is called Rome2rio. You just put a general time that you are going to travel and it will show you a bunch of different deals to different cities and you can kind of choose from there. It’s more on the whim kind of thing but it definitely gives you some great travel options and some great deals that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
What essentials should we think about when we are packing?
Well I definitely have a few. I will not leave the house without a portable charger because I am constantly on my phone, whether that be sending emails, texting, or taking photos, I always have a portable charger. I love my Away Suitcase because the carry-on actually has a portable charger attached. I always bring, obviously in this day and age if you are traveling, hand sanitizer – antibacterial wipes are a must. I always have a portable steamer in my suitcase as well because that’s just necessary anywhere you go. I also like to bring an empty water bottle when I travel too because not only does it help save you money at the airport but it also helps reduce waste. You don’t have to spend $6 on a bottle of water at the airport.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I would definitely say that traveling now, although it is scary, now’s a great time to kind of explore things that you probably wouldn’t have done before. For example, I’m not necessarily getting on a plane, but I have been planning trips to more unique local places which I probably wouldn’t have done before. I’m thinking of planning a camping trip up in North Florida. I’ve been driving down to Key Largo to go kayaking. So, although it is a strange time right now and you might be scared to travel, this is a great opportunity to explore those other options that you might not have considered before. There’s always a positive to it, there’s still ways to explore and travel and do so safely.
Follow Adriana López on Instagram to tap into her latest projects and updates on openings or parties, @hotel_hopping.