Eaton Workshop pioneering social change in hospitality

by | Nov 22, 2017 | Chains

A new concept in hospitality is looking to grab a slightly unexpected corner of the market: activists. While the millennial generation is heavily courted by hoteliers looking to get back some of the client base they have lost to accommodation sharing sites such as Airbnb, it is unusual to think of hotel developers or operators even considering social or political activists as a target demographic, but given the turbulent political times we are currently living in, perhaps it is prudent to look at the ever-growing sense of activism being instilled in people of all ages and spheres of society through the lens of hospitality. The Eaton Workshop is a new hotel in downtown Washington DC that is designed to appeal to activists, or at least travelers who are politically and socially engaged, by offering not only lodgings, but also events, conferences, workshops and seminars that are based in social consiousness.

The Eaton Workshop is the brainchild of Katherine Lo, the daughter of Ka Shui Lo, head of Hong Kong’s Great Eagle Holdings which owns luxury hotel brand Langham Hotels. Katherine Lo, former head of Langham Hotels, was charged with giving her father’s decades-old 3 and 4 star hotel chain Eaton Hotels a new lease of life, the only condition being that Eaton had to be retained in the name. Lo was inspired to create the Eaton Workshop concept after seeing the sudden surge in political and social awakening within the millennial generation, as well as the rejection of the newly elected president in the form of the Women’s March, and also current conversations around gender, race and identity. Lo says, “I feel like there is a zeitgeist happening among the younger generations. These hotels are going to get built anyway, so I thought ‘why not take the framework of hotels and really reconfigure them and funnel them toward social change?’” Referring to the target market of active, left-leaning clientele that can afford the $250 a night price tag, she adds, “Pretty much anyone can stay here, but we do believe that the customer base is almost self-selecting.”

The hotel and co-working space bills itself as “ new global brand merging hospitality with progressive social change. It brings to the international market a hybrid model of a hotel, co-working members club, and wellness center, with extensive content and cultural programming supporting the intersection of arts, consciousness and impact. As a gathering place for an inclusive tribe of changemakers and creatives, Eaton Workshop invites activists, artists and entrepreneurs from around the world to instigate meaningful and positive initiatives on both a local and macro scale, as well as to hang out, indulge and follow their bliss.” As well as the 209-key property in DC, the hotel/co-working space will also have studios for visual artists and will hope to channel the progressive nature of events and conferences such as Summit, Burning Man and even TED Talks to draw their desired client base in through their doors. The hotel will also seek to offer their activist clients space to pamper themselves, with a wellness centre that will not only offer traditional gym facilities, but also spiritual therapies such as reiki and acupuncture. The DC venue will be the first of four Eaton Workshops, and is slated to open in 2018. The others will be located in Hong Kong, Seattle and San Francisco.

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