The Society Hotel is located in downtown Portland’s central Old Town neighborhood. Once a safe haven for sailors, later home to a gypsy family, then owned by Japanese hospitality entrepreneurs, the updated 38-room historical building has, quite literally, a storied past. Jessie Burke, Jonathan Cohen, Matt Siegel, and Gabe Genauer are the fourth owners in over a century. They operate The Society Hotel as part of a hospitality group focused on creating memorable connections, combined with affordable and sustainable travel.
Since opening in 2015, they have been using Airbnb as their primary distribution channel, outside of taking bookings directly on their website. They are looking to double their bookings through Airbnb this year. As a marketing and outreach tool, Airbnb reaches a larger audience than the hotel would be able to realize on their own.
Owners Jessie Burke and Matt Siegel spent several years traveling nationally and internationally as athletes, and that experience is part of what led them to create The Society Hotel. They noticed there was something missing for the solo traveler––a chance to connect more readily with others while on the road.
To encourage guests to take advantage of the community spaces throughout the property, as well as get out into the city they came to visit, rooms were designed to be minimal, while emphasizing the history of the space. “It’s like being in a living history book. We wanted guests to be able to take that in without a lot of excess, and frequently unused, amenities.” says Jessie.
Airbnb has helped The Society Hotel attract guests who are seeking this type of unique experience. “It’s important for us to target our audience, and Airbnb helps us reach more people looking for something different than what they might expect from a traditional hotel experience,” says Jessie. Guests of all ages (anywhere from 25-55, generally) include individual travelers, international tourists, and couples as the most frequent visitors.
“It’s important for us to target our audience, and Airbnb helps us reach more people looking for something different than what they might expect from a traditional hotel experience."
Jessie Burke, The Society Hotel
The hotel primarily caters to adventure and experience seekers. Creating a place for community and connection around different travel experiences, guests can share where they went and what they did in Portland on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” wall in the main check-in area. Taking the idea of a guest book or online travel forum, and turning it into a tangible experience for visitors is one way The Society Hotel defines their signature hospitality.
Whether guests plan ahead or on a whim, Airbnb helps provide information that often leads to greater host and guest satisfaction. Since each listing contains an area where hosts can detail their hospitality offering, guests have the opportunity to be more prepared for what to expect. Ahead of booking, guests can also see what specific attractions are nearby on the map, included in the listing description. Jessie says she notices that this has helped encourage more bookings by providing additional context and points of interest.
As the travel industry continues to evolve, hospitality professionals are taking a variety of approaches to meet guests’ needs, while remaining true to their individual values. When asked what the future of travel holds, co-owner, Jonathan Cohen, says he sees one that is more efficient and focused on making connections.
“We are very aware of avoiding excess and carefully design the operation systems of our hotels with sustainability in mind. This allows us to pass along the lowest possible rates, while providing more direct access to experiences connected to history and meaning,” he says.