21 House of Stories: Revolutionizing Hospitality by Embracing Emerging Trends and Future Challenges

An interview with the Pioneers of 21 House of Stories

Francesca Torricella 1 3
Francesca Torricella, Director of Operations, 21 House of Stories

R: Francesca, we would love to learn more about your path to becoming the Operations Director at 21 House of Stories. Also, could you tell us about the vision behind this project and how it differs from other hotels? Finally, what are your next goals and challenges you expect to face in the near future?

F: The Operations Director role is somewhat equivalent in tourism to the Director of Directors. At the beginning of my career, I was clear about my preferences, and I knew that I absolutely didn't want to work in hotels. I started in a consultancy company, where I managed hospitality projects to develop new hotels. This gradually made me increasingly interested in the sector until I became Revenue Manager and then Director in a hotel. When I heard about this project, I immediately decided to accept and move to Milan to be part of it, firmly believing in the importance of reinventing the hospitality experience, especially in cities. 

Our vision is based on the idea of ​​offering an experience that goes beyond a simple hotel stay, creating a welcoming environment where our guests can feel at home and share their stories. This is what differentiates us from other hotels on the market. As for future goals, we aim to expand and open new properties, always offering unique experiences, while the challenges we expect to face include competition in the hotel industry and adapting to the changing needs of travelers. However, we are confident that we can overcome these challenges successfully.

R: The name "21 House of Stories" is very suggestive. Could you explain to us what it comes from and its meaning for you?
F:  "21" represents the common thread that connects various initiatives of our shareholders. "House of Stories" is a concept we have developed over time: we have observed how the variety of offerings and the structure of our spaces have acted as catalysts for sharing and creating stories within our community. With the opening of the new headquarters in Navigli, we worked on the layout to further allow our users to connect with each other and share stories. We want it to be a place where stories are told and something new is written. We saw this happen quite naturally and are excited to continue down this path.

I Mirador 21 House Of Stories Navigli 1
View of the rooftop of the 21 House Stories Navigli from Milan. Source: booking.com 

R: In a previous interview with Forbes, you described 21 House of Stories as a meeting place for a diverse community of travelers, digital nomads, creatives, and locals. Could you explain how this concept translates into your structure?

F: Certainly, to better understand this concept, let's take our co-working spaces as an example, which we often call "coz-working" (from "cozy" or welcoming), considered the heart of our local community. Here, you can work, study and interact in a welcoming and vibrant environment. These spaces are designed to be hybrid, without private rooms, but with various seatings and spaces. They are used both by hotel guests, who find it pleasant not to be in an empty lobby but in a lively environment and by locals, creating a dynamic mix. 

We also organize events, talks, and concerts that attract a diverse audience, helping to build a unique atmosphere. At the same time, we guarantee all the services necessary to support these different activities. For example, an excellent Wi-Fi connection and a culinary offering designed specifically for our clients. This approach not only creates a comfortable environment for working and socializing, but also allows us to integrate into the local community by offering free study spaces to students. This results in an authentic and lively experience for all our guests.

21 House Of Stories
21 House of Stories is a meeting hub of a diverse community of travelers, digital nomads, creatives, and locals. Source: @21houseofstories

R: Sustainability is an increasingly important topic in the hospitality industry. How do you integrate this principle into your services and facility management?

F: Let's start with the building itself, which was designed according to international sustainability parameters. This is just the beginning. We also mapped all operational activities to understand their impact on the environment and surroundings. We therefore prepared an operational map of sustainability best practices impacting all aspects of our operation. We offer ongoing training to staff to ensure they understand our choices. Guests are also involved - they have access to information, enabling them to make more sustainable choices. For example, we provide "green" programs in rooms where guests are rewarded for adhering to our eco-friendly practices. We separate waste collection in every space and reduce plastic use by eliminating plastic products in rooms and using dispensers. Some of our customers choose us precisely because of our attention to the environment. In contrast, others appreciate these initiatives even if they have not booked the hotel specifically for this reason. 

Furthermore, we often offer our co-working space to non-profit organizations for events (such as SWAP PARTY) and sustainability activities, contributing to disseminating and spreading awareness around these topics. This commitment to sustainability not only sets us apart but also improves the overall quality of the experience for our guests.

21 House Of Stories Sustainability
Each of the rooms offers eco-friendly complimentary toiletries. Source: @21houseofstories

R: Technology has revolutionized many aspects of the hotel industry. What is your approach to using technology to improve your guests' experience and optimize your management?

F:  Compared to other brands, we adopted a unique approach when it comes to integrating technology into our daily operations.  We believe that human interaction is fundamental, and therefore we favor direct meetings with guests. When the guests check-in, we prefer to meet and get to know them personally rather than introducing automatic tokens. 

However, we believe technology can still enrich the guest experience by sharing useful information and details that enable our clients to be more autonomous. For example, we use QR codes to provide detailed information on topics such as sustainable practices or pool hours, allowing us to save time on educational activities and focus more on guests’ needs. 

Looking to the future, we know that artificial intelligence (AI) will play an increasingly important role, especially in supporting standardized activities and processes. It could be useful, for example, in the first touch points with our clients, as in the case of chatbots, which are becoming increasingly personalized and useful, especially in high-volume situations when customers want to receive immediate information. In essence, this balance between technology and human interaction allows us to focus more on the individual needs of our guests while ensuring an efficient and high-quality experience.

R: How crucial do you consider online reputation, and how do you manage it to keep it positive? Why did you choose TrustYou to manage reviews, and how has it helped you improve customer experience?

F:  Online reputation is crucial to us, as it is a direct measure of the quality of the experience we offer our guests. Our business is based on the experience we provide, not a tangible product, so it is crucial to evaluate how our audience perceives us constantly.

TrustYou has become our primary partner for managing online reviews, allowing us to quickly analyze our guests' feedback during our daily operational meetings. We use the data the platform provides to identify areas for improvement, trends, and specific problems. This allows us to intervene promptly and take a proactive approach to meeting the needs of our guests. We view negative reviews as growth opportunities, helping us better understand customer expectations and continually improve the overall experience. In summary, TrustYou helps us maintain a positive online reputation by providing us with the tools we need to understand and exceed our guests' expectations.

R: What emerging trends in the hospitality industry do you predict will revolutionize the landscape in the coming years, considering your role as a pioneer of a new hospitality model?

F:  A key trend we observe is the hybridization of spaces, increasingly appreciated by customers. We believe this trend will increase in popularity over time. Hybrid spaces offer a more engaging and varied experience than traditional spaces: this inclusive approach is also gaining ground in the luxury sector, where the unique experience is increasingly appreciated over exclusivity. 

Additionally, we see a growing use of social media as a tool to tell stories and share meaningful experiences with large audiences. We use them to share the events we organize, such as screenings of documentaries on sustainability, and to tell stories about the food and the welcoming atmosphere of our place. This type of communication and medium helps us not only to approach new audiences but also to communicate with everyone more effectively. We notice communicating via social media is becoming more and more functional, allowing us to allocate resources to more qualifying and value-added activities.

Beatrice Odelli

Beatrice has been a part of our reseller team in Italy since November 2020. Despite the challenges of the pandemic she has found her true purpose in TrustYou and believes that online reputation is the key to success in hospitality, now and always. Before starting at RES HDB in Milan she worked in the Netherlands and Germany, and she travelled Latin America solo.

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