All the Hype: The Pop-Up Hotel Experience

Brittany Chaffee

10 October 2019

Screen Shot 2019-10-09 at 4.22.57 PM

Image courtesy of

Room service. Soft sheets. Having someone clean up your mess. Steaming hot showers. Chocolates on your pillow. If we could name all of the wonderful things about staying in a hotel, we would! But we’re trying to stay mindful of our word count. So, let’s jump right to the chase. How are brands catching onto the desire to “treat yourself” and latch on the coat tails that are the heavenly hotel experience?

Meet the pop-up hotel experience.

Millennials seem to be the driving force of this, a group of enthusiastic humans that embrace the pop-up trends. In a recent study, America found that 72% of millennials would rather spend their dollars on experiences than on material objects. The same study discovered that this demographic is also 23% more interested in traveling than older generations. This could also have something to do with airlines competing with cheaper travel fares – jet setting is getting that much more effortless! Another study by American Express revealed that nearly 70% of millennials are looking for a “personalized” travel experience.


Pop-up hotels are adventurous. They’re creating a natural experiential trend that’s here to stick around for a while. The Pop-Up Hotel and Flash Camp are diving into this sweet spot, and startups like Collective Retreats are giving this audience a valuable opportunity to travel with unique style.

And smart brands are getting involved.

Taco Bell opened “The Bell” in Palm Springs, a Taco Bell Hotel & Resort. Reservations for the hotel sold out in just 2 minutes and received huge viral attention online. Fans could only rent rooms for a small window of time (with only 70 rooms available), but accommodations were all the rage. Hot sauce pillows, branded wallpaper, Taco Bell room service, a Taco Bell-inspired salon, and a pool (with in-house DJ) were a few of the experiences. Go ahead, dive into the experience below.

Video courtesy of Taco Bell.

Taco Bell isn’t the only brand jumping in on the pop-up hotel trend. Lisa Frank & is creating the Lisa Frank Flat. For two weeks in October, guests can stay in the LA-based Barsala location for a mere $199 per night. 90s fans can rent out a multicolored Lisa Frank penthouse filled with rainbow everything, soft golden retrievers, and lots of dolphin pillows. Simply assume your 90s childhood Trapper Keeper exploded in a room. It’s pretty booked by now, but you can dream.


72% of millennials would rather spend their dollars on experiences than on material objects.

So, how do you apply pop-ups to your hotel business plan?

Start Small: If you’re not ready to go big and re-design an entire hotel, design a branded concept and test out some pop-up experiences within sections of your hotel.

• Collaborate with Brands: As you see in the examples above, brands are sourcing great value from collaborating with hotels to create unique experiences.

• Collect Feedback: After the experience has been executed (small or large), create a survey and get feedback from your guests about their experience. That way, you won’t waste time on the pop-up phenomenon if it’s not worth activating for you.

What if you're a brand looking to work with a hotel?

Keep Things Authentic: Going overboard is okay, but keep things real. Applying a brand 100% in these situations bring out the true fans, and allows you to flourish them with the entire brand experience.

• Make the Experience Exclusive: This doesn't need to be a year-long thing. Lisa Frank made one penthouse available for two weeks. Taco Bell only allowed 70 room bookings for a short span of time. Exclusivity drives millennials so they can showcase a unique experience. 


Have any questions about what we do at STAR? Want to talk experiential marketing? We're happy to chat with you. Contact us here.

Brittany Chaffee


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