Ever dreamed of owning your own boutique hotel? Finding locations, deciding on a name, designing bathrooms and picking products, choosing local food and drink suppliers?
Well you can! I’m serious. Introducing Amberlair, for the #boholover, the world’s first crowdsourced hotel. Founded by Kristin Lindenberg and Marcus Orbé, they did what most couples only dream of doing. Marcus decided to quit his strategic planning role at one of the biggest aircraft manufacturers to acted on a long-overdue passion. He wanted to travel the world. And because Kristin had made travel part of her life for years, living in different countries in the tourism industry, she was eager to begin a new adventure as well.
They packed up and off they went for over two years, through more than 40 countries across six continents. “Exposed to so many different cultures and lifestyles, it is inevitable that you will learn a new perspective,” they said. They fell in love with boutique hotels that weren’t easy to find but always searched for them. “The big chain hotels and cookie cutter places simply lacked the same personal and authentic touch that we loved about our favourite boutique hotels. It was at this point that we felt the urge to do something. This period of travel, inspiration and discovery sparked something in us that would ultimately become the motivating factor for launching Amberlair… “
SB: Why crowdfunding?
KL/ MO: We always thought it was a great idea to tap into the knowledge of avid travellers. Even during our two-year stint, we came across tourists who shared our love for stylish, authentic boutique hotels. We wondered why we shouldn’t just start with the people who love boutique hotels – begin with the customers first to find out how we should proceed. Going down this path, we discovered that crowdfunding and crowdsourcing are actually great ways to develop a product made for the customer and by the customer. We instantly loved the idea.
SB: So what happened next?
KL/ MO: Next on the agenda was to come up with a name. To uphold the idea of a truly crowdsourced company, we created a campaign to help us find a name. We asked everyone and anyone connected to us on social media what the name of the first crowdsourced boutique hotel should be. The response? Over 700 submissions (wowza!) We were totally taken aback by the enthusiasm for the idea, and it confirmed that we were on the right path. We made our way through the names and chose three finalists. Among those three, the ultimate name that spoke to us was Amberlair. Here’s why: each piece of amber, the translucent fossilised resin, is totally unique. And a lair is a secret retreat with a cozy and relaxing atmosphere. Together, they made the perfect combination of what this company aimed to embody. Amberlair, the world’s first crowdsourced boutique hotel, was born.
SB: Why Italy?
KL/ MO: We ran an online submission to look for locations around the world. We received 100’s of ideas but the whole world is too big to research properties. So we narrowed it down to South Africa, Spain and Italy. Italy and Spain were shoulder and shoulder with the same number of votes. So with a campaign between the 2, Italy won. We packed our bags and travelled through Italy, and fell in love with Puglia. Unspoiled Italy. The southeastern heel of the Italian boot, Puglia is rich in history, noticed immediately with its beautiful, ancient architecture and friendly people. We could almost see the Amberlair boutique hotel – your hotel – resting somewhere amidst a sea of olive trees and vineyards. Because Puglia offers world class wine and cuisine, fascinating cultural experiences and gorgeous scenery, we knew we had made the right choice. And the Italians love it here! The property is a former summer home of Italian nobility which has been abandoned for several decades, all on a stunning 40-hectare Puglia estate which will turn into a 60 bedroom boutique hotel amidst olive groves and vineyards.
SB: What has been the role of social media in Amberlair?
KL/ MO: Social media has been key to our communications strategy and we believe we have only just started. We worked with a selection of bloggers and influencers who really, really love boutique hotels and our concept. We asked for their help in spreading the Amberlair word in the beginning, and will continue to do so as we reach the next project milestones. We have also started a series of interviews on our blog, open to bloggers, industry, influencers and pure boutique hotel lovers – all of those who will be our guests in the future, and it has been so interesting to see what makes people tick. Through this, we have been getting so many fab ideas!
SB: What do you want future guests at Amberlair to know?
KL/ MO: Amberlair is built by passionate and well-experienced global travellers and boutique hotel lovers. We will offer the best imaginable guest experience, friendly service, local influenced interior design matched with state of the art, yet usable technology, free and fast Wi-Fi and a home away from home feeling.
SB: What makes a boutique hotel for you, that you will include with Amberlair?
KL/ MO: Service, like REAL service by people who love their jobs, will be our number one priority. We all have heard that most horror hotel stories are indeed service related. We have all been there. Sometimes it just goes amiss. That can be translated into very localized and seasonal menus, and a very personal breakfast experience. There won’t be large buffets at Amberlair.
SB: Where have you reached now?
KL/ MO: The name is confirmed, and the location, now we are crowdfunding for the architectural plans. The financials and all required details are uploaded and transparent, so people can see it constantly.
SB: What do potential investors get out of it?
KL/ MO: The backers are involved in making important decisions for the hotel during every stage. This community can have their say before the hotel is even built and will be involved in the developmental process every step of the way. They can submit ideas and cast votes for everything from the perfect bathroom to the kind of room service available, to the amenities and activities at the hotel.
SB: How is it working together as a couple?
KL/ MO: After travelling together, we can definitely work together! The best advice for couples is to travel together for a minimum of 2 weeks, and you’ll know if you fit together or not. Then you can know if you can work together. If you can stay together 24 hours, you can make it. It is the best test for a partnership.
SB: Is there one location you keep going back to?
KL/ MO: We love India. And Myanmar. The people are incredibly friendly. The culture is very interesting. When you come back to a westernised world, you learn a lot from these countries.
SB: Any final words?
KL/ MO: We are looking for passionate boutique hotel lovers. You are the ones that can have a say into making your own hotel. Our focus is to raise interest and attract investors and a mutual community of boutique hotel lovers. We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but the future of Amberlair looks bright! Once we’re on our way to a successful hotel opening in Puglia, we will start preparing to have openings around the world. Of course our main purpose is to listen to you, our trusted travel community, when it comes to choosing new locations and fine tuning the details of the perfect boutique hotel. Our success is riding on your support. These hotels are made for you, by you and because of you.