Set a foot inside Sydney’s new 1888 Hotel and you might feel the urge to grab your phone and snap a shot of its funky, industrial-chic lobby, replete with a five-story light-filled internal atrium, plush leather couches, mirror-top tables and gemstone-hued chairs. If you’re impelled to toss that photo on Instagram, then the design team has succeeded in creating what has been billed as the world’s “most Instagramable” accommodation, or as nearly a dozen stories in the international media have dubbed it: “the world’s first Instagram hotel.”
Like news gone viral on social media, Australia's 1888 Hotel has made quite a name for itself in its brief three months in existence by offering a free night’s stay to anyone with more than 10,000 followers on Instagram. All they have to do is follow the feed of parent company 8Hotels Collection, book a room and show up (cell phone in hand) to enjoy the hipstery vibe at this bespoke property in Sydney’s harborfront Pyrmont neighborhood, the result of a meticulous $30 million restoration project to turn an old wool warehouse into a luxury hotel.
From the freestanding bathtubs, to the period windows and exposed brick walls, all elements of the 90 rooms were designed to inspire snap-happy Instagrammers to share their experiences (and spread the free-marketing love in the process). An in-room media hub allows guests to plug in and review their images on a 40-inch LED TV, and all shots uploaded and tagged #1888Hotel then go into a revolving feed displayed on two large-screen Macs in the lobby. But this is just the beginning of 1888 Hotel’s plan for complete Instagram infusion.
“We sat down in the early days, knowing that we’d have an interesting hotel, and wanted to find a way for our guests to engage on their social networks, and we figured that imagery would be the way to do it,” explained Paul Fischmann, CEO of 8Hotels, which counts 1888 Hotel as the newest of its 21 boutique properties in Australia, Fiji and Bali. “We wanted to encourage guests that were already in-house to talk about their experiences on their social networks, and we thought, ‘why don’t we just create a bit of an Instagram idea’.”
Thus, the hotel erected a “selfie frame” in the lobby, set up an insta-walk tour of attractions in Sydney’s Darling Harbour, and launched an Instagram package, which includes “a room to photograph” (with a king-size bed), “foodporn” (complimentary antipasto plate and two glasses of wine), “share-ability” (complimentary Internet connection and iPads in all rooms) and an “envy-inducing start to the day” (complementary breakfast) starting at A$239 a night (US$223).
At the end of each month, hotel staff pick their favorite photo from the insta-walk (as seen on the #1888hotel feed) and offer the winner a free night’s stay. That’s in addition to the free night they give away to anyone with more than 10,000 followers. Fischmann said the deal has become so popular that 1888 Hotel has about five veritable Instagram celebrities staying in house gratis each night, and he plans to continue the promotion through 2014.
The name 1888 signifies the year the heritage-listed building first opened as a wool store, but as Fischmann noted, “we also discovered when we were looking for something that could marry the hotel with imagery that Kodak had patented and made its first box and roll cameras in 1888.”
Indeed, the camera and accompanying roll film Kodak produced that year became the archetype for the modern portable camera that could be used without the encumbrance of tripods and glass plates. It enabled the everyman to become a photographer in the way that Instagram made the everyday snapshot an art form. In this story, 1888 Hotel found its inspiration to become the “world’s first Instagram hotel,” though that haughty title is not one that was self-imposed.
Rooms at 1888 Hotel range from the popular “shoeboxes” (starting at A$150) to city-view suites (starting at A$500). Of course, if you can rack up enough Instagram followers, the room is yours as a reward.