There’s no lobby. No checking in or checking out. No bellhops or concierge or valet parking. In some ways, it’s not a hotel at all. But then, that’s what makes this slickly designed retreat one of the most interesting properties to pop up in Palm Springs in ages.
Drift, which opened its doors on South Indian Canyon Drive in March, is a whole new concept in vacation lodging. A luxury resort-style destination that operates more like an Airbnb, it’s an innovative hybrid—designed and built by an Irvine-based company called the TMC Group—that aims to change the way travelers spend the night in one of the busiest, most competitive hospitality markets on the West Coast.
“It’s definitely not your traditional hotel,” says general manager Paul Patiño. “It’s a completely different product than anything else in Palm Springs. It’s a self-guided experience that gives you the feeling of being independent and on your own journey without being bothered by masses of people. But there are still staff on the property if you need them, and it still has the hotel amenities that people want.”
It’s got amenities, all right. There’s a sparkling Olympic-size pool at the center of the property, lined by cushy chaise longues and misted cabanas serviced by crews of super-attentive waitstaff shuttling drinks from the adjacent outdoor bar. There are complimentary morning yoga sessions in the cactus garden as well as a fleet of bicycles for guests to borrow for cruises around the downtown shopping district (all of a half-block away). And there’s Maleza, the on-site restaurant serving Baja-inspired dishes like chile relleno, chicken a las brasas, and sweet potatoes with adobo shrimp, trumpet mushrooms, and miso butter.
The real luxury attraction here, though, are the rooms, which at this price point—$200 to $1,600 a night—have to be the most spacious accommodations in town. Most of the 39 units include well-appointed kitchens (stocked with more snacks and beverages than you’ll find in the average hotel mini-fridge), and all are designed with such a cool minimalistic aesthetic—concrete floors covered with sisal rugs, blond-wood fixtures—Charles Eames himself would be nodding approvingly.
The 857-square-foot, two-bedroom suite Los Angeles spent a couple of nights in was so comfortable, a misanthropic traveler could have happily stayed holed up without once stepping outside the door and interacting with other living souls. In fact, at Drift, that’s entirely possible to do. An AI virtual assistant named Eve handles all the transactional elements of the trip—she texts you a room key code the day of your arrival, confirms that you’ve checked out when you leave, and answers pretty much any reasonable question about the hotel that you ask her, all without once holding out her palm for a tip.
Of course, this sort of autonomous travel experience may not be for everyone—some vacationers enjoy the formality of a front desk. But TMC Group is placing a bet that in a post-COVID-19 world, a lot of road-trippers prefer to do their vacationing without the stress of crowded lobbies. Along with Palm Springs, TMC recently opened hybrid hotels in San Diego, Cabo San Lucas, and San Jose, with another due in Nashville later this year.
“It’s an emerging concept of what a hotel can be,” says Patiño. “I think when people come here, they’re surprised—they’ve never stayed at anything like it before.”