The Wall Street Journal covers plans for Hyatt, Loews, and Langham to launch new ‘lifestyle brand’ hotels in 2015.
Hotel chains have shifted their idea of luxury to meet what modern consumers want. Younger affluent customers aren’t necessarily looking for ornate or historical French design or formal service. Even Ritz-Carlton has tried to update itself.
W Hotels, I think, did a fantastic job catching the moment in the late 1990’s but has struggled to keep pace with the potential of the market or update itself to remain relevant. In trying to be “cool” and not just offer a luxury experience catering to a younger demographic, it winds up chasing its tail.
Here’s the thing about “lifestyle” brands. Cool doesn’t last. The Ian Schrager hotels aren’t great places to actually stay, at least anymore. The original W hotels are tired. Heck, the W San Diego was tired in 2009 — when the W Hong Kong has an LCD screen on the floor of the elevator wishing you a “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening,” how cool is actually physically changing out floor mats in front of the elevator in the lobby with those messages?
You have to constantly update to stay cool, and to start with you have to know what cool is. And what cool isn’t — it isn’t staff who are trained to act as though they are the cool ones, too cool to help guests or offer anticipatory service.
All of the chains have sought to capture this in some way, though. IHG has ‘Hotel Indigo’ which I don’t think has worked. Make no mistake, it’s their aim at a lifestyle brand.
“The Hotel Indigo brand is uniquely designed to reflect the local culture, character and history of the neighborhoods where our hotels are located,” said Adam Glickman, brand experience director, Lifestyle Brands, IHG.
It’s precisely that Indigo doesn’t get them where they want to go that they needed to go out and acquire Kimpton.
According to the Journal we can expect Hyatt to go big:
Hyatt has the most ambitious plan of the new entrants. The Chicago-based company this summer plans to open 20 lifestyle hotels in places like New York, Miami, San Francisco and Paris, according to people familiar with the company’s strategy.
My first reaction to this: isn’t Andaz their lifestyle brand?
My second reaction to this: isn’t Park Hyatt their take at ‘modern luxury’?
So Hyatt will give us a new lifestyle brand that’s differentiated from Andaz and from Park Hyatt. Surely there’s a niche there, as Starwood’s W hotels is different from both of those brands of course. But the proliferation of brands leads to its own potential for brand confusion. Customers have to identify the brand as being a part of the larger overarching brand and realize, even, that they should be booking at that hotel if they’re loyal to the larger chain or even give their loyalty program number if they happen to be booked at that hotel.
These are no easy tasks, and more attempts fail than succeed, but I look forward to seeing and experiencing the different attempts!