More Than a bed
Hotels serve up choices to suit every taste
For business travelers deciding on where to spend the night, this is the best – and most fragmented – of times. New hotel brands are being rolled out at assembly-line speed, bearing trendy names that read like smartphone apps but with the vowels intact, like Haven, Cordis, Quorvus and Unscripted.
A booming lodging industry is in the midst of a diversification whirlwind as it targets a new generation of traveler that might be defined by age, mindset or craving for experience. Combine that with a resurgence of independent hotels and the explosion of sharing options like airbnb and it makes for a bountiful but potentially blurry menu of lodging options.
“There are business travelers who function similarly to the way they did a decade or two ago,”says Bjorn Hanson, clinical professor at NYU’s Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism.“But there is a new business traveler and the challenge for lodging is to respond to both demographics. The traditional brand was all about uniformity and standards no matter where you are,”says Hanson. “The same color palette, art, room service menu and wine list. Today even for more traditional business travelers, that sameness has become a negative. To most travelers the hotel is the highlight of their stay.”
One reason for all the activity is that business is good. A survey by PKF-HR Hotel Horizons reported a record 70.4 percent occupancy for major markets in 2014, eclipsing the mark set in 1996. And the consultants forecast that record will be broken again this year and in 2016. So despite a ramp-up in supply after years of stagnant growth, the result will be increased pricing for the foreseeable future.
Tapping into the Experience
While Conrad Hilton’s classic lodging credo of“location, location, location”still holds, it now partners with“experience, experience, experience”as hotel operators seek to make even a business travel stay memorable by establishing an emotional connection with guests.
“We create relationships,”says Samuel Leizorek, managing partner for Las Alcobas, a boutique hotel in Mexico City,“and those relationships are always better than what’s new and flashy. We don’t operate on there being a difference between the leisure and business traveler. They may spend a few hours a day doing different things but they all want a good rest at night, a fantastic breakfast and amazing amenities.”
According to Toni Stoeckl, Marriott’s vice president of lifestyle brands,“For Marriott, it’s about going beyond the functional aspects of a hotel stay and infusing that stay with an experience that connects with you on an emotional level, that you want to share with others. We would love for our guests to be raving fans of their experience.”
Christie Hicks, senior vice president, Starwood sales organization, agrees that the hotel stay is about having a relationship with the individual.“Do you have the right technology for that specific person – whether they want to be continuously connected or not. One business traveler might be social and want the option of active public spaces while the more solitary traveler will want a room that gives them everything they need. We have to satisfy all of them.”
Food and beverage (F&B as hoteliers say) have taken center stage in the experience game as millennials are perceived as the first generation of foodies.
At AC Hotels, a European chain acquired by Marriott last year,“the focus is on B&F rather than the traditional F&B,”says Stoeckl,“as travelers seek out craft beers and custom-made cocktails.“He adds,“It’s about the stories guests can take with them – discovering new drinks or local artists whose work is exhibited in the bars and restaurants.”
At Hilton’s new lifestyle brand, Canopy, there will be complimentary nightly tastings of local craft beers, wine or spirits. The café bar will take the spotlight for serving small bites and beverages. And the hotels will be providing free bikes.
And while boutique/lifestyle hotels have trumpeted the importance of design and hanging wall art, Jim Holthouser, executive vice president, global brands for Hilton, says,“We have identified the need to