The Multiplying Landscape of Hotel Brands

By David Ashen Principal and Founder, dash design | October 09, 2016

Forget the ‘less is more’ adage—at least when it comes to today’s hotel brands. These days, the more specialized brands a hotelier offers, the better. Or so it seems.

There’s no denying that in the past several years there’s been a noticeable rise in hotel brands. Soft brands with distinctive features and unusual offerings have grown, especially, in popularity, perhaps because they so neatly straddle that cumbersome divide between the unusual characteristics of boutique locations and the broad-scale offerings of mega-franchises. As industry notable Stacy Shoemaker Rauen recently said during dash design’s debut dashChat podcast, people are excited to see something new and different. They want to be a part of something that shakes things up and draws them in, all of which leaves full-scale hotels that don’t elevate their game or have a specific point of view in a precarious position, even while an abundance of brand tiers can be confusing to some.

Confusing or not, the rising surge of tier brands implies that hoteliers are responding to their guests’ penchant for specialized properties that not only offer a different take on conventional lodging, but also align with people’s myriad ideals. Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts, for instance, whose new unification creates more than 30 tiered brands, have shown a shift in their focus through the joint addition of luxury, lifestyle, select service and other brands. It’s conceivable that five or six of the combined brand’s different tiers could dot a short stretch of city blocks, alone, in the near future.

Still, reconciling a 30-brand hotel portfolio can be tricky, especially when comparing their similarities and distinguishing their beneficial differences. For instance, with the ready availability of Marriott’s comparable Residence Inn hotels and SpringHill Suites, is there a need for an equally similar Courtyard by Marriott, too? Are the demographics among them that dissimilar? Or maybe their differences are being clouded, making them hard to discern.

On the other hand, look at the Marriott’s Moxy and AC brands; two urban properties with marked differences. At Moxy, high design with a focus on experience at an entry level price gives this Millennial brand a “Brooklyn” vibe. The tiny rooms, while highly functional, play up the brand’s public spaces, encouraging guests to move outside their rooms and into the hotel’s public spaces to work, congregate and play. Here, minimal private spaces are accepted in exchange for live experiences, a criteria trait of the Millennial generation. Furthering the brand’s hyper-social culture is its absence of a check-in desk, instead having guests check-in and out at the lobby bar, the center of all of the hotel’s activity.

AC Hotel, while also an urban brand, offers restrained luxury with a European quality at an affordable rate, providing a moderate option for those who want a limited-service product without sacrificing sophistication or design, including omni-present Wi-Fi, streamlined guest rooms, a work/socializing lounge and a breakfast room with Spanish and European-style dishes, along with after-hours tapas and snacks, all in an effort to attract guests seeking a simplified, refined stay.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.