Brand Flexibility Builds Better Designs, and Lasting Partnerships

By Alan Roberts Global Head, Embassy Suites by Hilton | November 11, 2018

This article was co-authored by Gregory L. Steinhauer, President American Life, Inc.

How can hotel brands and owners work together to create properties that embrace their unique surroundings and respond to distinct site challenges? More specifically, how can they launch new hotels (or renovated and re-branded structures, for that matter) that are designed to be true to both the brand and the location, all while achieving strong ROI and customer satisfaction? Our shared story in a complex and historic urban setting, in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, offers some valuable insight, along with useful principles for getting the job done the right way, from the very beginning.

With the design, build, and branding of Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, we arrived at a property and an experience that is genuinely different, and yet entirely familiar to returning Embassy Suites by Hilton guests. The success of our joint effort derived not from a formula, but instead from a willingness to look beyond formulas. It came not from a rigid set of design standards, but instead from a desire to infuse flexibility into brand programs, prototypes, and our whole working partnership.

From a hotel brand perspective, Embassy Suites by Hilton recognizes that guests, whether leisure or business travelers, increasingly seek environments and amenities that connect them to the special places they are visiting. Therefore, it is essential that hoteliers have the flexibility to develop unique properties that reflect neighborhood histories, styles, and attractions. Designs must be allowed to respect site-specific requirements, construction challenges, and regional development trends. And when it comes to specific finishes and interior elements, local flavor is important, as well as the general expectations of visitors to the region.

In a booming metropolis like Seattle, for instance, guests might expect an urban feel, beautiful downtown or water views, top amenities, and a property that is integrated with local attractions. But they also expect to pay a bit more for it than they might in a rural location or smaller city. And that brings us to a critical point in the design flexibility equation: while interior finishes and quality should reflect the local aesthetic, they also should account for local economic realities. That means, for instance, a high value property in a dense urban setting should most likely offer top design finishes that can command rates to offset the high cost of development – in turn promising strong ROI.

Of course, the right brand affiliation brings serious benefits, including powerful reservations delivery, streamlined technology tools, and the lasting loyalty of guests around the globe. As a result, fully customized properties like Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square must achieve a delicate balance, delivering the new environment while adhering to the spirit and standards that define the brand and delight its customers. Together, we realized this goal through lasting cooperation, adaptability, and consistent communication.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.