In a warehouse in a Westchester County industrial park north of Manhattan, Starwood’s Aloft hotel chain, due to premiere in May 2008, is preparing for takeoff.
Expect lobbies with high ceilings and exposed pipes, cool bars and Starbucks-style nooks for working on laptops.
With rates starting at about $125, the idea is to bring the style and personality of Starwood’s W hotels to the value-minded masses. “We want our ‘cool’ to be universal and inclusive,” says Aloft president Ross Klein, offering a first look at lobby and room prototypes.
The chain, due in 20 locations by the end of 2008, is just one of many new brands courting design- and budget-conscious travelers with lobbies as social hubs, Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs, ergonomic desk chairs, grab-and-go meals and hip, contemporary rooms.
Consumers now demand upscale, design-driven rooms with electronic bells and whistles. They’re willing to give up frills such as room service, fine-dining restaurants or bellhops for rates that average less than $150 a night, says Robert Mandelbaum of PKF Hospitality Consulting. And hotel companies want to “sell more franchises,” he says. They’re developing hipper boutique-style brands that don’t cost as much to run and “in theory attract new travelers and don’t impact existing hotels.”
•Hyatt has Hyatt Place, just opened its 46th hotel outside Baltimore in Owings Mills, Md. Most are former AmeriSuites that have undergone a “total transformation,” including swiveling 42-inch TVs, says Hyatt Place marketing vice president Alison Kal.
•Choice Hotels opened its first Cambria Suites in Boise in April. Suites boast two flat-screen TVs and MP3 player hookups, and there’s an espresso bar. “It’s not your parents’ hotel, but your parents wouldn’t be uncomfortable there,” spokesman David Peikin says.
•InterContinental’s Hotel Indigo, decorated in Pottery Barn-meets-beach-house style, now has eight outposts. One is due in Buffalo in August.
•Marriott and boutique-hotel pioneer Ian Schrager just announced a partnership to develop boutique-style hotels. No word on prices, but they’ll likely be higher than $150 a night.
NYLO Hotels, a loft-style chain due to launch in Plano, Texas, in December, will offer rooms with 10- to 11-foot ceilings in the under-$150 range and staff uniforms designed by Project Runway finalist Daniel Vosovic. It’s holding “casting calls” for personable staffers. As a new chain building from the ground up, “we have no baggage,” NYLO chief John Russell says. “People want something new and different. It’s not a fad. It’s a trend.”
via [ ustoday]