While recently stranded in New York City, I took the time to mull over a few trends that are occurring in the hospitality industry, particularly the rush by some major brands to roll out product prototypes aimed at capturing a new base of customers driven by "lifestyle" preferences.
When you consider the buying power Generations X and Y have on hotel occupancies, it's no accident that at least four major brands are developing lifestyle hotel sub brands, or what the industry refers to as "lifestyle hotels."
X and Y follow W
The influx of lifestyle hotel develop-ment can be traced back to when the hospitality industry at large got its wake up call after Starwood successfully launched its W brand. W proved that a lifestyle hotel, once thought solely the turf of independent boutique hotels, could be developed as a brand. W virtually owns the X and Y markets (lifestyle hotel users) and has thus become the darling of developers seeking breakout hotel concepts for metropolitan projects.
W has succeeded in part because it recognizes the importance of creating a hotel with such features as a lobby area that functions both as a quasi club and a trendy restaurant and offers standard in-room technology and entertainment features that are comparable to what travelers use in their homes and offices. These attributes, and the good job W has done at creating a sense of personalized service at each guest touch point, are largely responsible for how W has developed its loyal following.
What's next, now
As usual, once one major brand comes upon a successful new concept, the rest are sure to follow. So it comes as no surprise that Choice has launched Cambria, ICHG has launched Indigo and Hyatt has unveiled Hyatt Place to compete with Starwood's Aloft, a focused service version of W. My favorite of these focus service lifestyle hotels is NYLO, a new independent start-up brand. I like NYLO because it's not just doing broad brush stokes that carry the DNA of a W; NYLO is actually trying to re-think the entire hotel guest experience.
Here is a brief snapshot of what these lifestyle hotels all share in common: high design concept lobbies that double as a work and lounging area with wireless Internet and strategically placed, oversized flat screen TVs; 24-hour food service that offers either full or limited creative menu fare; stylish guest rooms with oversized desks, movable furniture, wireless Internet, two flat screen TVs, and a stereo and DVD/CD player with MP3 hook up; oversized windows, some with nine foot ceiling height; contemporary designer bathroom fixtures and walk in showers.
It is somewhat disappointing that none of the aforementioned lifestyle hotel brands, other than NYLO, are really stepping too far outside the box of what conventional hotels look like and offer in the way of technology-driven amenities. That said, the changes they are making are definitely a move in the right direction and present a window into the bigger role that evolving technology is going to play in the hotels of the future.
Russell Dazzio is co-chairman of R&R Global Hospitality, a hospitality advisory and asset management services company. Mr. Dazzio also serves as principal advisor for UNLV's Harrah Hotel College INNovation Village and is on HT's Advisory Board.