The U.S. hotel industry is in the midst of its latest, greatest up-cycle in recent memory, with performance figures going skyward year after year. This is part of the reason that major hotel brands, as well as smaller niche companies, have been taking a chance on innovative hotel concepts. Most of these have been engineered to identify with the so-called Millennials, identified as people in their mid-twenties to late thirties. Millennials are seen as the fresh face of travel, and hotels geared toward the tenets of their lifestyle—that is, with an emphasis on health and wellness, personality and technology—stand to capture more of the generation’s demand.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Brand Standards
The general traveling populace has come to rely on certain features of the well-known, ubiquitous brands: namely, convenience, consistency, and perks associated with programs that reward frequent stays. Family travelers might opt for more upscale branded accommodations, whose all-suite or full-service offerings include rewards and many family-friendly amenities. Again, the brand standards ensure the experience in one city will be alike to that at the same hotel in any other.
This is, however, a two-sided coin. When the shades are drawn, it’s difficult to appreciate any identity in a “standard” room or hotel. A person could be in Boston or Boise. When a major brand issues a property improvement plan (PIP), all hotels under that plan receive the same upgrades. This provides for the brand standards people are accustomed to and value. Yet, it can also create a property that lacks character and the personalized elements that can make for a memorable stay.
Millennials are most outspoken in this sentiment, and the major hotel brands have taken notice. Top-performing hotel markets such as Austin, Nashville, and Denver have a wide variety of lifestyle and boutique hotels opening, and the national brands continue to unfurl new, revolutionary flags. The trend has gained more traction as the bigger hotel companies purchase niche brands, loosen uniform standards so that an individual hotel’s design reflects its local culture and environs, and offer product lines that vary from the traditional franchise model into the realm of soft brandings.
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