Escalating hotel brands present dizzying choices
New York – — Today’s traveler faces a bewildering choice of hotel brands with similar-sounding and confusing names. Want to stay at a Hyatt? Take your pick. There’s Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place and, coming soon, Hyatt Centric.
Vacationers once relied on big-name hotel brands to signal the kind of experience they could expect. People knew what Holiday Inn, Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott meant. Familiarity bred a sense of comfort.
The world’s 10 largest hotel chains now offer a combined 113 brands at various price points, 31 of which didn’t exist a decade ago. And there’s no sign of this proliferation slowing down.
Thanks to high occupancy levels and cheap interest rates, developers are scrambling to build new properties. At the same time, hotels are trying to lure a new generation of travelers in search of authenticity. They want unique and hip places to sleep, not cookie-cutter facsimiles of hundreds of other hotels.
These so-called lifestyle hotels are the hot, new area for growth. They are designed to attract millennials: travelers aged 18-34 who hotels say aren’t interested in marble bathtubs but might enjoy beanbag chairs.
“The big hotel chains are in the business of pretending they aren’t big chains. They want you to think they are boutiques,” says Pauline Frommer, editorial director for Frommer’s, the travel guide company.
In the past year, Marriott International Inc. launched Moxy, Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. created Canopy, Best Western International Inc. came up with Vib and InterContinental Hotels Group PLC — the parent company of Holiday Inn — purchased Kimpton, adding its boutique hotels to the larger chain.
And hotel executives say more brands are on the way.
“The Internet has driven people to more niches. Everything is more segmented,” says Best Western CEO David Kong. “Our six brands are actually six different needs.”
U.S. hotels are now selling 65 percent of their room nights, up from 55 percent five years ago, according to travel-research company STR Inc. Guests are also paying more: $115.72 on average a night, up from $97.31.