Hotel News Now recaps the opening afternoon of the HotelsWorld conference in Sydney with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.
SYDNEY—Boutique and lifestyle hotels are the current darlings of the hotel world—even if they can’t be defined universally throughout the industry.
Depending on who you talk to, that definition may be determined by a property’s number of rooms, by the size of its rooms or by the unique aspects it provides guests, according to speakers at Tuesday afternoon’s boutique and lifestyle program on the opening day of HotelsWorld.
The two words used most often during the discussions were “experience” and “unique”—both of which are hard to quantify.
“This is a completely subjective subject,” said Matthew Burke, STR’s regional manager-Pacific, during his “Definitions & data” session. (STR is the parent company of Hotel News Now.)
The bottom line is developers and investors have a keen interest in these types of properties, Burke said. STR data indicates that 3,272 (21%) of the 15,000 luxury and upper upscale rooms under contract in Australia qualify as boutique or lifestyle.
“There’s a growing appetite for these types of properties,” Burke said.
Richard Crawford, senior director-development for Marriott International, summarized the lifestyle push during “The dynamic world of lifestyle & soft brands” session.
“Lifestyle is a trait; it’s a characteristic. Every one of our 30 brands no has lifestyle characteristics. … Lifestyle and soft brands are not a panacea to success. For us, it is the minority of our business but an important part of our business,” he said.
Investors need to be cautious as they explore opportunities for these types of brands, said Abhijay Sandilya, senior director of development for InterContinental Hotels Group.
“Everything in the investment spectrum, you look at it from a risk and reward matrix,” Sandilya said. “Lifestyle brands, as they penetrate the Australian market, are going to attract a high-risk profile. … The good part is that these brands have proven themselves in overseas markets.”
The soft-brand concept is gaining momentum because the properties generally have a story to tell, speakers said.
“Soft brands open up a whole new opportunity—for us, that means collection brands,” Crawford said. “For the consumer, there is a segment of the market … that wants bespoke experiences, things that pertain to the destination. That’s what a soft brand does.”
The overall importance of design became a primary discussion topic as the day progressed.
“Design is the one thing that reaches everybody—it either delivers your expectation or it disappoints,” said Jennifer Davey, director of AHS Advisory/Horwath HTL, who served as moderator for the “Designing for differentiation” session.
“Design is so important to us because we’re globally connected, it impacts every age group, and it’s particularly relevant to the hotel sector to try and provide a different perspective to all user groups,” she said.
The trend of developing smaller guestroom sizes threaded its way throughout the afternoon’s conversation. Jeffery Copolov, director for Bates Smart, said the smaller rooms create a much greater challenge for designers than the larger rooms of the past.
“You’re going to see a lot more attention to detail,” he said. “Every element in a small room has to be optimal.”
Quotes of the day
“We think tattoos are cool and pink hair is cool, and that might not fly with some of the big brands.”
—Tracy Atherton, group general manager for Jackalope Hotels, on why the company decided to go the independent route and develop its own brand instead of going with an established brand company.
“Two months ago, I turned off the switch to all (online travel agencies), and we have not seen a drop in our business. All of our bookings come to us direct, which is really what all hoteliers want.”
Slide of the day