• Select serve is the new thing

Funky limited service – or select serve, as the marketers have it – brands are the concepts of the moment for US upscale hoteliers.

Both Hyatt, with Hyatt Place, and Starwood, with Aloft, have this week announced ambitious expansion plans.

Hyatt said that its brand, which it claims has created a new category “catering to today’s 24/7 lifestyle”, now has 50 projects under development.

By happy coincidence, Starwood announced a day earlier than Hyatt that it had reached the 50th milestone for its concept which “represents a new twist in travel”.

Hyatt Place is arguably less archly trendy than Aloft, with the latter trading off the brand credentials of its full-service sibling W. There is more extended-stay elements in the mix with Hyatt through a particular focus on the idea of being a “home away from home”.

Hyatt will have 120 open by the end of this year where as Aloft will only be at ground breaking stage with 20. Starwood has declared a target of 500 by 2012.

But Starwood already has deals to take Aloft beyond North America, with sites in Brussels, Sydney and Beijing. Like Hyatt Place, Aloft wants emphasises the community aspect of staying in a hotel.

There is a palpable sense of excitement in the hotel business right now, not just with deal making (which is to be expected given the point we are at in the business cycle) but with the actual business of hotel keeping.

The willingness of the big corporates to try out new ideas and concepts perhaps reflects a realisation that brands – finally – are set to have a meaning beyond the name above the door, for guests, owners and operators.

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