Hotel companies are struggling with the increasing subdivision of their key target markets, and the launch of new and improved brands is one way to clarify their offer to increasingly niche audiences.
This is having an impact across the entire sector, from new brands launching to hotel groups rebranding parts of their existing portfolio.
This month saw the opening of the first EVEN Hotels branded property in the USA, InterContinental Hotel Group’s bid to appeal to the health and wellness oriented business traveller. More details have emerged of Marriott’s new, edgy Moxy brand for Europe, while in Spain, Melia has refocused its 70 Sol holiday hotels, subdividing the brand to appeal to four distinct customer groups.
At IHG, the EVEN Hotels brand has been created to help accommodate those who feel that, when they hit the road for trips away from home, they are obliged to forsake their regular fitness and food regime.
“We know that for the traveling public, the ability to maintain their health routine while on the road is becoming more and more important and EVEN Hotels provides the tools and encouragement to make healthier choices while on the road at an approachable price point,” said IHG’s Americas president Kirk Kinsell.
“Through a carefully designed hotel and service culture, created with the needs of our target guest at the core, we know EVEN Hotels can deliver a better experience to travellers for whom wellness is so important. We firmly believe that the EVEN brand will be a key driver in market share growth in the U.S. as well as a unique, differentiated choice for our franchise owners.”
Each hotel offers guests plenty of opportunities for keeping fit. There is a gym alongside the entrance lobby, while the hotel’s “chief wellness officer” leads a morning run around the neighbourhood, while there are spinning and yoga classes. Stairs are more prominently signed and decorated than at a typical US hotel, while the front desk has been removed and replaced with a welcoming table dispensing filtered water and scented hand towels.
Rooms have been designed to allow some flexibility, so that guests can move the desk to clear floorspace to use the yoga mat, balance ball and other fitness items provided. A mobile app provides an exercise guide.
EVENs do not have a hotel restaurant, but a grab and go bar includes healthy options including granola with goji berries, flatbreads and even organic cocktails alongside the fruit juice and smoothies.
For now, EVEN Hotels remains a US brand. Following the Norwalk opening will be a second property in Maryland, while two hotels in Manhattan and another in Brooklyn are in the confirmed pipeline. Other target markets include Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, Denver, Portland, Seattle and Los Angeles. EVEN has made it to market faster than IHG’s other new brand, Hualuxe, which was also announced in spring 2012. Developed specifically for a Chinese clientele, Hualuxe has more than 20 hotels signed into its pipeline, with the first due to open before the end of the year.
From Marriott, hints have been revealed of the look of its new Moxy brand, due to launch in Milan this September with an airport hotel at Malpensa. The contemporary design is meant to have a youthful mindset, while surprising budget-conscious travellers. Guests are promised a lift that is designed as a shower, with a neon pink handrail; “Nothing is what it seems at the Moxy,” says the company. Guests get floor to ceiling artwork in rooms, a lounge with “eclectic upbeat music” and interiors that “emulate a boutique hotel”. Curiously, alongside free wifi, the lounge area will have a library of books. Rooms at Moxy will be priced from EUR79
In Spain, hotel group Melia has decided that a splintering audience of holidaymakers deserves a selection of niche brands to choose from, when selecting vacation accommodation. It has launched four new sub-brands for its 70 strong Sol Hotels & Resorts portfolio.
While predominantly a Spanish coastal and island brand, Sol is also present around the Mediterranean in Croatia, Bulgaria and Sharm El Sheikh; and the company has eight Sol hotels in Cuba. July sees two additions to the portfolio in Egypt, with 657 rooms being added via Sol Taba and Sol Dahab. The pair are in the Sinai Peninsula, in beachfront locations in the country’s Red Sea region.
Sol Hotels remains the core offer for the typical sun and sand customer, oriented mainly towards families. Sol Katmandu Park & Resort is oriented as a more innovative experience, integrating resort and theme park, where kids get to have breakfast with the park’s mascot.
A design-led brand, Sun House, is aimed at meeting the needs of millennials, offering a lifestyle experience that is nonetheless affordable. And finally, Sol Beach House is aimed at those without children, with a hippie-chic feel that combines modernity with a vintage feel. The brand attempts to create an at-home on the beach feel, with the laid-back attitude extending to later breakfast buffet opening, a barefoot restaurant and beach cocktail bars.
The move, says the company, is “adapting to new demand profiles, increasingly demanding and segmented.” And at the launch, Melia chief executive Gabriel Escarrer explained: “This rejuvenation aims to promote further growth of the brand in key holiday destinations, improving its attractiveness and competitiveness.”
HA Perspective [by Chris Bown]: It’s fair to say that not everyone at Hotel Analyst has been looking forward to staying in a hotel where exercise kit stares longingly at you, as you pad across cork matting rather than a comfy carpet. Yet for those who do want to keep up their exercise regime, too often in hotels the reality is a stuffy, cramped “fitness centre” with tired and poorly maintained equipment.
It is towards frustrated healthy folk that EVEN Hotels is oriented, a niche that may be more prevalent on the east coast of the USA than in other parts of the world, where it easier to walk round the block without being booked for jaywalking. So it remains to be seen how well IHG’s latest brand addition plays out in wider markets. But the company is to be congratulated for testing a new niche, in a world where the researchers tell us that consumers are becoming more picky, less loyal and more demanding of a brand they can identify closely with, rather than simply one that feels about right.
Images from Marriott suggest that Moxy has taken design cues – not least the big armchairs – from German budget brand Motel One, and pricing is not dissimilar. While the appeal might be lost on overnighters at a Milanese airport, it is no surprise that Munich, Frankfurt and Berlin sites are in the pipeline.
Melia has also seen the opportunity to create different strokes for different folks. Its Sol holiday hotels can be substantial affairs, and in locations such as Majorca, where it has ten, and Tenerife where there are five, it makes absolute sense to broaden the market appeal by differentiating the offering. Families love family-friendly hotels with pools for the kids; adults without children will often long for peace and quiet, or – depending on the generation – to party late without waking the young or old.
[Andrew Sangster adds]: There is a crude analogy used in basic economic textbooks to explain what is currently happening in the hotel market. It runs like this:
On a beach, the first few ice cream stands should be located in the middle where it is possible to access the most customers. But as the number of ice cream stands grows, so it becomes more viable to site a stand at one end of the beach, targeting a niche who will be more loyal to your stand as it offers them something different (a shorter walk) than the rest.
EVEN Hotels is targeting the 17 million or so regular business travellers in the US who are focused on wellness, according to IHG. EVEN Hotels is located much closer to the end of the beach where these 17 million reside.
There are a number of things that can go wrong with this approach. In particular, you might be putting your ice cream stand somewhere that has few customers and you might be mistaking that the shorter walk is all they care about.
With EVEN Hotels, IHG looks to have done its homework and has identified a good spot on the beach. This has taken money and expertise. It is much less clear that this is the case with some of the other new brand offerings.