Hotel Lifestyle Brands and Marriott’s EDITION

Lifestyle hotel brands are experiencing a resurgence as the global economy continues to repair itself. Generally known as brands which target a specific demographic with design, amenities, and services, lifestyle hotels are now wildly popular. For decades most leisure travelers in the US expected their hotel to have a bed, telephone, clean bathroom, and television. Maybe a view if it was next to the ocean. Now? Themed fitness programs, high-end toiletries, bathrooms having glass walls, 400 thread count cotton bed linens, and the list goes on.

One of the first lifestyle brand hotels was Ian Schrager’s Morgans Hotel in New York City. It debuted in 1984 with the concept of low lighting, modern design, and a lobby bar that doubled as a party lounge in the evenings. At that time hotel rooms were about as exciting as your basic blue shirt. Fast forward to 2011. Now, large and well established brands such as Marriott and Starwood have created their own line of lifestyle brands.

Ian Schrager recently teamed up with Marriott International to develop a new brand known as EDITION Hotels. With funky design and modern art, the Waikiki EDITION offers unique luxury such as thire Honolulu Surf and Bikini Boot Camp and an outdoor movie theater showing first-run films under the stars. What makes this and all lifestyle brands attractive are the features that set them apart from the competition. They form an environment and experience the guest is looking for in each location.

Beaches Brand for Target Markets

With so many beach destinations available, it really is the case of which one matches your specific needs. Each beach brands and then markets itself to a specific demographic first and then widens the scale by promoting how there is “something for everyone” there. Then there are the various reputations, which often sway different travelers either to or from a particular destination.

Back in the mid 90’s, much of the state of South Carolina’s annual tourism marketing budget was spent in the state of Ohio. I do not want to miss-quote the actual figure, but I believe it was something like 75% of allotted funds. As a college student, we would take trips from Charleston up to Myrtle Beach and notice that almost every out-of-state license plate was, in fact, from Ohio! Guess it worked! Myrtle Beach has both branded itself and built a reputation as an affordable family-friendly beach area with a host of attractions, great golfing, loads of entertainment, and a within a day’s drive of it’s largest domestic target markets.

In contrast, however, Miami’s South Beach brands itself as a whole different kind of beach destination. As a party like atmosphere where cocktails and music flow all night long, South Beach brands itself as a hotspot of fun with a strong connection to Latin America. Drawing the wealthy, yuppies, and international tourists, South Beach has the über-luxurious marine amenities to support their brand. Miami also attracts other industries (fashion and film, in particular) that help support the local travel industry.

So which beach is for you? These are just two of thousands of global examples. First consult your budget, decide how far you want to travel, the season in question, and what you enjoy most from a beach destination. Make a list, narrow it down, and then start using your favorite search engine to find the beach…. err…. BRAND that is best for you!

Take a look at this promotional video on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and notice how they feature and repeat some key drawing factors for tourism.

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Amtrak’s Acela Express – America’s first generation of high-speed rail transport

I have to say that I have a love affair with Amtrak’s Acela Express service. This very minute I am enroute from New York to Boston on Acela Express, the only high-speed rail service in the US. With a travel time of about 3.5 hours between city pairs and speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, it is quite a unique transportation experience. First Class amenities include complimentary cocktails in branded glassware, a choice of meals provided by dedicated First Class attendants, free Wifi, and power ports at each seat. The Club Acela lounges in each major city are invitation only enclaves for First Class and very frequent travelers. There is a Business Class section on each Acela Express train and a club car with drinks, food, and flat-screen TV’s to gather with fellow passengers and watch CNN or ESPN’s hot game of the day. With fares often less than flights from Boston Logan to New York’s LaGuardia, who prefers the hassle of check-in at the airport, security, air traffic delays, and then commuting from the respective airports? And do you really want to travel via interstate highway with guaranteed traffic frustration? Not me.

Amtrak’s Acela Express and Acela Regional brands have been hugely successful. It has been reported that a mere five years after the launch of Acela Express, Amtrak’s share of the transport market between Boston and New York leaped to 40% from only 18% previous to Acela’s startup. So this begs another question: With the Obama administration’s aggressive plan to bring high-speed rail service to 80% of Americans (this figure taken from his recent State of The Union address), would it not be in the best interest to fully privatize the nation’s railway system at the same time?

I am excited at the possibility of new rail operators competing in high-speed service with their own unique brands. Yes, while the Acela product is great and profitable today, I see the potential for better services. And with the goal of increasing rail speeds the impact on travel and commerce will be amazing.

If you live anywhere from Washington, DC to Boston and have the opportunity to try Acela Express, do it. It is definitely worth seeing what the future holds.

More information on the topic to come, stay tuned!

Amtrak's Acela Express