When the pandemic led to the loss of in-person interactions with your favorite brands, many loyal customers abandoned retail shopping and indoor dining experiences. But emerging from this drought, the hospitality industry is seeing a growing number of mainstream brands taking advantage of the lack of physical activity and investing in a new kind of experiential marketing – their own hotels.
In 2020, Skift identified the rush of consumer brands into hospitality as a megatrend. Today, despite a pandemic, mainstream brands continue to dive into the hospitality industry for a multitude of reasons, the first being to appeal to new audiences they have never catered to before. Some recent entrants include FILA, Toy Story, Hello Kitty and Bvlgari.
“In terms of per capita spending on travel, millennials are catching up with baby boomers,” said Chekitan S. Dev, professor of tourism at Cornell University. “But there is also an imbalance in the supply of hotel brands that appeal to millennials.”
According to Dev, a rapidly growing movement is developing among historic hoteliers and mainstream brands, hoping to attract a younger clientele that is tech and design savvy but still willing to pay reasonable prices.
“Consumer brands are looking to rebrand in an immersive and experiential way,” Dev said. “They focus on the millennial market with an emphasis on offbeat and accessible locations, modern and comfortable design, smaller and more functional rooms, fewer and targeted amenities, advanced technology and easy to use , fun and hospitable service, and multifunctional public spaces.
While some companies try to target new audiences, others struggle to retain them.
“For most brands, it’s about being able to connect with your consumer on a different level,” said Kirk Pederson, president of Sightline Hospitality. “Giving your consumer a place to lay their head at night is more intimate than other means of connection, it’s at the heart of someone’s ritual.”
Although historic hotels and hoteliers continue to drown after the hospitality pandemic, some of these mainstream brands aren’t as affected. Evo, an outdoor sporting goods and retail company that recently opened an adventure hotel in Salt Lake City, has seen sales that have thrived during the pandemic and viewed this as another opportunity to make your brand known.
“A lot of these brands had projects that had taken years to come together,” Pederson said. “To say that there is no problem [of Covid] is probably too far, but they don’t see it the same way as hoteliers or investors. There is another angle.
The industry has seen a wave of consumer brands entering the hospitality industry in 2020, but 2022 has brought a new wave of brand innovation to hotels. Here is a list of branded hotel experiences to expect in the coming years:
Hyatt has announced plans to partner with ANTA Group to open the world’s first FILA-branded hotel. With over 100 years of history, the global sports brand hopes to appeal to high-end consumers by fusing elements of fitness and fashion.
FILA HOUSE Shanghai will be developed in Shanghai’s West Hongqiao business district, an area established as an international trade hub, with a vibrant business and industry community. According to a statement from Hyatt, it “is envisioned to be a destination for sports retail as well as a space to showcase the latest trends in activewear.” This partnership marks a new addition to the JdV by Hyatt brand portfolio and is expected to open to guests in 2024.
Hyatt also recently announced plans for the first Hello Kitty-branded hotel, which is slated to open in 2025 as part of the 52-acre Sanya Hello Kitty Resort theme park. The resort, developed in collaboration with Hong Kong-based Keyestone Group, will be located in Sanya, the popular resort town in the southern province of Hainan.
Another product from Hyatt’s JdV portfolio, the 221-room hotel will feature spaces adorned with the iconic Hello Kitty design and offer facilities including three exclusive restaurants and bars, a themed ballroom, swimming pool and spa.
On April 5, Tokyo Disney Resort finally opened the doors to the new Toy Story-themed hotel, after a long-awaited delay due to the pandemic. With 595 rooms and 11 floors, this hotel is one of five themed resorts in Tokyo’s property, but the first to be based on a single movie and labeled as a “moderate class” resort. The new addition follows its Chinese predecessor, the Toy Story Hotel located in the Shanghai Disney Resort, which opened in 2016.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard of accommodations at places like Disney, but previous options have remained in the realm of resorts, secluded lodges, themed rooms, or exclusive suites. These new hotels are not only branded with a very specific unique theme, but are more faithful to the familiar hotel experience.
Jewelry house Bvlgari isn’t the only luxury brand we’ve seen dive into the world of hotel and hospitality. The Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast was the first hotel launched by a fashion brand in 2000. In 2016, the Armani Hotel Dubai was named the winner of the World Luxury Hotel Awards, and many luxury brands, such as Dior and Shiseido, presented collaborations with hotels to offer branded suites or spas to their customers.
However, Bvlgari’s Hotels and Resorts seeks to go further and become a leader in luxury hospitality by continually announcing its commitment to expansion. Last December, Bvlgari inaugurated the Bvlgari Hotel Paris, the seventh establishment in the Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts collection. The Bvlgari Hotel Moscow is set to open this year, soon to be followed by Rome and Tokyo in 2023, then Miami Beach in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2025.
In early 2020, gaming company Atari announced a partnership with leading innovation agency GSD Group to prepare Atari Hotels, “a modern hotel experience inspired by gaming culture”. The hotels, which will resemble a synthetic yet immersive gamer fantasy, are intended to allow guests to experience the timeless world of classic and modern gaming culture, produced by a multidisciplinary team hoping to intersect elements of esports, entertainment and of hospitality.
The flagship, which will open this year in Las Vegas, will be designed by world-renowned architecture and design firm Gensler. It will have nearly 500 rooms, in addition to potentially residential penthouses.