In a global luxury sector dominated by a focus on asset light operations, i.e. purely operational through a third party management agreement, hotel giant Marriott International surprised the industry with the announcement it has acquired the W New York Union Square for the purpose of transforming the property into a flagship for the W Hotels brand.
The decision also marks a bold move to reposition the W Hotels brand in the U.S., where it has not been enjoying the success outside the U.S. Mention must be made that W Hotels, which Marriott includes in its luxury portfolio of brands, is probably the most profitable of the brand given the very feasible proposition for developers / owners and investors.
Without resorting to a famed interior designer or architect, W Hotels has been achieving in creating a cost effective yet desirable product through design and a strong lifestyle angle. From a price point positioning, W Hotels ranks at an ‘affordable luxury’ offering, sensibly marketed by Marriott International. The lifestyle component has been mostly driven by fashion and music collaborations, with themed parties.
It will be interesting to observe how W Hotels will further implement a sensitive component of night-clubs / lounge, which has only selectively been successful in certain destinations / markets. The move will most likely be an excellent opportunity to upgrade / update the Spa offering of W Hotels.
One of the most recent opening has been in Dubai, W Dubai at The Palm carved itself a niche of a cool destination, driven by day-time pool parties based on live mixed DJing and outdoor wellness, welcoming both locals and hotel guests. The move comes more of a surprise given the relatively restrained muslim culture.
Marriott International’s huge potential brand but still with a rather mixed and confusing positioning depending on the destination, is St Regis especially compared to The Ritz-Carlton, another Marriott International owned luxury brand. The Ritz-Carlton has been pursuing a rather constant path with a coherent positioning which will be further cemented with the unique diversification of the brand into cruising (Ritz Carlton Yacht), similarly to EDITION which is also a solid luxury brand concept.
Some would argue that the original St Regis New York should obviously serve as a flagship – unfortunately, not. The New York property boasts very specific features also because of being housed within an iconic heritage building.The property boasts an impressive number of signature / themed suites designed and furnished to the highest luxury standards – Tiffany, Bentley and Dior.
Marriott International’s latest move may serve as an excellent strategic approach to follow by IHG for its Regent and Crowne Plaza brands, Hilton for its new LXR brand and Melia, which commands a most confusing brands positioning.
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