Si chiamano Aloft ed Element i due brand di hotel che il gruppo Starwood dedica al viaggiatore moderno.
Negli ultimi dieci anni il modo di viaggiare è cambiato molto: si scelgono mete diverse, si trascorrono meno giorni più volte all’anno, si opta per idee più innovative non solo per quanto riguarda gli itinerari, ma anche le tipologie di alberghi, bar e ristoranti.
Ne sa qualcosa il gruppo Starwood che dal 2008 ha lanciato – worldwide – 2 nuovi brand più attenti a questi continui mutamenti di interesse. Ne abbiamo parlato con Elena Mendez, Vice President Sheraton, Westin, Specialty Select Brands, EAME dallo scorso maggio 2014. Da 18 anni nella compagnia, la manager ha dimostrato sin da subito una spiccata versatilità, conseguendo il successo in ruoli di crescente responsabilità; in particolare, negli ultimi quattro anni e mezzo ha supervisionato il Loyalty Marketing & Operations EAME, implementando la strategia di marketing; mentre oggi, nel nuovo ruolo, si occupa del posizionamento aziendale e dei marchi, con attenzione particolare alla definizione degli standard qualitativi. A lei abbiamo chiesto di raccontarci il posizionamento del gruppo nel suo complesso e qualche informazione sui marchi Aloft e Element che nei prossimi mesi saranno i protagonisti di tante nuove aperture anche in Europa.
Starwood: are 9 brands in the world able to satisfy each taste and demand?
Starwood’s 9 unique brands, powerful systems, unmatched portfolio and established local operating teams around the globe set us apart from our competition and positions us well for sustained balanced footprint growth in both mature and developing markets.
In the luxury segment, we have The Luxury Collection, St. Regis and W Hotels which appeal to different groups amongst today’s luxury travellers. For example, our Luxury Collection hotels are destination authorities and help guide global explorers in collecting authentic experiences. W is for trendsetters who are keen to discover what’s new and next around fashion, design and music, while the St. Regis focuses on bespoke service and going beyond guests’ expectations through our St. Regis butlers.
We also have three upper upscale brands, Le Meridien, Westin and Sheraton. Le Meridien has a strong focus on unlocking the destination through art, culture and culinary experiences. Westin is an innovator in our industry with its focus on health and well-being and Sheraton is all about providing guests with the opportunity to share their experiences and to meet new people. The final 3 brands are Aloft, Element and Four Points by Sheraton fall within the select service category. For the ‘always on’ business and millennial traveler, Aloft offers a tech-forward experience and a modern style that is different by design. Four Points by Sheraton provides travellers with timeless design, uncomplicated comfort and genuine hospitality and service plus other extras like free WiFi and bottled water to help them stay productive on the road. The Element brand is very much focused on sustainability and offers travellers a fresh, reimagined interpretation of the extended stay hotel experience. We’re excited to introduce Element in Europe later this year with Element Frankfurt.
Through the strength and diversity of our nine distinct lifestyle brands, we are able to meet the needs of our different customers, and even to the same customer, based upon their travel needs. The same customer may have a need for a Sheraton hotel today for a team meeting, and for a Luxury Collection resort for a vacation.
Which are the markets where do you think you’ll have the most interesting development? And of which brand in the short-term?
We expect another strong year of global growth in 2014, with hotel openings and deal signings across all nine brands in more countries than ever before through organic growth. Our global multi-brand growth continues unabated and Starwood is particularly well positioned to take full advantage of growth anywhere in the world, whether in established markets or in fast growing economies.
In developed markets, conversions are driving growth. In Europe, financing for new builds is scarce and there is a large landscape of independent hotels looking to partner with a global hotel operator.
Our mid-market brands (Aloft, Four Points by Sheraton and Element) continue to enjoy strong growth in Europe with 12 hotels currently under development, which will double our mid-market portfolio in the region by 2016. We are in advanced discussions on more than a dozen new mid-market hotel deals across the European continent and are particularly focused on growing these brands with multi-unit owner partners under franchise hotel contracts in markets such as Germany, Scandinavia and the UK.
Think to your main competitor, a company who has the same number of brands and hotels in the world… Which is the inside track of Starwood and the inside track of its competitor?
Starwood is a traditional company that gets technology, a true ‘inside track’ when looking at the competition. We are a market leader in digital innovation and the first old economy company to fully step into and embrace the digital age, allowing us to better connect with guests and deliver more personalised service in our hotels.
An example of how we do this is through smart check-in, Starwood’s next big innovation and another industry first. In January this year, we became the first hotel company to announce truly mobile, keyless check-in through our guests’ smartphones, redefining the age-old arrival experience. Keyless check-in will be piloted at the Aloft Harlem and Aloft Cupertino, and if all goes well, will be introduced across Aloft and W hotels globally.
We were the first in our industry to launch other digital innovations including introducing state-aware technology on our mobile applications, the first to build an iPad app on Apple’s new iOS 7 and the first to launch SMS capabilities – all within the last 12 months!
Over the next two years, we’ll invest $100 million in mobile, R&D, on-property and associate innovation in the digital space.
Opened in 2008, Aloft brand has about 75 hotels in the world and only 3 in Europe: why? Maybe, young European people are too ‘old’ for a brand like this?
We currently have 80 Aloft hotels that are in operation around the world and are looking to open our 100th hotel soon. Introduced to Europe only four years ago, Aloft Hotels has completely reinvented the mid-market hotel category and continues to emerge as a popular choice for owners and developers in primary and secondary markets throughout Europe. Together with Aloft Liverpool which is opening later this year, we will open 6 new Aloft hotels in Europe over the next three years, including in new markets such as Munich, Stuttgart, St. Petersburg and Kiev.
Openings are almost everywhere reconversions of existing buildings: was this the starting project (giving new life to old or not functioning hotels) or, instead, the brand was thought irrespective of location and existing buildings?
When we launched the brand in 2008 it was conceived to raise the bar and shake up the staid and traditional mid-market hotel sector by creating urban-influenced, modern and vibrant design and a social guest experience at an affordable price point. We are committed to underline Starwood’s continued commitment to expand our European portfolio of mid-market brands through franchising and management contracts as well as adaptive re-use projects. Through conversions and adaptive re-use projects, we have a great opportunity to accelerate the growth of the Aloft brand.
In Liverpool, for example, where we will open Aloft Liverpool in September this year, the hotel is located within a historic, listed building that used to house a bank. This adaptive re-use project is an important component of the revitalisation of the surrounding area. We see an increasing number of such opportunities for the brand in Europe, particularly in the UK, The Netherlands, France and Germany, where obsolete structures are repurposed into hotel use, often as part of a larger revitalisation scheme.
Aloft means ‘in alto, in volo…’ but the concept of the hotels is social, related to young people everyday life… Where does the name come from?
With the success of the W Hotels brand, Starwood identified that there was an emerging need for a similar design-led, young and stylish hotel experience, to reflect the evolving lifestyles of the savvy “Next Generation Travellers”. Aloft was created to deliver a fresh and contemporary approach to the staid and traditional mid-market hotel sector and redefine the category by offering a tech-forward, vibrant and modern life style that is differentiated by its innovative, open design with bold colours and eclectic (or sassy) atmosphere.
Which are the main differences between European and worldwide Aloft hotels?
As with all of our Starwood brands, the core elements are retained across the globe. As a truly global brand with international appeal there are no significant differences between the Aloft hotels in Europe and those in other markets. There might be some local or cultural nuances, but the overall design such as the brand’s signature high ceilings, oversized windows and an ultra-comfortable platform bed as well as large walk-in showers with complimentary Bliss Spa® products, are available in all Aloft hotels. Additionally, Aloft hotels feature the brand’s signature W XYZSM bar, an atmospheric public space where guests can mix and mingle, read the paper, work on laptops, play a game of pool or grab a drink with friends. Other signature facilities include Re:chargeSM fitness centre and the unique Re:fuelSM by Aloft, which introduces a convenient deli option for guests on the go.
Are you thinking to open Aloft in Italy? Where? And if you are not considering the idea, which is the reason?
There are currently no confirmed plans to open an Aloft hotel in Italy, however, Italy has a thriving travel market and is home to 21 Starwood hotels at this moment. We are always exploring new opportunities to grow the brand but most importantly we look for the right partner, with the right project at the right time.
Who and why choose the Aloft interior designer?
With Aloft we do not have one specific interior designer that we work with. However, we have developed clear guidelines for new developments that a designer use and adapt to amend the designs to best suit the property, it’s location and local culture.
di Barbara Carbone
continua… (nei prossimi giorni pubblicheremo la seconda parte dell’intervista)
In questa pagina, le immagini degli Aloft hotel di Bruxelles, Bangkok, Abu Dhabi, Londra.