I’ve long had a small problem with the Jolly chain of hotels and resorts. Not the hotels themselves, some of which are very good. I love the 1920s-era Whaler Bar at the Jolly Madison Towers in New York City, for instance, although I have to suppress a giggle whenever I tell a friend to meet me there. No, it’s the name itself that bugs me. There’s an enforced gaiety to it, a glued-on marketing smile. At any rate, I was surprised to discover there are three Jolly time-share resorts neighboring one another in Antigua. At least, there were three until the Jolly Beach Vacations Resort changed its name in March to Tranquility Bay.
On the Orwoll 10-point Smart Meter, I rate that name-change a 10. Who could not love a resort with a name like Tranquility Bay? And it got me thinking about more hotels that have changed their names, and even other random corporate name changes—some of which, shall we say, do not earn high marks on the Smart Meter.
HOTEL NAME CHANGES
Cova Hotel (San Francisco). Former name: Air Travel Hotel. After an extensive renovation and a dose of marketing reality, the owners realized that Air Travel is a truly odd name for a hotel. So they changed it to something arcane instead of merely misleading. Not necessarily a huge improvement. Smart Meter: 4
Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Former name: Cosmopolitan. The 2,995-room hotel won’t even open until the end of 2010, but already the name had to be changed as part of a trademark-infringement settlement with Cosmopolitan magazine. The new name is neither better nor worse, but at least the owners aren’t getting sued any more. Smart Meter: 6
Luxe City Center Hotel (Los Angeles). Former name: Holiday Inn Los Angeles. The owner shoveled $10 million into a renovation in 2009, and rightly wondered if keeping the old name was in keeping with the hotel’s new upmarket look. He decided it wasn’t, switched management companies, and changed the name. Smart Meter: 7.
62 Castle St. (Liverpool, U.K.). Former name: Trials Hotel. Renamed for its street address following a major refurbishment, this hotel’s new name is an improvement. The old name sounds like “trials and tribulations,” which isn’t the most appealing image for a hotel. The new name may be prosaic, but at least it doesn’t bring to mind hung juries (or hung convicts). Smart Meter: 8
Sands of Curacao (Willemstad, Curacao). Former name: Flamboyant Beach Hotel. They made the change back in 1972 for what I imagine were obvious reasons. Specifically, the old name was just egregiously stupid. Later it changed again, to Princess Isles, before closing in 1975. The Flamboyant Hotel?! Really?! Smart Meter: 10
Sunset Tower Hotel (West Hollywood). Former name: Argyle Hotel. Former former name: Sunset Tower Hotel. Changed back to its original name in 2005 in an attempt to recapture the aura of an earlier Hollywood, an era when the 1929 hotel hosted the likes of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and the irrepressible Zasu Pitts (although, one presumes, not at the same time). Nothing wrong with the name Argyle, but there was nothing wrong with the original name either. Smart Meter: 7
Compass Cove Ocean Resort (Myrtle Beach, South Carolina). Former name: Swamp Fox Ocean Resort. This is just a wild guest, but it seems to me that most guests would probably rather stay near a cove than a swamp. Smart Meter: 9
Tropicana (Atlantic City). Former name: Tropworld. Former former name: Tropicana. Everybody gets to unchange a crappy name change, especially when they change the name to something that sounds like (redundancy alert! redundancy alert!) a bad Vin Diesel movie. Smart Meter: 8
NON-HOTEL NAME CHANGES
Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World, Orlando) Former name: Disney-MGM Studios. The name-change in 2007 came about when the Disney contract with MGM expired. The new name is adequate, I suppose, but the MGM connection was a better link to the Golden Age of movies. Smart Meter: 5
Burj Khalifa (Dubai, U.A.E., right). Former name: Burj Dubai. The pre-opening name-change of the world’s tallest building in January 2010 honors the leader of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, who engineered loans that helped Dubai avoid financial disaster. Hey, if some guy lent me a bazillion dollars, I’d change my name to Khalifa in a heartbeat. Smart Meter: 9
Village of Sleepy Hollow (Westchester County, New York). Former name: North Tarrytown. Yes, the same Sleepy Hollow where Ichabod Crane met his fate at the hands of the Headless Horseman. After changing to its present name in 1996, this once down-at-the-heels Hudson River town upped its tourism potential by 10,000 percent. Smart Meter: 10
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (since 2005). Former name: Anaheim Angels. Former former name: California Angels. Former former former name: Los Angeles Angels. The only thing left would be to rename the team the California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, California. Smart Meter: 3
OTHER BRANDS THAT REALLY SHOULD CHANGE THEIR NAMES
Hilton HHonors frequent-stay rewards program. How do you even pronounce it?! I mean, hhow ddo yyou eeven ppronounce iit??!!
American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent flier program. Is it pronounced Ay-Advantage? Aaaaadvantage? Just plain old Advantage?
Pen Island, a manufacturer of custom-made pens. Their URL is the truly unfortunate penisland.net.
Qatar. Is it pronounced Kutter? Catarrh? Catter?
Pocari Sweat. This grapefruit-flavored sports drink from Japan has got to have the most off-putting brand name ever devised. I mean, really, Pocari?!
Mark Orwoll is Travel + Leisure's international editor.