Why now?

Credit: © Dorothy Alexander / Alamy

1. It’s all about the millennials.

There are two things budding jet-setters want: constant Wi-Fi and not to feel like a tourist. Hotel companies are listening—and the results appeal to more than just today’s twentysomethings. According to Tina Edmundson, Marriott’s global brand officer, “Lifestyle hotels tap in to a new creative class, including young entrepreneurial business types who want affordable access to art, culture, and design, as well as more-seasoned, independent travelers who appreciate singular experiences and high standards of service.”

2. Travelers want to feel like part of a club.

“We know a lot of people are looking for a shared experience among like-minded guests,” says Barry Sternlicht, CEO of Starwood Capital Group, whose new brand, 1 Hotels, is built for luxury seekers with a passion for sustainability. He’s not the only hotelier thinking more about psychographics than about demographics. Graduate Hotels caters to alumni in college towns, while InterContinental’s Even Hotels focuses on wellness. For all three, the appeal lies in a strong sense of belonging.

3. Affordable real estate and “cool neighborhoods” go hand in hand.

Rapidly gentrifying areas may not be ideal for legacy brands, but they’re perfect for travelers who want to feel more integrated into the fabric of a city—and be far away from its tourist traps. They’re also a dream for developers. Gray Shealy, executive director of the Master’s of Hospitality Management program at Georgetown University, says, “Up-and-coming neighborhoods give lifestyle brands an insider’s look at a location—a strategy Airbnb has leveraged.” Other perks? Potential for character- packed buildings. Construction costs can be higher in these, but guests are often willing to pay more for unique design touches.

Fun fact: 36 lifestyle brands have launched globally in the past year, at T+L’s last count.