By Andrew Sessa
April 15, 2014

Booking a hotel these days can be overwhelming: new names are appearing alongside established ones, and they’re competing for your attention, your dollars, and, above all, your loyalty. T+L has the scoop on the latest trends to help you find the one that’s right for you.

Hotel Brand Trends

A closer look at the innovations that will shape your next hotel stay.

Tech-Friendly Retreats: Starwood’s Aloft is piloting Apple TV’s at its Cupertino, California, property and will soon offer remote mobile check-in at dozens of its hotels. Not to be outdone, Conrad is raising the bar with its Conrad Concierge app, which lets guests book hotel services remotely, be it airport pickup or the timing of their dinner. Mandarin Oriental will soon be rolling out DVR’s and HD Internet TV’s in its guest rooms. Peninsula, meanwhile, remains unmatched for its customized in-room tablets, introduced at the Hong Kong flagship, with everything from temperature controls to flight schedules.

Hyper-Local Haunts: The best way to create a sense of place? Draw in the locals. This approach was pioneered by Ace Hotels, a collection of five U.S. properties with a growing overseas presence, whose lobbies and restaurants have become neighborhood hangouts. Hyatt’s Andaz lures tuned-in residents with friendly settings for after-work drinks and an Andaz Salon series where cultural insiders host events. In Chicago, the first of Ian Schrager’s new Public brand, which will expand to New York City and Florida by 2017, has an event space for poetry readings and screenings.

Design Hubs: Hotel groups are launching collections that showcase architects and designers, following the lead of such brands as Park Hyatt, which has turned to big names and firms for its properties (Tony Chi; Super Potato; Daniel Libeskind). Sofitel So hired Karl Lagerfeld and Christian Lacroix for design elements in its Bangkok and Singapore hotels; Me by Meliá brought in Norman Foster for its London hotel, and Zaha Hadid for Dubai (2016). Marriott joined with Ian Schrager for Edition, tapping design firm Yabu Pushelberg and architect John Pawson for hotels in Istanbul, London, and Miami.

Millennial Outposts: The trailblazers catering to this rising generation of social (and social media savvy) upstarts were smaller companies such as Kimpton and Ace. Larger brands, including Le Méridien, Element, and Indigo, are getting in on the act, too, placing an emphasis on common spaces, tech amenities, and (for the latter two) affordable rates. This year in Milan, Marriott will open its first low-cost, high-style Moxy hotel, with big expansion plans in Europe. Commune Hotels will launch the Tommie brand in New York next year, with crash-pad-style public spaces and lounges.

All-Inclusive Resorts: Traditional players in the Caribbean are upgrading the guest experience with higher-end services and amenities. Sandals now has pool suites and personal butler service, and the all-suite Paradisus Resorts have Thierry Mugler bathroom amenities and better restaurant options. Hyatt entered the arena in Mexico last year with family-friendly Ziva (pictured; Los Cabos) and adults-only Zilara (Cancún), aiming to further refine the all-inclusive formula with spur-of-the-moment activities and authentic experiences beyond the resorts’ walls.

Coming Soon: InterContinental’s well-being-focused Even Hotelslaunches this spring in Rockville, Maryland, and Norwalk, Connecticut, with three New York City locations to come in 2015.The brainchild of Starwood founder Barry Sternlicht, the environmentally conscious 1 Hotels will use reclaimed building materials and serve food with organic ingredients (it debuts midyear in New York City, followed by South Beach in the fall). Richard Branson is taking his airline’s hip lounge concept and turning it into Virgin Hotels; the first opens in Chicago this summer.

Hotel Collections

Just like the big chains, hotel consortiums, made up of small, independently owned properties, are breaking out the big ideas. They’re expanding to emerging destinations, creating loyalty programs, and even becoming prominent brands in their own right. In August, Preferred Hotel Group, with 650 properties around the world, launched iPrefer, a points-based loyalty program that lets guests earn discounted rooms and upgrades. This year, Design Hotels is rolling out its Design Hotels Community, a club that offers members free Wi-Fi and breakfast at many properties. Relais & Châteaux, known for its curated collection of 515 properties, continues to gain prominence: it launched 85 vacation villas in 2013 and is expanding to eight countries, including Croatia, Turkey, and the Dominican Republic. Small Luxury Hotels is moving into more exotic locales, working with properties in Saudi Arabia for the first time and, this year, Lebanon and Ibiza, Spain. Leading Hotels of the World, which counts the Ritz Paris among its 430 members, is growing its presence in South America, with four new hotels in Colombia joining in 2014.

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