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New hotel brand to check into USA

Jun. 8, 2013 - 01:10PM   |  
By NANCY TREJOS   |   Comments

Marriott International plans to introduce to the U.S. a European-based hotel chain that targets younger, tech- and design-savvy travelers.

Marriott will import the AC Hotels by Marriott, a Madrid-based, midprice brand it partnered with in 2011 to broaden its European presence. The Bethesda, Md.-based hospitality giant is betting on the urban lifestyle hotel chain to capture the lucrative Millennial market and its rapidly growing purchasing power.

“It’s the right time to bring it to the U.S.,” says Brian King, global brand officer for Marriott Endorsed Brands. “You import wine and you import cars. We’re going to import a hotel brand.”

It’s a first for Marriott. And it’s the second aggressive move the company has made on the Generation X and Y traveler this year. Recently, Marriott announced it is partnering with Swedish furniture company IKEA to launch Moxy, a budget chain for Europe. It will run the AC Hotels by Marriott as a joint venture in the U.S. There are already 79 AC Hotels by Marriott in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy.

Hoteliers and researchers say Millennials, those generally born in the 1980s to the early 2000s, are unique travelers because they want to stay constantly connected through social media, they want coffeehouse-like spaces where they can work and play, and they want unique and local amenities. They also want it all instantly and in a comfortable, modern setting.

King says the Generation X and Y business traveler has been underserved. He cited Marriott research that indicates that business travelers ages 21 to 49 who make three or more business trips a year spend $34 billion on hotel rooms.

Chekitan Dev, an associate professor at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and author of Hospitality Branding, says other hotel companies have started brands to appeal to the younger traveler, most notably Starwood’s Aloft and IHG’s Hotel Indigo.

“There are multiple brands that are capitalizing on the Millennial-demand growth with smart design and advanced technology,” Dev says. “This space is expected to grow.”

King says AC Hotels will appeal to those travelers who appreciate design, technology, good lighting and quick, efficient service. An AC Lounge will have a menu of small plates, cocktails, wines and craft beers. Visitors will be able to book spaces for meetings from their smartphones using Marriott’s Workspace on Demand app. And Wi-Fi will be free throughout the property.

King says Marriott hopes to open 200 AC Hotels by Marriott in the next 10 years. The company is scouting out locations for the first property but could open one as soon as next year.

Nancy Trejos reports for USA Today.

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