Brand inflation continues

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There's been a lot of hullabaloo in the past two years about the rise of the new lifestyle hotel brands, e.g., aloft, Cambria Suites, Hyatt Place and others, yet I hadn't realized that the industry was in the middle of a more widespread explosion in new brands. According to a new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 24 new hotel brands launched in the U.S. in 2005 and '06, the most in a two-year period since the late 1980s.

To break it down, PwC labeled 11 of the brands as luxury, eight as upscale, four as extended stay or all-suites and one as midscale without food and beverage. Five of the flags are part of the new lifestyle brand category (which, according to PwC, encompasses several segments: it counts aloft and NYLO as upscale and Element, Hyatt Place and Cambria Suites as extended stay/all suites).

While 24 new flags constitutes a significant addition to the chain landscape, most of the new brands will never reach mass-market status and weren't intended to do so. Particularly in the luxury segment, brands like Solis, Le Crillion and LXR Resorts will probably just serve to identify a similar group of hotels under the same management or ownership.

The odd thing about the lodging business is that while new brands proliferate, old and tired brands never seem to die. For example, the other day someone mentioned to me that he couldn't believe that people still chose Howard Johnson to flag their properties. Good question.

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