Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's the Deal With These New Hotel Brands and Their Quirky Names?

New hotel brands are popping up out of the woodwork. In aiming to appeal to the Millennial generation, companies from Best Western to Radisson are developing novel brands with crazy names. Here's a link to the original CNN story I wrote earlier this year.

(CNN)   Milan has Moxy, while much of Europe is painted BluJaz in the City is playing in Amsterdam come September. EVEN increases the odds of a good night's sleep, while Tune is in harmony with scaled-down budgets. And then there's the vibrant Vib and a new venue, Venu, soon arriving in Dubai. These statements begin to make sense once you realize that they're all the names of modern hotel brands.

Part of the lobby of the first Hotel RL,
which opened in Baltimore this summer.
According to Chekitan S. Dev, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, hotels traditionally have been named after an owner or a place.But more recently, he says, "the naming process has evolved from an off-the-cuff process into something far more systematic."

Millennials driving the trend

So what's behind this influx of idiosyncratic hotel names, replete with misspellings and unexpected word usages? Look to millennials and psychographics -- the study of personality, attitudes, interests and lifestyles. Psychologists say the millennial psychographic is made up of independent-minded, adventurous individuals in search of new experiences. Hospitality brands are crafting their marketing strategies accordingly.

"Hotel companies are lasering in on consumer needs by using psychographic data in a big way," says Matthew Von Ertfelda, Marriott's vice president for insight, strategy and innovation. 
Prototype of a Moxy Lobby
The explosion of social media also has a starring role in the name game.
Brands of the 21st century need to have handles that resonate in the global, online world, say the pros. "Thanks to social media, millennials are the first global generation," says Dr. Donna Quadri-Felitti, director of the School of Hospitality Management at Penn State University.  "And since this generation is so enamored with texting and tweeting, hotels really have to think how names will play in the new media world."

In need of spell check?

Vib -- short for Vibrant -- is Best Western's attempt at a hip new offering.
For social media purposes, the number of characters in a name counts. Spelling is often sacrificed in the quest for brevity.

But another reason for purposeful misspellings may be legal. Spelling is often set into an uncommon form to retain meaning while being trademarkable.

"The odder the name, the less likely someone has already captured it," says Cornell professor Dev. "That's important in terms of intellectual property protection."

It may explain why Venu and Vib are missing an "e." Venu is a just-announced lifestyle brand, launching its first property in Dubai in 2017. According to parent company Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, it's designed to give travelers "the freedom to write their own story, their own narrative, to build their own scene."

Best Western's new hotel entry, called Vib, is pronounced "vibe." "We tried to come up with names that celebrated individuality, while also connoting a vibrant spirit," says Dick Lew, a partner at Houston-based Acumen Design, a branding firm brought in to hone the name and the image. Hence Vib, which is derived from "vibrant." Color also plays a big part in hotel branding. "We incorporated a bright persimmon red in the design and the logo, in order to reflect the (Vib) brand's bold personality," says Lew.

A rendering of a vibrant Vib exterior
Moxy, the new Marriott partnership with IKEA, is going after "a sassy, determined, individualistic consumer," according to Marriott's Von Ertfelda. The first Moxy opened at Milan's Malpensa Airport in September and more are coming in Europe this year.
"Naming Moxy was a four-month process involving a great deal of brainstorming," says Von Ertfelda. "Once we came up with it, we knew we had a name with emotional resonance that hit a global sweet spot. "At the same time, though, our lawyers noted the name had to be 'ownable and trademarkable.'" The change of spelling from moxie to Moxy achieved that.

According to Von Ertfelda, senior creative director Maria Rezende-Heiston selected hot pink for the Moxy logo to "appeal to those who aren't afraid to express themselves" while using a "curved font to convey a sense of rhythm, fluidity and independence."

Blu and Red

Radisson Blu was introduced in 2009. Instead of using blue or bleu, the company opted for a trademarkable spelling.
Color is also key to hotel operator Carlson Rezidor, which is hueing (sic) toward Red and BluBlu came about in 2009, after airline SAS withdrew from a partnership with Radisson. After the split, Radisson SAS, a collection of European design hotels, needed a new name.

"We wanted to replace SAS with an equally short name," says Rose Anderson, vice president of branding for the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. "We liked using blue from the old SAS logo, because it brought in the heritage of the former brand. "At the same time, we were looking for a word with positive worldwide connotations ... and blue is the world's favorite color."

So blue or bleu became Blu, a trademarkable spelling. Carlson Rezidor recently announced a new Red brand that will, according to Anderson, "build on the Blu concept and further leverage Radisson's brand awareness."

Pick a noun, any noun

There's a good reason those four vertical bars are off-kilter.
New brands are also being dubbed with what may seem to be random nouns. But there's nothing random about them.

Last year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) rolled out EVEN, a new brand cultivated for the growing wellness-minded audience, with two properties in the United States.EVEN expresses the desire for the balance travelers are seeking, says an IHG spokesperson.
In its logo, specific colors were chosen to represent elements of nature.

The four vertical bars of the logo are off-kilter, while the EVEN letters are composed on a flat horizontal line, representing the brand promise of helping guests stay in balance.

Malaysia-based Tune Hotels provides "five-star beds at a one-star price." The group has more than 40 properties worldwide, including five in London. Some in its management group were previously senior executives in the music business. It makes sense, then, that a travel company with a musical name would attempt to strike a global chord.

Adding to the medley of avant garde brands, Germany's Steigenberger Hotel Group's Amsterdam hotel Jaz in the City will open in September, with others scheduled to follow.
According to Steigenberger Hotel Group, coming Jaz in the City properties will be "hip and happening hotels" that "move to the rhythm of today's curious global traveler" who has a "desire to embrace authentic experiences in a city hotel."

The letter that started it all

You can't explore the hospitality industry's desire to appeal to the millennial mindset without nodding to W Hotels by Starwood. The brand now seems to have been ahead of its time with hotels that opened in pre-social media 1998.

"Starwood was the first hotel company to look directly at the customer as it evolved a new brand," says Paul James, global brand leader of W Hotels Worldwide, St. Regis and The Luxury Collection. W's target customer was a fashionable, high-energy individual -- someone who'd now likely be described as having a millennial psychographic. Starwood defined the brand by adding its "Whatever, Whenever" tagline to the simple W logo. Cornell's Dev says Starwood further imbued the brand with meaning by using words like witty, warm and welcoming in its advertising and marketing material. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

CNN Coverage of Silent Airports

Below is a copy of a recent story for CNN. To see the original, complete with images, click on the headline.

Silence, please. This is an airport

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Millennial Hotel for The Ages

After having spent the last year writing about the phenomenon of so-called Millennial hotels, I finally got the opportunity to stay in one this month in, of all places, Baltimore.

Image result for hotel rl baltimore
Hotel RL Baltimore
Spokane, Washington-based Red Lion Hotels, which previously only had outlets west of the Mississippi River, is roaring east with its next gen brand. The first Hotel RL opened in Baltimore this summer. The second opens in Washington, DC in October.

Despite voluminous research, I admit to being a bit flummoxed upon entering the Hotel RL Baltimore. Nowhere did there appear to be anyone resembling a front desk clerk, perhaps because there was no front desk. Instead, I stumbled into a lobby resembling a Pacific Northwest coffeehouse, complete with a stage for guitar-carrying troubadours. The lobby was populated by a number of 20-somethings sporting denim, tattoos, and hair colored in neon hues. I soon realized that the more hipster the person looked, the more likely it was that he or she was a hotel employee.

A Happy Hour performance featuring
the musical stylings of one of Hotel RL's baristas

I was assisted with check-in by a magenta-coiffed young lady in a black T-shirt holding a mobile device (although I could have checked in by the lobby kiosk as well).

While I was a bit baffled by the check-in process, the room was incredibly easy to figure out. A plush bed, a large Hi-Def TV with a multitude of channels, and a huge walk-in shower were highlights. Surprises included the easiest hotel alarm clock I have ever encountered, and a spare bed surreptitiously hidden in what looked, at first glance, to be a dresser. 

To paraphrase , ceci n'est pas une dresser
While that is an extremely smart feature, the room does lack anything resembling an actual dresser. There are no drawers, nor a closet in which to put your drawers. But there are a series of hooks upon which to hang clothing.

But hey, why hang, like your clothing, in your room when the lobby is a hotbed of activity? Grab a cup of joe from the barista, listen to live music, or hit the rec room for a round of retro board games. If you want to be more active, white cruiser bikes are available for guests to borrow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Talking Airports on Twitter and on CNN

We are getting ready to discuss airports on #TravelToppers on Twitter Thursday at noon in New York/5:00 PM London. Below are the chat questions and a bit of background for your reading pleasure. 

Questions for #TravelToppers

1.  Airport with the Best Food
2.  Most Unusual Airport Amenity (examples: indoor swimming pool, aquarium) 
3.  Cleanest Airport 
4.  What Drives You Nuts About Airports?
5.  Best European Airport/Best US Airport 
6.  Best Airport Worldwide 
7.  Most Impressive Airport Architecture
8.  Airport with the Best Shopping 
9.  If you were building an airport, what feature would you add outside the norm?
10. What's your strategy for minimizing airport hassles?

New airport openings and upgrades for 2015

Story highlights

  • China said to be increasing its operational airports to 230 in 2015
  • Tokyo and Munich to open new terminal facilities, Amsterdam and Rio will get upgrades
  • Beijing, Mexico City and Singapore press ahead with impressive new projects
  • More delays for Berlin's long overdue new Brandenburg airport, originally slated for 2012
(CNN) Futuristic superstructures, shimmering glass facades and fuzzier lines between indoor and outdoor spaces.
These are some of the major trends expected in the coming year as the global aviation industry strives to meet ever-increasing demands.
With few major projects scheduled for completion in 2015, it's likely to be seen as a transition year as many airports upgrade facilities or begin new building projects to cope with a forecast 3.6 billion global air passengers in 2016.
Here's what to expect over the next 12 months.

    China's efforts to rapidly expand its airport infrastructure are expected to reach a peak in 2015 with scores of regional airstrips scheduled for opening.
    Official government plans have previously claimed that the number of airports will expand from 175 in 2010 to 230 in 2015 as the country ramps up its aviation industry in step with economic expansion. While many of these are smaller facilities have yet to be officially announced, several larger projects have been widely publicized.
    In Beijing, work gets underway in earnest this year on a $14 billion international airport in the city's southern Daxing district.
    The facility is scheduled to come online in 2017 and is reportedly expected to handle up to 72 million passengers annually by 2025.
    Every airport should have a waterfall: Singapore Changi Jewel.
    Meanwhile, at Chongqing Jianbei International Airport, serving the largest city in southwestern China, a new terminal three is expected to become operational this year.
    It's claimed the facility, designed for further expansion to meet expected growing demand, will be able to handle up to 55 million people annually, the largest capacity of any single terminal.
    In the same Chinese province, the city of Wulong is expected to get to work on its own airport scheduled for completion in 2017.

    With low-cost carriers on the rise in Japan, Tokyo's Narita International Airport is adding a new terminal dedicated to exclusively to no-frills flights. Terminal 3, designed to handle 50 million passengers a year, is expected to open in March or April. It'll contain plenty of places where those budget passengers can spend their savings, including a vast duty free shopping area and Japan's largest airport food court.

    Once again Changi Airport Singapore, considered by many to be the world's best, appears to be raising the bar with a futuristic new complex that's likely to revolutionize terminal design.
    After breaking ground in December, work begins in earnest this year on Jewel Changi Airport, an impressive-looking palace of glass that will shroud retail, entertainment and leisure outlets as well as a multi-level gardens and walking trails. The centerpiece will be the Rain Vortex, a 40-meter-tall waterfall cascading from the roof of the glass dome.

    Construction on another eagerly anticipated international airport gets underway in 2015 in Mexico City. Mexico City International Airport, a collaboration between world-renowned architects, Briton Norman Foster and Mexico's Fernando Romero, is designed to be the world's most sustainable when it opens in 2018. Foster and Partners says that because the structure will be one massive terminal housed under vast canopies of glass, it'll require fewer materials and less energy than the standard multi-building airport.

    New management is taking over and re-branding Rio Galeao -- Tom Jobim International Airport.
    The country's second-busiest airport after Sao Paolo is undergoing a long overdue facelift in anticipation of the 2016 Olympics. About $2 billion is going into infrastructure construction, which covers everything from restrooms to runways. The upgrade to four decades-old facilities should allow the airport to increase annual capacity from 18 million passengers to 30 million without the need for an extra runway.

    The Netherlands
    Mainly aimed at increasing retail opportunities, a revamp of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol's Terminal 2 departure lounge is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2015. Without going into detail, information from the airport trumpets the renovated area's six themed sections, titled "luxury," "family," "travel and culture," "modern Dutch," "see buy fly," "fashion and lifestyle" and "care and wellness." On a more boozy note, it'll get Europe's first Johnnie Walker House luxury retail concept store and, naturally, a Heineken bar.

    Munich Airport's new satellite facility to expand its Terminal 2 should be complete by the third quarter of 2015, potentially increasing annual capacity to 17 million passengers.
    After work is complete, there'll be an operational test phase to make sure everything's working.
    If it is, Star Alliance member airlines (including Lufthansa, Air China, Singapore Airlines and United) will move some flights over to the new building. During similar test phases, safety concerns emerged at Berlin's Brandenburg International Airport, originally slated to open around 2011 or 2012.
    Despite appearances of having been completed, it's still not open. A string of management and engineering setbacks have dogged the project and doubled its initial projected cost. Brandenburg will not open in 2015, and latest reports say it may be 2017 before it's fully up and running.

    Saudi Arabia
    Also not opening in 2015 is an expansion project at Jeddah's King Abdulaziz International Airport, now slated for completion early in 2016 after originally being scheduled for a 2014 delivery.
    The expansion is part of a project to up Saudi Arabia's passenger capacity to 100 million passengers annually by 2020.
    Berlin's Brandenburg Airport: Still no opening date.

    As these facilities come on line, passengers may begin to notice new trends emerging in airport design -- chiefly a greater sense of space and place. Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International, says the changes are all about meeting passenger demands, with surveys indicating they're looking for a greater sense of orientation, control, safety, visibility and openness. In real terms this means bringing the outdoors into the picture.

    Changi Airport Singapore has been a leader in this area, with its butterfly garden and rooftop green spaces, while passengers with a stopover at Munich Airport can wander through an outdoor plaza hosting exhibits and performances, or visit an outdoor terrace. Updated facilities are also incorporating glass facades to bring natural light inside.

    This strategy, says Gittens, also improves energy efficiency. "Not only do these new windows allow for the use of natural light," she adds "but they are made with energy efficient materials that can repel heat and insulate against cold."

    'A sense of place'
    David Stewart, head of airport development for the International Air Transport Association, says airport authorities are increasingly understanding that passengers want to get a feel of what's local.
    "They're craving a sense of place," he says. Gittens says fashioning an airport to better represent the city it serves is becoming an important point of differentiation. One of the easiest ways to do this is with food and big name chefs. While McDonald's and Starbucks outlets will continue to exist, more airports are dishing out regional cuisine made by local chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food at London Heathrow and Carles Gaig's Catalan-inspired Porta Gaig in Barcelona. It's not just high-end eateries bringing local to the airport. Hung's Delicacies in Hong Kong International favors braised meats and regional dishes. Airbrau in Munich Airport Plaza is a Bavarian brewery that serves its own beer, along with time-honored dishes like schnitzel, suckling pig and sauerkraut.

    New Music, Old Masters
    National culture is also making its way into airports. While many international airports have at least a little space devoted to displays of art, some are taking it up a notch. At the Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zone at Seoul's Incheon Airport, passengers can learn about calligraphy or fan-making, or check out handicrafts while listening to live musicians.Workshops, demonstrations and performances are scheduled on a regular basis. Amsterdam's Schiphol was the first airport to house its own art museum beyond passport control. Currently under renovation, the pioneering Schiphol outpost of the Rijksmuseum provides a glimpse into local life through special exhibitions and the artworks of Dutch masters.

    Airports are also literally being connected to the cities they serve by modern mass transit.
    Airports as far flung from the cities they serve, including Washington Dulles and Xian Xianyang (among the 10 busiest airports in China), are developing linking train lines in order to accommodate travelers looking to make local connections.

    The link to the original CNN Business story is here.

    Saturday, August 29, 2015

    Traveling in Russia: Images of Moscow

    Just revisited Moscow in July thanks to Viking River Cruises. Here are nine images taken there. Check them out while listening to this radio segment updating the tourism situation in Russia.

    Vintage Portrait of a Young Pioneer
    at Izmailovsky Market.

    Cyrillic 101: Mockba=Moscow

    I spy the Kremlin.

    The famous GUM department store has transitioned
    into a luxury mall featuring Louis Vuitton and
    Manoli Blahnik.

    Leaving Moscow on the Viking Truvor.

    Saturday, August 22, 2015

    It's the Experience, Dude

    Based on information supplied by yours truly during a radio interview for Washington, DC's WTOP,  Rachel Nania did a write-up. **

    Travel Trends for Adventure Seekers: It's About the Experience

    WASHINGTON — Gone are the days when windsurfing, parasailing or zip-lining qualified as a unique vacation adventure. Today’s travelers are upping the ante and redefining what it means to live it up.

    Laura Powell, travel expert and writer for The Daily Suitcase, says the latest craze doesn’t involve jetting off to the most exotic locations — it’s all about collecting experiences.
    Riding around Saigon, Vietnam on a scooter is a hair-raising
    experience, even with a helmet on. Only attempt it
    as the passenger of an experienced driver.
    (Courtesy Laura Powell)

    “The world is pretty much open to all, so in order to have that different kind of adventure, you need to have a unique experience, as opposed to solely going to an offbeat place,” she says.**

    And throughout that experience, collecting the best photos, composing the best tweets and checking in at the most interesting locations is imperative. “Now that everyone is trying to outdo each other on social media, the more unusual the experience, the better,” Powell says.

    Ready to plan your next trip?  Here’s how you can make sure your Instagram account gets more likes.
    Vietnam Cruise
    In 2016, AmaWaterways and Backroads will team up for
    bicycling-focused cruises to Vietnam and Cambodia, along with
    several European destinations.
    Above: Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
    Travel with your taste buds

    While some prefer to soak up a city’s culture by visiting museums and historic sites, others prefer to slurp it up with authentic bowls of ramen and heaping servings of pasta. Food tourism is a booming industry, and there are more options available for tourists looking to get a taste — or a sip — of foreign destinations.

    “Whereas it used to be you [could go] to a cooking school, now you can do even more,” Powell says.
    In Italy, travelers can tour a pasta factory or have Sunday dinner with grandma; Switzerland offers a variety of cheese and chocolate tours; and tourists in Bangkok can ride a boat through a traditional floating market. Plus, there are companies such as Home Food and Bookalokal that make it possible for travelers to attend dinner parties hosted by locals.

    Cruise the water by night and bike paths by day

    AmaWaterways recently launched a partnership with the adventure company Backroads to create a journey that combines cruising, biking and hiking. (Courtesy Backroads)
    AmaWaterways recently launched a partnership with the adventure company Backroads to create a journey that combines cruising, biking and hiking. (Courtesy Backroads)
    One cruise company is rocking the boat with its nontraditional tours.
    AmaWaterways is teaming up with the adventure company Backroads to create a journey combining cruising, biking and hiking.

    By night, guests who sign up for the Backroads adventure cruise can dine and sleep on the boat as it travels up river. During the day, they’re led on biking and/or hiking adventures with Backroads tour guides. Powell notes that the bike and cruise adventure is currently limited to the Danube River route. But, the itineraries will expand to other rivers throughout Europe and Asia in 2016.

    A new degree of adventure

    From Canada to Copenhagen, ice bars and ice hotels were once the rage. “All of the sudden, everywhere that had a cold winter had an ice hotel,” Powell says. But a chilling new destination is taking the excitement over ice structures to a whole new level. In June, travelers will be able to walk into the ice tunnels and caves of Langjökull, Europe’s second largest glacier. “They’ve burrowed out a tunnel within the glacier, so that people can actually go ice tunneling in the middle of a glacier," Powell says.

    Peek inside the tunnels of Langjökull:

    Experience nothing

    In a constantly connected world where it’s hard to escape work, no matter how many miles are between you and the office, it’s no surprise that some travelers are in need of a little peace and quiet on vacation. And the travel industry is taking notice.

    “Another thing people are interested in experiencing these days is nothing,” Powell says. She adds: “Silence tourism is kind of the next big thing.  There’s growing demand for places where people can get away, walk in nature, and not necessarily have access to Wi-Fi and cell service.”

    In fact, “Silence, please,” is the slogan on Finland's official travel site. The slogan is accompanied by recommended escapes to remote lakeside cottages, igloo huts in the middle of the forest and foraging tours through the Finnish forest.

    For original article, follow this link:  © 2015 WTOP. All Rights Reserved.

    **Note: I modified quotes and copy in order to clarify and/or add information to the story. I also added the Vietnam images and captions.