Music. Design. Technology. It may be difficult to imagine that these three elements can be associated with a hotel brand, but Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Aloft Hotels are striving to transform the overall hotel experience for its guests using exactly these three components.
“For the business traveler or leisure guest looking for a stylish stay, Aloft offers great design, tech-forward amenities and a vibrant social scene. Aloft hotels feature loft-inspired spaces, open design, fast and free WiFi, 24/7 gourmet bites, an always-happening W XYZ bar, complimentary water and so much more,” says Paige Francis, v.p., specialty select brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Inc. The brand has 75-plus hotels in 14 countries worldwide, and Francis emphasizes it “is a vibrant choice” for travelers.
So how do the hotel’s design, technologically savvy infrastructure and music-heavy initiatives appeal to the next generation of travelers?
Starting with its interior design, from chairs designed by Charles and Ray Eames to George Nelson pendant lamps, Aloft has an exclusive partnership with Design Within Reach (DWR) that introduces genuine modern designs into the hotel’s public spaces, such as the re:mix lounge, W XYZ bar, and the Aloft backyard patio area. To celebrate the partnership last summer, the brand offered one lucky guest a $10,000 gift card to DWR; and in the fall, offered guests a $50 DWR gift card just for booking a room at any Aloft property.
On the tech side, 14 Aloft properties are equipped with Smart Check-in, which gives travelers the ability to sidestep the traditional check-in process and head straight to their guestroom using a high-tech keycard equipped with radio frequency identification technology (14 additional Aloft hotels will have the program this year). Also, guests staying at Aloft Cupertino in California (guests will find Apple TVs here, as well) and Aloft Abu Dhabi have access to Cool Concierge, a tablet-based concierge program located in the lobby for guests to look up directions, make reservations, or check on their flight status and print out their boarding passes.
For music lovers, Aloft gives up-and-coming musicians a chance to share their art with its Live at Aloft Hotels, a series of intimate, acoustic sets held at hotels across the globe. The mission? For the next generation of travelers to discover the area’s local culture and soak up the destination within the hotel’s walls. “Aloft saw music programming as an ideal way to cater to this target audience that wants to come down out of their rooms for a social experience,” says Francis.
It might not be quite on par with “The X Factor” or “American Idol,” but Project Aloft Star “allows unsigned artists to submit their demos while the public votes for their favorites on Facebook for a chance to win a conversation with Nylon Records, a feature in Nylon magazine and participation in Live at Aloft Hotels,” adds Francis. “Aloft has always connected with individuals of a ‘Gen-Y mindset.’ Considered the ‘next generation of travelers’ and the ‘early adopters,’ these individuals can be the 28-year-old who is first in line for the newest iPad, but they can also be the 58-year-old silver surfer who needs to stay connected on the road and can’t fathom life without WiFi. Everything we do whether it’s through design, technology amenities, or music programming keeps that traveler in mind.”
“Aloft continues to expand its international footprint with new destinations that resonate with travelers around the globe,” says Francis. “Aloft’s rapid growth in Latin America over the past two years reflects the appeal of the design-lead focus and vibrant social scene among people who travel to the region for business and pleasure.”
Aloft Merida will be the third Aloft property in Mexico, while last year, Aloft introduced Aloft Panama, its fourth hotel to open in Latin America. Additional new openings planned for 2014 and beyond: Aloft Manhattan (2014); Aloft New Delhi Aerocity (2014); and Aloft South Beach (2015). Destinations like China, the UK, Uruguay, and South Korea will also welcome Aloft brands, and properties have been introduced in Chicago, Cancun, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Expect to see an additional 19 hotels by the end of 2014.
keeping agents up to speed
Starwood offers its travel agent education program, Starwood Pro, providing travel agents up-to-date information on the brand as well as learning modules, incentives and rewards such as exclusive low rates at $69 a night.