Canopy by Hilton: ‘It’s all about mindset’
15 OCTOBER 2014 3:50 AM
Hilton’s new lifestyle brand will appeal to travelers young and old, male and female, business and leisure alike, executives said.
McLEAN, Virginia—Canopy by Hilton, the new lifestyle brand launched Wednesday by Hilton Worldwide Holdings, will focus on attracting leisure and business travelers in an environment that plays to a mindset rather than a specific demographic, Hilton executives told Hotel News Now during a series of exclusive interviews conducted prior to Hilton’s official announcement.
“We think it’s going to work in both contexts (leisure and business),” Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said Monday. “The idea is that this is going to be a very functional, comfortable hotel that serves your purposes, puts you in a positive state of mind.”
“It used to be all about demographics, then psychographics,” John T.A. Vanderslice, Hilton’s global head, luxury & lifestyle brands, said Friday. “We believe it’s all about mindset.”
He said the mindsets of travelers can be similar, whether male or female, twenty-something or baby boomer, business or leisure.
“It’s hard to make it in this industry without a business and leisure mix,” Jim Holthouser, Hilton’s executive VP of global brands, said Friday. “We’ll have a stronger leisure component than an average urban hotel, but it’s designed to win with the business traveler who wants to be productive, too.”
Vanderslice said Canopy will target four specific mindsets:
- originals: younger and seek adventure;
- cultured vacationers: active and want to participate in the local market;
- room-centrics: all about guestroom comfort, design and ergonomics; and
- modern business travelers: looking for an experience that can help them be productive and stay well.
Hilton’s research for Canopy started with consumers. The company surveyed more than 9,000 consumers in the United States, United Kingdom and China, Vanderslice said.
“It led us to a place where people are interested in an energizing new neighborhood hotel. … They want it to be super comfortable, and they want to embrace the neighborhood,” he said. “Local choices … that’s a major new trend.”
Dave Pollin, co-founder and president of Buccini/Pollin Group, said the neighborhood aspect is a huge attraction for potential developers and guests.
“The projects we’re working on truly at a genetic level will represent their neighborhood’s influences,” said Pollin, whose company has signed on to develop two Canopy properties. “There are periods … during the week, the slow season or cyclically, when being differentiated matters. By having a hotel that represents a community, the local demand generators will make a choice to stay there.”
Holthouser said the company went through about 100 potential names for the brand.
“What I’ve learned from 25 years in this business is, yes, creating brands is a lot of work and takes a lot of people, but naming them is the hardest part,” he said. “It has to be appealing across the board, and you have to be able to trademark across 100 different countries.”
Nassetta said the Canopy name fits well with the “accessible lifestyle” and “positively yours” messages the brand is promoting.
“We think (the name Canopy) is fresh and has a high-energy element to it, and it represents a special kind of haven,” Nassetta said. “It’s about the idea of looking out for guests, and their needs are covered.”
The brand will use the “by Hilton” extension for advertising and marketing purposes, but other than on the signage, it will be absent from the property to reinforce the uniqueness of each hotel, according to Holthouser.
The look of Canopy starts with the neighborhood vibe it wants to capture. The façade and a lobby known as “Canopy Central” will feature many windows to create an open public space, Holthouser said.
“We’re bright, we’re light, we’re inclusive,” Pollin said. “Successful lifestyle hotels (have) lobbies full of people all day long.”
Vanderslice called Canopy an upper-upscale segment offering with a three-meal, full-service food-and-beverage concept located in Canopy Central. The F&B offering can be upgraded based on an owner’s interests.
“If it makes sense to have a leased operator or another larger concept, we’ll flex up to that,” Vanderslice said. “I’d rather start where I am and flex up to the market rather than the opposite.”
The front desk will be integrated into other elements of the public space as the hotel will encourage direct-to-room check-in, according to Holthouser.
“Canopy will be our first product designed from the ground up to enable straight-to-room for the guest,” he said. “The front desk doesn’t look anything like a front desk; it’s closer to a hospitality station.
“Look at the target customer for this brand and the way the world’s going,” Holthouser added. “We know (direct-to-room) is important to customers. They have choice and control over every other aspect of their lives. It’s a big win for customers and a competitive advantage (for all of Hilton) for a couple of years.”
Staff members called “enthusiasts” can check-in people the traditional way as needed. Their uniforms will include blue jeans and oxford shirts to reinforce the neighborhood mentality.
“We’re going to ask them to be the friendly enabler when guests come in,” Holthouser said.
The executives said no two Canopy properties will look alike, but they will offer the same operational aspects, including:
Comfort and design: This includes Canopy Central as well as the “Just Right Room.” Canopy’s guestroom package will include: a gel foam top mattress; a TV wall with a cork board to inform guests of local events such as farmers’ markets and art exhibits; a chaise lounge; distinctive windows; and a signature item hanging over the bed to serve as a canopy.
“(The canopy) creates a distinct look for a Canopy room that distinguishes it and differentiates it from anything else in the market,” Holthouser said.
Canopy eschews a closet in lieu of open spaces to hang clothes, set a suitcase and place things emptied from guests’ pockets. In addition, there will be outlets “everywhere,” he said, and each floor will have a filtered water station in the corridor to fill water bottles.
Hilton is working with New York-based designer Mark Zeff to establish Canopy’s look, Holthouser said.
“We’re asking the first 10 to 20 owners to work with this designer to nail the design,” Holthouser said. “After that we’ll fan it out a little bit.”
Included value: A complimentary artisanal breakfast that offers local ingredients and products as well as smaller, healthier portions and options, will be a prime attraction, according to Holthouser. Tiered Wi-Fi service will allow guests to receive complimentary basic levels of Internet access.
A “Rise & Dine” program will allow guests who don’t have time to stop for breakfast the chance to have a bag of breakfast food available to go.
A small welcome gift from the neighborhood, such as gourmet popcorn in Chicago or gourmet chocolate in Denver, will greet each guest when they arrive, Holthouser said.
“It’s not elaborate; it doesn’t add tons of costs to the operation,” Holthouser said. “It will introduce the guest to a little taste of something local.”
Properties also will feature a complimentary evening tasting that will feature an item, such as a micro-brew, wine or signature drink from the local market.
“Positively yours” culture: This aspect focuses on a service culture that emphasizes personalization, the one-stop service element in the lobby and provides guests with unique experiences, Vanderslice said.
Neighborhood feel: The hotel enthusiasts will have local knowledge that includes nearby music venues, art shows, jogging routes and other things guests need, Holthouser said.