Skift Take

Hyatt doesn't want its Hyatt Place hotel brand to become the next Sheraton.

In the 14 years since Hyatt Hotels & Resorts acquired the business-traveler-friendly AmeriSuites hotel brand, Hyatt has since renamed it Hyatt Place, more than doubling its portfolio to 305 hotels around the world.

Today, capitalizing on Hyatt’s acquisition of boutique wellness and fitness brand Exhale and its relatively new World of Hyatt loyalty program, the company is debuting a “new generation” of Hyatt Place features designed to make the brand even more appealing to its core guest audience: business travelers.

The new features will begin rolling out in the third quarter of 2018 and continue through 2020, focusing on wellness, design, and loyalty benefits — some of which will be exclusive to the Hyatt Place brand and others that will be available to World of Hyatt members staying at any Hyatt-branded hotel.

New features specific to Hyatt Place include early check-in for elite loyalty members who are World of Hyatt Explorists or Globalists beginning in 2019. Hyatt Place guests will also receive access to special app-based well-being collaborations that Hyatt intends to roll out throughout 2018 and 2019 beginning in the third quarter. Starting November 1, World of Hyatt members will also enjoy complimentary breakfast when they stay at a Hyatt Place. And in markets where there is an Exhale spa/fitness studio location, Hyatt Place guests will receive preferred privileges and rates starting in the fourth quarter of 2018.

By early next year, Hyatt hopes to make mobile entry — or checking into your guest room using your smartphone — a possibility in all of its hotel brands, Hyatt Place included, for its loyalty members.

The Hyatt Place brand refresh also includes updated lobbies, dining venues, fitness centers, and guestrooms. Rooms will retain the brand’s signature separate seating area, known as the Cozy Corner, and will now have bathrooms with bigger vanities, more counter space, and improved lighting. There will also be an expansion of the guestroom types available, making it easier for hotel owners to have more flexible room types, including one room prototype that’s 15 percent smaller than existing standard rooms. Other new guest room features include larger windows, 55-inch televisions, and hard surface flooring.

Lobbies have also been redesigned to encourage more social interaction, and dining is being reworked to accommodate more all-day dining. New local breakfast menus will also be debuting on November 1.

The rollout of all of these new features will be a gradual process, and consumers are likely to see the new design elements in the newer Hyatt Place hotels that are set to open over the next few years. Existing Hyatt Place hotels are expected to incorporate the design refreshes according to their individual renovation cycles.

Hyatt doesn’t disclose exactly how many hotels are under development for each of its brands, but it did say it has roughly 170 Hyatt Place and Hyatt House (extended stay) hotels in its pipeline. Twenty Hyatt Place hotels are expected to open in 2018 alone.

Wellness Focus

Of particular note is Hyatt’s use of the Exhale brand to expand its wellness offerings, not only at Hyatt Place but eventually at all of its hotel brands. By 2019, Hyatt hopes to make available exclusive Exhale fitness and mindfulness content to its World of Hyatt members via its mobile app, something they can access from anywhere at any time, whether on the road or at home.

“By ‘borrowing’ brand equity from the known spa brand Exhale, Hyatt Place offers its guests a desirable, branded complementary amenity,” Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College of Business, said.

Dev also noted, however, that recent research shows that hotel guests utilize a hotel’s fitness center less than you might think.

Regardless, his colleague at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, Reneta McCarthy, a senior lecturer, said, “Any hotel company that’s not focused on and thinking about wellness and how they incorporate this into every single one of their brands is missing a huge opportunity.”

Exhale’s founder and CEO, Annbeth Eschbach, not surprisingly, agreed with McCarthy’s sentiments.

“Today, demand for wellbeing on the road has continued to accelerate as consumers expect to maintain their regimes when they travel,” Eschbach said. “Guests want what they want, when they want it, without friction, and hassle. It is a very exciting time to be at the center of hospitality and wellbeing, and we are thrilled to be part of creating and delivering experiences at Hyatt Place hotels, allowing us to expand our footprint and bring wellbeing to even more people.”

Staying Relevant

For Hyatt, the impetus behind updating the Hyatt Place brand via wellness, loyalty, and design wasn’t so much about fixing anything, but more about making sure the brand didn’t lose its relevance in the future.

“If we just keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll continue to be fine, but are we challenging ourselves?,” asked Jim Chu, global head of development and owner relations for Hyatt. “We don’t want to end up at a place where we didn’t intend to be a few years down the line, so we effectively did a restart. We wanted to get there before anyone else got there, and we didn’t want to lose our footing or connections along the way.”

Hyatt Place is a particularly strong brand for Hyatt, representing nearly half, or 42 percent, of Hyatt’s 719 hotel properties worldwide, and catering to a valued hotel guest segment: business travelers. In the past five years, the brand alone has grown by 75 percent. It’s also favored among hotel owners who like that it’s an upscale brand that operates on a margin-friendly, select-service business model.

To appeal to business travelers, as well as to leisure guests, Chu said it was important for the brand to ensure that each individual guest could personalize his/her own experience with the brand. So, if fitness is particularly important to a guest but she prefers to workout in her room to an on-demand Exhale video, that’s a possibility, or if another guest wants to take a class at a nearby Exhale location, that’s also an available option.

To appeal to hotel owners, Chu said that Hyatt also paid close attention to the costs of these updates. “The new designs don’t cost any more than what it is today from a cost perspective,” Chu said. “From a food-and-beverage offering, it does require one, maybe two, additional pieces of equipment.”

Staying Ahead of the Competition

Hyatt Place is a brand that sits in the increasingly in-demand limited-service hotel space and, because of that, it also faces a lot of tough competition thanks to an influx of new select-service hotels flooding the market.

“Perhaps, as a result of this explosion in supply — CBRE reported that 63 percent of all new rooms built in 2017 were select-service, not including food-and-beverage and ranging from midscale to upper midscale ” so profits as a percentage of revenue dripped by almost 27 percent in 2017, Dev said. “To survive and succeed, Hyatt Place will have to keep an eye on trends and continuously adapt to the evolving needs of the select-service, upscale business traveler.”

As for additional innovations in room design and technology for the Hyatt Place brand, Cornell’s Dev wondered if Hyatt, like some its peers — Hilton included — would ever consider place voice assistants in guest rooms to play music, order room service, and provide guest information.

One new feature that may be somewhat “high risk,” said Bjorn Hanson, a clinical professor with the New York University Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality and Tourism, is the new smaller room prototype. “When we look at the strength of Hyatt Place, it often comes down to the fact that the room is larger and there is that seating area that allows for more design elements. If the design identity is dependent on the room size, 15 percent is noticeable.”

Overall, though, both Dev and his colleague, McCarthy, feel that the new updates to Hyatt Place are a welcome addition.

“These new features will help solidify Hyatt Place’s brand positioning, especially for time-poor and productivity-seeking upscale business travelers,” Dev said.

Hanson agreed, but said the brand can’t stop looking for ways to innovate. “Hyatt Place has been a successful brand, but the competitive environment keeps evolving in the upscale supply segment. It’s a time of fine tuning for brands like Hyatt Place, and its peers such as Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn. Travelers’ needs have changed.”

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Tags: business travel, exhale, hyatt, world of hyatt

Photo credit: A rendering of the new guestroom design for Hyatt Place retains the brand's most beloved features while adding bigger and improved bathrooms. Hyatt

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