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Hotel companies hardly ever shy away from creating new brands, even when they may sound and look like ones they already have.
Hilton is the latest hospitality giant to debut another brand. The McLean, Virginia-based company on Thursday introduced Tempo by Hilton with a celebration in New York City. It is the sixth brand Hilton has created in just a bit over three years and its 18th overall. And it’s probably its last addition for awhile.
Hilton is calling Tempo an “approachable lifestyle brand” for the “modern achiever.” Never mind that every major hotel company from Marriott International to InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to Hyatt Hotels already has lifestyle brands.
Phil Cordell, Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of new brand development, agrees that there is a glut of hotels with the lifestyle label.
“Lifestyle is a word that sometimes is kind of overused. We don’t know exactly what it means,” he told Skift. “I think early on some hotels took lifestyle to mean it was only about a design aesthetic. What are the hot colors? What are the hot scents? What’s the great music? What makes me feel hip and cool?”
Hilton is thinking of it in a different way, he said.
“We think about how our approach to life is changing,” he said. “How can I get my needs taken care of a little bit more but feel a little bit cool, a little bit elevated but not uncomfortably so?”
The definition of a “modern achiever” is just as nebulous as is lifestyle. It’s not necessarily a millennial, that coveted traveler in his or her early 20s to late 30s who is traveling and spending more. But Cordell did say that some of the characteristics often associated with millennials such as caring about their mental and physical health and relying heavily on technology has influenced the thinking behind Tempo.
“The modern achiever, they’re the ones who will work hard. They still travel but at the same time, they don’t want travel to disrupt their needs,” he said. “They want a little bit of everything in a genuine way that’s kind of cool and hip but not so uncomfortably.”
So what will Tempo offer the modern achiever that any other lifestyle brand out there can’t? Hilton wants to give travelers a way to stay mentally and physically healthy on the road, be environmentally-conscious, enjoy design-forward public spaces and rooms, all for about $150 to $250 in urban centers and suburban markets with a lot of economic activity.
“Sometimes lifestyle hotels can be viewed as the primo, super expensive ones,” Cordell said. “This is going to sit above a Hilton Garden Inn and below a Canopy within the Hilton portfolio. It’s more within reach from a cost-perspective for a customer who expects and wants a little bit more but can’t step all the way up to a super hip, cool expensive lifestyle.”
So far Hilton has 30 confirmed deals in cities such as Boston, Dallas, New York City, Del Mar in California, and Louisville in Kentucky. Another 30 deals are close to being finalized. Hilton is looking to scale up the brand significantly. Within the next eight to 10 years, it hopes to have 500 Tempos around the United States.
“What we are trying to do with Tempo is create something that allows you to be your best self in terms of its functionality of the room, the physical layouts of the public spaces, the service culture,” Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta told Skift. “It’s about being able to keep the style of your life as intact as you can.”
Rooms and Amenities
Hilton surveyed more than 10,000 consumers to come up with Tempo’s look and feel.
Depending on their locations, they will have 150 to 300 or so rooms. Most will be new builds.
A guest room with a King-sized bed will be about 310 square feet. Guest rooms will be divided into three areas. Cordell said bathrooms will be over-sized. There will be a Get Ready Zone, a space where guests can get ready in front of the mirror, relax on a chair or work at a desk.
To help guests sleep, Hilton has partnered with Thrive Global, a company founded by businesswoman Arianna Huffington that offers technology to help people sleep and deal with stress. Tempo guests will have access to customized videos to help them clear their minds enough to fall asleep.
Hilton will also work with culinary firm Blau + Associates, and a Chef Collective, an advisory board of young up-and-coming chefs, will help curate the menus. An in-lobby Fuel Bar will offer complimentary coffee and tea. A casual café will have artisanal smoothies and other breakfast staples. The bar will serve craft cocktails, with or without alcohol, and small plates.
Public areas will have art and design collections. There will be fitness offerings and flexible meeting spaces, both formal and informal.
Hilton has promised to make all its brands eco-friendly. Tempo will employ sustainability practices such as cutting down on food waste, sourcing seafood responsibly, using full-size bath amenity dispensers to reduce disposable plastics, and having hydration stations throughout the property to replace single-use plastic bottles.
But these are not amenities that don’t already exist in the hotel industry. IHG’s EVEN Hotels is a wellness-focused brand with healthy food and state-of-the art fitness centers. 1 Hotels by long-time hotelier Barry Sternlicht is eco-driven throughout its properties, using re-purposed materials and also eliminating plastics. Hyatt is partnering with meditation company Headspace to offer guests meditation programming. These are just a few examples.
Too Many Brands?
It will be difficult for Tempo to distinguish itself. Its offerings are similar to even those available at some of the brands Hilton has created in recent years.
Cordell said he doesn’t think Tempo will cannibalize from other Hilton brands. Those other brands, he said, have very specific purposes. Motto by Hilton, introduced in October 2018, is a microhotel concept with affordable smaller rooms. Signia Hilton, created almost a year ago, is focused more on its premium meeting and event spaces.
Hilton will also face stiff competition from non-Hilton brands in what has increasingly become an overbranded hospitality world.
According to industry research firm STR, there are 1,099 hotel brands worldwide.
With its acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International has 30 brands including W Hotels, Moxy Hotels, AC Hotel, and EDITION that also attract a clientele looking for more interesting spaces. IHG has 16 brands, including Kimpton, Hotel Indigo and voco, which can also be considered lifestyle hotels. Hyatt has 20 brands, including Caption by Hyatt, a lifestyle brand within the select service category that debuted last year.
Cordell isn’t worried about all those brands.
“At some point are there too many? I don’t know what that number is,” he said. “I think as long as you can differentiate and speak with a voice that is appealing, there’s space for some more.”
Many hotel companies, such as Accor, have gone on buying sprees in recent years. Hilton won’t go that route.
“There’s nothing out there that really makes sense,” Nassetta said. “We don’t need to buy things for scale. We have 6,000 hotels.”
Nassetta said Hilton will not be introducing more brands this year and perhaps for some time beyond.
“We’re taking a break,” he said. “We think we largely have everything that we need to be successful in every major market in the world.”
“It doesn’t mean by any means that we will slow our growth down,” he said. “We have ample opportunity within our family of 18 brands to continue to accelerate our growth around the world. Getting them right matters.”
The only other space he thinks Hilton has a white space in is luxury lifestyle but he does not plan on introducing that any time soon.
“Someday I think we will do that but we’re not in a rush,” Nassetta said.
Updated: This story was updated to include comments from Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta from the unveiling event of the new Tempo by Hilton brand in New York City.