The annual International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) is just around the corner, where some of the industry’s leading lights will discuss the key issues that are facing the hotel market in 2014 and beyond. So what can we expect to see this year?

Targeting the new generation of ‘millennial’ travellers is something that often requires a different approach, and that is something that Ian Schrager, one of the originators of the boutique hotel concept, who will be the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s conference, is known for. Schrager revolutionised the hotel scene when he opened the Morgans in New York in 1984. Inspired by his prior activity as the co-owner of the infamous Studio 54 night club, Schrager sought to transform the hotel’s lobby into a social hub and activity centre, a concept that remains at the forefront of branding efforts to appeal to these ‘millennials’. Evidence of this trend exists elsewhere in the industry, exemplified by Starwood’s ‘W’, IHG’s Indigo and Marriott’s new Moxy brand, which was unveiled at least year’s IHIF. Several years ago, Schrager teamed up with Marriott to launch the chain’s lifestyle hotel concept, Edition, which, after a somewhat rocky start, now seems to be gaining momentum, as a competitor of Starwood’s ‘W’ flag.

‘Brand blur’ is something that Peter Shaindlin, chief operating officer of Halekulani Corporation, who will be the conference’s keynote speaker, believes is presenting a challenge in a market where consumers may be becoming confused by the ever increasing number of brands and partnerships they are seeing. In a preview of his address, Shaindlin said,

“In recent years there’s a bit of  “brand mania” taking over the industry: we’ve seen the proliferation of core hotel brands, augmented by those same brands selectively partnering with other luxury brands from fashion designers retail, to restaurants, cars and the like. The past two years or more has also witnessed the birth of countless sub-brands, these ‘offspring’ of long-established brands designed to capture broader markets than their just their own original consumer base. There are both internal and external challenges these efforts sometimes provoke. Internally, the physical expression of the product, given the vast array of direct competitors, can result in a sort of collective ‘blur,’ where competitive brands’ product strikes the consumer as suspiciously similar—often the same designers and architects are used inadvertently within a comp set, and externally, many brands contract the same leading restaurant operators as their direct brand competitors. What’s the result of all this? ‘Brand blur,’ a condition where the homogeny of a collective brand comp set—regardless of star level—seems to be growing exponentially with the proliferation of brands themselves”.

It’s certainly fair to say that at the present time there are too many hospitality brands and some of the hotel brand alliances with luxury goods producers, such as the collaboration between Ritz Carlton and Bulgari and Rezidor and Missoni, are of dubious value. There has also been a countertrend towards consolidation, as evidenced by Accor’s rationalisation of its economy hotels under the ibis flag.

The IHIF will take place from 3 to 5 March 2014 at the Hotel InterContinental in Berlin.
Mintel will be reporting back from the conference on these and more of the latest trends, so keep an eye on this blog for more news and insight.

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