“Lifestyle” hotel brands are spreading in South Florida, lured by the area’s robust tourism and business sectors.
Among the new concepts debuting or expanding over the next few years are AC Hotels by Marriott, Hyatt Centric, Aloft, Element and Tryp by Wyndham.
The brands appeal in large part to millennials, generally people in their 20s and early 30s who value design, intimacy and unique amenities over conventional hotels.
“Big hotel companies look at millennials as the market of the future,” said Peter Yesawich, vice chairman of Orlando-based MMGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm. “They’re more responsive to the novelty that they can find in lifestyle hotels.”
A Miami developer is planning the dual-branded Aloft-Element Downtown Fort Lauderdale hotel at 299 N. North Federal Highway on the site of a vacant funeral home. Groundbreaking on the 299-room hotel, now in final permitting stages, is slated for the third quarter of 2015, with opening in 2017.
The 23-story Aloft-Element project will feature restaurant and retail space and a car-sharing service among other amenities, preliminary plans show.
“We believe that both Aloft and Element are a good fit for the Fort Lauderdale market and for this location in particular,” said developer Jonathan Cox, founder and chairman of The Federated Cos. in Miami. “The neighborhood is made up of largely millennial residents, and Aloft is a product that resonates with this consumer.”
The Aloft’s W xyz bar will create a place where guests can mingle with residents, Cox said. Meanwhile, Element, an extended-stay concept with a focus on sustainability, appeals to the health- and wellness-oriented traveler.
Palm Beach County is also seeing an emergence of lifestyle hotel brands.
Aloft Delray Beach is set to open January 2018, according to Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ website.
And some hotel operators say there’s more potential in the near future.
“Lifestyle brands are something that we’re looking at as it seems like that’s the hot new niche right now,” said James Hansen Jr., vice president of sales and marketing for Kolter Hospitality.
The West Palm Beach hotel operator and manager has a 200-room Hyatt Place under development in Boca Raton and a yet-to-be-flagged 300-unit property in Palm Beach Gardens.
The Palm Beach Gardens site isn’t expected to be a lifestyle hotel, but Kolter plans to definitely “push harder” to develop a hotel in this niche within the next 18 to 24 months, Hansen said. “We think it’s a big growth opportunity for us.”
Miami developer Robert Finvarb is particularly interested in Fort Lauderdale and the beach.
“I see a lot of the dynamics of South beach [flowing] into Fort Lauderdale,” said Finvarb, the developer behind the AC Hotel Miami Beach and Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami hotels, which will open in April.
Hyatt Centric, which launched in January, is billed as a full-service lifestyle brand designed for multigenerational business and leisure travelers who are dubbed “modern explorers.”
“Modern Explorers are truly a savvy, curious group. Their expectations are simple, but their standards are high and they want their experience to be intuitive and smart,” Kristine Rose, vice president of brands for Hyatt, said in a statement announcing the brand.
AC Hotels by Marriott, also designed to attract millennials, was launched as a joint venture between Marriott International and AC Hotels in 2011. The Spanish hotel chain was originally founded in 1998. These hotels boast a modern European look and reflect the character of their cities.
By importing AC Hotels to America, Marriott said it’s aiming to increase its share of the $31 billion to $35 billion market of younger business travelers who make three or more company trips a year.
The first AC Hotel in the U.S. debuted last November in New Orleans.
Starwood launched Aloft and Element in 2008, but the development pipeline for these lifestyle brands in North America has accelerated.
In 2014, Aloft Hotels signed 22 deals in North America and Element 14 — the most signings in one year since 2008, according to Starwood. Aloft had 61 hotels in the region as of Oct. 28 and Element 12.
Aloft hotels are designed for the next generation of travelers and sport an urban look and industrial design elements. They offer tech-savvy spaces and a vibrant bar scene in an open lobby that promotes socializing.
Meanwhile at Westin-inspired Element properties, public spaces and guest rooms are bathed in natural light, and environmentally friendly design is a hallmark. When it launched, Element was the only major hotel brand to mandate that all of its properties pursue Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. The extended-stay hotels feature Energy Star rated appliances, saline swimming pools and electric vehicle charging stations.
“Element is resonating with travelers who share the brand’s passion for great design and smart, sustainable living,” said Brian McGuinness, Starwood senior vice president of specialty select brands, noting that the brand is on track to triple its portfolio by end of 2017.
On Thursday, the 139-room Element Miami Doral is set to open near Aloft Miami Doral, which debuted in March 2013.
Also coming on tap in 2015 will be the 58-room Runway Resorts Hollywood, a new retro-inspired, high-end boutique concept that will offer a mix of vintage ’60s design elements and modern amenities.
Next year, a 150-room Tryp Maritime by Wyndham hotel is scheduled to open in March along State Road 84 in Fort Lauderdale. It will be the first Florida hotel and third in the U.S for Tryp, an urban hotel brand with properties mainly in Europe and South America.
The Tryp Maritime Fort Lauderdale will cater to marine outfits in the area such as boat brokerages, marinas and repair yards.
The emerging lifestyle brands don’t look alike and offer certain signature differences and social dimensions that are designed to appeal to younger travelers, MMGY’s Yesawich said. They also try to offer a more local, authentic feel that doesn’t mimic a corporate cookie-cutter mold.
Growing domestic and international traffic at airports in Fort Lauderdale and Miami make the region a good fit for these emerging brands, industry experts say.
“They’re putting [locations] in cities that have really distinctive personalities and are large enough to support the economics,” Yesawich said.