Prototype room of the new Hub by Premier Inn
Almost as if they knew their core product is losing appeal with a significant sector of the hotel-going public, three major hotel giants have announced new higher-concept offshoots that promise to be markedly cheaper and include more useful free extras than their parent brands.
• Hilton has announced something called Canopy by Hilton. Canopy is meant to occupy a different market than the company's 12 brands in that it will build in city neighborhoods as opposed to core city business districts. The idea is that each property will be a little different and include a slate of extras that, unlike Hilton's other properties, won't be upcharged. That means free in-room Wi-Fi, which Hilton is usually loathe to grant to non-loyal customers, and a free breakfast which you can have in-room or to go. The corporation calls that meal "artisanal," which is one of those words that can only be justified in the tasting, so we'll see. Canopy will also have lobby bars serving local beers and wines, since Hilton promises each property will have a local focus.
Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta calls Canopy "more accessible," which naturally causes me to wonder if he thinks the other brands aren't. One market observer called it an "Airbnb killer," which of course it won't be, but it gets to the point: Canopy aims to capture a younger market who aren't interested in nickel-and-diming, impersonal business traveler hotels—the kind of person who turns to services such as Airbnb to begin with.
Eleven Canopy properties will be turning up next year in cool, off-spotlight neighborhoods such as San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, Oklahoma City's Bricktown, Washington DC's Bethesda North, Portland's Pearl District, Charlotte's Uptown, and one London property in a neighborhood that hasn't been nailed down yet. Neither have the prices, but knowing what Hilton has been going for, expect it to be in the moderate range— cheaper than the Hilton hotels in the same city but not as cheap as the next announced option.
• Best Western announced Vib, which unfortunately for its advertising department is supposed to be pronounced "vibe," which will necessitate an expensive education campaign, and unfortunately for copy editors everywhere is spelled with a lowercase 'i' with a horizontal line over it, which is a keyboard puzzle I can't attempt to solve.
Vib is short for "vibrant,' and it, too, promises an boutique-like integration of local flavor into a stylish, compact, not-too-huge properties. Vib's emphasis will be on technology, with plenty of power points, USB ports, smart TVs that stream "custom content," and LED mood lighting that's even embedded in the rain shower heads.
Part of the benefit of technological advances is to automate more services, reducing staff requirements: Check-in will be by kiosk, lobbies will be stocked with vending machines selling gizmos such as headphones (just like at the airport), and there'll be a grab-and-go food station for food purchases 24 hours a day. The tariff has been described as "cost-effective," which coming from Best Western probably means it'll be competitive.
As for when and where Vib will first appear, no one has been told yet, but the brand's compact design template and sophisticated color palate (seen in the video below) will work best in high-density locations such as urban centers.
• The look and feel of Vib owe a lot to the burgeoning affordable hotel brands cropping up all over Europe, among them CitizenM, WakeUp Copenhagen, and Z Hotel. Britain's largest hotel chain, Premier Inn, has just opened booking on the debut property of its own new techno-focused property, Hub by Premier Inn. It's not a pod room so much as one made from a functional prefabricated formula—one that's beginning to define budget travel stays on the Continent.
Like Vib, its spelling is a stunt—the H is supposed to be lowercase. Hub by Premier Inn is meant to supply a stylish, self-sufficient little space lined with buttons and outlets that has a bathroom cubicle that's been appealingly inserted into the room. To save space, the clothing drawers slide under the platform double bed. Much of what a guest wants to do can be done with their smartphone. The same app with which you book a room can be used to control the lighting and TVs--which, happily, offer a full slate of free movies.
The first of many planned Hubs opens in London's Covent Garden area on St Martin's Lane (steps from the National Gallery) in November, and because it prices are typically around £112, which is cheap for this part of the world, it is already booking quickly.
They say that one time is a fluke and twice is a coincidence. But three major new announcements of high-design affordable hotel brands nearly at once—that's a trend. This is the direction that corporate budget travel hotels are taking from now on.