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Hilton unveils new wellness-focused hotel chain

Sarah Paynter
Reporter

It’s a different kind of hotel, with guided meditations exclusively crafted by Ariana Huffington’s health brand Thrive Global. Some 60 of these hotels, Hilton’s 18th brand, are already in various stages of administration and development. 

Hilton (HLT) announced Thursday the new wellness-focused hotel brand, Tempo at an event in New York City. The brand was born from a survey of 10,000 Hilton guests who are wellness-focused travelers  —guests who might otherwise be snagged by an Airbnb.

Roll out the design plans for Hilton’s newest brand’s lobby, and a neon sign blares “Trust the vibes you get, energy doesn’t lie.” Renderings of Tempo by Hilton.

“There are lots of players with apartment-sharing and Airbnb. But we think of a brand like Tempo as an experience,” said Phil Cordell, Hilton’s global head of new brand development, who said that a stay will be more expensive than a Garden Inn but less expensive than a Canopy hotel. The first Tempo hotels will pop up in New York City, Maui, Boston, Los Angeles, Lexington, Nashville, San Diego, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Houston and Atlanta. Eventually, Hilton plans to have 500 Tempo hotels in the U.S.  

Renderings of Tempo by Hilton.

Crafted for physical, mental and environmental health

Guest rooms are optimized to help guests “create the right intention and positive outlook for the day,” said Cordell. Almost half of each room’s square footage is set aside for getting ready spaces, with lit vanities and storage to keep belongings organized. Six-minute videos on stretching, breathing, and journaling are available to guests, thanks to Huffington’s Thrive Global, a New York City-based media company promoting mental health. 

Each location’s menu incorporates locally- and sustainably-sourced food, customized to meet guests’ dietary and nutritional needs. Tempo will scout out up-and-coming chefs to collaborate with Elizabeth Blau + Associates, a Las Vegas-based restaurant planning company, on the menu. At the restaurant and throughout the hotel, Tempo franchises will avoid single-use plastics and implement food waste programs.

At the bar, Tempo hotels will emphasize non-alcoholic drink offerings, since over 50% of this health-conscious segment wants to reduce or eliminate alcohol use, said Cordell.

“Instead of just offering a ginger ale over a cup of ice, we want to offer non-alcoholic drinks that are enjoyable,” said Cordell, adding that non-alcoholic beverages should be as exciting as alcoholic ones, with fruit, garnishes and thoughtful presentation.

The “Get Ready Zone” in each room is a dedicated space for guests to prepare for their day with a lit vanity and storage keep their belongings organized. Rendering by: Hilton.

A hotel that appeals to millennials

Cordell said Tempo hotels target a mindset, rather than an age group or demographic. But the wellness hotel certainly appeals to the Virginia-based company’s young guests. 

Targeting millennials could be vital for hotels’ financial wellbeing: Millennials are approaching “prime spending years,” while Baby Boomers are projected to taper spending in the next decade, according to a 2019 Morgan Stanley analysis.

Millennials prefer specialized, authentic travel experiences, according to a 2019 study by Skift, a New York-based travel research company. Branded as an opportunity to live like a local, Airbnbs have become a popular option for young travelers: More than half of millennials use Airbnb at least occasionally, according to the 2018 state of millennial travel report by Resonance, a Vancouver-based real estate, tourism and economic development advising company.

Designed to compete with short-term rentals, a wave of specialized boutique hotel brands have cropped up over the past decade. The trendy Tempo hotel brand is only one in a string of 17 other brand offerings for Hilton. Similarly, Best Western offers 16 brands, while Marriott (MAR) has 30 brands. 

“Being able to create a unique identity is incredibly critical for any property, more so in light of the Airbnb concept,” said Michael Buono, principal and CEO of New York Renaissance Group and Mulberry Development LLC.

Renderings of Tempo by Hilton.

Unique hotel brands

Hilton has produced two other youth-focused brands in the past five years, including Tru by Hilton, born in 2016, which is marketed as “vibrant, affordable, and young-at-heart.” And the Hilton Signia brand, announced last year, targets digital natives, offering in-room Netflix access, digital whiteboards, and check-in via an app.  

Rival hotel brand Marriott has also targeted the health-conscious traveler: for instance, the Marriott’s Residence Inn partnered with Under Armour to create running map apps for its locations, and many Marriott’s Westin Hotels offer hotel staff-guided morning runs, according to reports. But some question whether big hotel chains can successfully execute authentic, unique brand experiences.

Renderings of Tempo by Hilton.

“I think there is a noticeable difference when you have a group that has created their brand by developing and creating one-off properties, versus a corporate structure that is publicly traded that has shareholders,” said Buono, who helped develop prominent boutique branded hotels like NoMad New York, ACE Hotel and The Plaza Hotel and Residences. 

Sarah Paynter is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @sarahapaynter

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