Lifestyle hotels have long enjoyed continuous, consolidated and dynamic growth and are now gaining a new momentum with a string of mergers and acquisitions as we're gradually returning to normal after the pandemic and most players are seeking to benefit from the general recovery of customer demand. 

Big chains carried out several key deals in recent months, just think of Accor's acquisition of Ennismore, GIC's purchase of Sani/Ikos Resort, Hyatt paying top dollar for Dream Hotel Group, Highgate snapping up Viceroy Hotels & Resorts or Frasers Hospitality buying lifestyle boutique group Malmaison Hotel du Vin hotels. Investors and operators are also keen to bring new lifestyle brands to market, with the latest arrivals including ZEL by Meliá & Rafa Nadal, among others.

The market is buzzing with activity, mostly as chains are doubling down on their corporate strategies to integrate and diversify lifestyle brands. But what is in store for this segment? Will we see many new deals in 2023? Which players will go on a buying spree and what independent targets will they put on their radar?

To assess the imminent future of this market we should understand what lifestyle hotels actually are and how they evolved over time. First off, the definition of lifestyle seems to have no limits and includes a number of variations or distinct subcategories, such as affordable lifestyle, luxury lifestyle or sustainable lifestyle - many of which are foreseen to remain market trends in the coming years.

Lifestyle hotels often become subjects of subjective perception or get mistaken for other denominations, such as boutique hotels. This is not by accident. But to better examine what lifestyle hotels are today, we need to go back in time.

Independent boutique hotels began to emerge in the 1980s, with the most well-known examples of the era including the Blakes Hotel in London, the Bedford in San Francisco, or the Morgans. The latter was co-founded by eminent hotelier Ian Schrager, whose success was based more on experiential content than "form". These hotels offered an opportunity to stay in a property with limited capacity, which translated into exclusivity. They provided personalized service allowing guests to connect with the local culture and community, immerse in art or explore gastronomy - all thought of and designed to give an experience precisely based on the content, a unique experience not available in other properties.

The rapid rise of such hotels prompted international chains to establish luxury boutique sub-brands to capitalize on the growth in this sector. Slowly but surely, the concept grew with the industry, with more boutique hotels appearing in cities around the world throughout the 1990s and 2000s. The emergence of room sharing and millennials as a new cohort of guests seeking different experiences led to further growth in the late 2000s. This is the short history of boutique hotels which, in turn, introduces the history and development of lifestyle hotels.

But today's definition of a lifestyle hotel is quite different from that of the boutique hotels of the '90s and '00s. As per the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA), lifestyle hotels are "the next generation of boutique hotels. Driven by the chains, they borrow the best elements of boutique hotels - small, intimate and modern and advantages that only a chain can offer, such as loyalty benefits, consistency and economies of scale. As a result, lifestyle hotels are generally cheaper and more accessible than boutique hotels and will soon be ubiquitous.”

The BLLA definition diverges from the idea that drove the success of boutique hotels through originality and experiential exclusivity. It mainly refers to size, price, and scalability, and is therefore a deeply corporate definition. It confirms that the term lifestyle hotel was created by the large chains for the large chains.

Returning to the recent series of acquisitions of independent lifestyle hotels by big chains, such deals may make people think that originality or the quality of experiences and services can be lost for the sake of faster growth or more sustainable financial management. In many cases, this is a reality, although the history of lifestyle hotels can remind us of their origins and point to their future.

In any case, becoming part of a bigger portfolio is an increasingly likely scenario for many independent lifestyle hotels. If you're wondering which brands or groups will be involved in the next big deals, here are some of my current bets: the Standard, an iconic brand that is seeing strong growth; Ace Hotels, a pioneer brand in this segment, which now has resolved and consolidated ownership and control; and Proper Hotels, a relatively new player co-founded by the former CEO of Viceroy Hotels, which has excellent results and positioning in the US market.

We'll see what 2023 holds for this market and whether any of these players or brands will attract a suitor and eventually find a new corporate family.

 

About the author:  Daniele Scandiffio,  Senior Tourism & Hospitality Consultant 

Daniele is the Senior Tourism & Hospitality Consultant with a primary focus on the European & LATAM markets.  Daniele has a long experience in the tourism and hospitality industry having held management roles in many of the leading international hotel brands and is experienced in negotiating hotel and real estate deals working with Private Equity Funds, REITs, and other capital raising platforms. 
Daniele is also fluent in Italian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese.  

 

Hoteles lifestyle, un asunto corporativo

Con la vuelta a la normalidad en los últimos meses, también ha vuelto la intensa actividad hotelera y, como era de esperar, las estrategias corporativas también se han acelerado. Observamos el rápido crecimiento de modelos alternativos como apartamentos con servicios, colivings, apartamentos de media/larga estancia pero también registramos el crecimiento continuo, consolidado y dinámico del segmento lifestyle. Las recientes adquisiciones como la de Ennismore por parte de Accor, la de Sani/Ikos Resort por parte de GIC, la de Dream Hotel Group por parte de Hyatt, la de Frasers Hospitality del grupo de lifestyle boutique Malmaison Hotel du Vin hotels, la de Viceroy Hotels en Highgate o el constante nacimiento de nuevas marcas lifestyle como la última llegada ZEL by Meliá & Rafa Nadal, es una confirmación de las estrategias de las grandes cadenas para incorporar y diversificar marcas lifestyle. Esas operaciónes nos llevan a reflexionar sobre la evolución de este segmento y su futuro inminente. Este segmento, esta definición ‘lifestyle’ parece no tener límites y, desde luego, es una definición que llegó para quedarse, especialmente con el desarrollo de subcategorías como lifestyle asequible, lifestyle de lujo y lifestyle sostenible (todo indica que esa ultima será tendencia en los próximos años). Pero, ¿qué son los hoteles de lifestyle? Una pregunta cuya respuesta puede estar influida por una percepción de subjetividad y de confusión con otras denominaciones como hotel boutique. Para analizar qué son los hoteles lifestyle hoy, partamos de su historia, de su nacimiento.

En los años 80 empezaron a surgir hoteles boutique independientes como el Blakes Hotel de Londres, el Bedford de San Francisco o el Morgans, cofundado por la eminencia hotelera Ian Schrager, cuyo éxito se basó más en el contenido experiencial que en la “forma”; De hecho, se trataba de una idea de poder alojarte en un hotel con capacidad limitada, y por tanto exclusivo, con un servicio personalizado que te permita conectar con la cultura y la comunidad local, sumergirte en el arte o explorar la gastronomía, todo pensado y diseñado para dar una experiencia basada precisamente en el contenido, una experiencia única no disponible en otras propiedades . El rápido auge de estos hoteles impulsaron a las cadenas hoteleras internacionales a establecer submarcas boutique de lujo denominadas ‘lifestyle’ para capitalizar el crecimiento de este sector. Lento pero seguro, el concepto creció con la industria hotelera, los hoteles boutique y lifestyle aparecieron en ciudades de todo el mundo a lo largo de los años 90 y 2000. Pero no todo fue genial, todavía no, dos factores razonablemente entrelazados causaron el auge de los hoteles boutique a fines de la década de 2000: Millennials y el Roomsharing. Conocidos por su adopción de los viajes experienciales, este grupo masivo de consumidores optó por diferentes experiencias al buscar alojamiento. Ésta es, en resumen, la historia de los hoteles boutique que, a su vez, introduce la historia de los hoteles lifestyle.

Pero volvamos a nuestra pregunta, ¿qué son hoy en día los hoteles lifestyle? Si crees que la definición de hotel lifestyle actual es muy cercana, o igual, a la de los hoteles boutique de los años 90 y 2000, estás equivocado. De hecho, la Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) define los hoteles de lifestyle como "la próxima generación de hoteles boutique. Impulsados ​​por las cadenas, toman prestados los mejores elementos de los hoteles boutique (pequeñas, íntimas y modernas) y agregan ventajas que solo una cadena puede ofrecer, como beneficios de lealtad, consistencia y economías de escala. Como resultado, los hoteles de lifestyle son generalmente más baratos y accesibles que los hoteles boutique y pronto serán omnipresentes”.

Esta definición difiere de la idea que impulsó el exito de los hoteles boutique a través de la originalidad, la exclusividad experiencial. La definición hace referencia principalmente al tamaño, al precio, a la escalabilidad y, por lo tanto, una definición profundamente corporativa. Tras tomar conciencia de esa definición podemos afirmar que el término hotel lifestyle fue creado por las grandes cadenas, para las grandes cadenas.

Volviendo a las recientes grandes operaciones, las adquisiciones de hoteles lifestyle independientes o grupos de hoteles lifestyle por parte de grandes cadenas a menudo llevan a la opinión pública a pensar que la originalidad, la calidad de la experiencia y los servicios pueda perderse a expensas de un mayor y rápido crecimiento, o de una gestion financiera mas sostenible (aunque eso no esta a la vista de los clientes o seguidores). En muchos casos refleja la realidad pero, la historia, la definición de los hoteles lifestyle, nos recuerda cuál es su destino, o mejor dicho, su origen que siempre ha sido el de pertenecer a una gran cadena y en esto momento histórico nos encontramos ante una aceleración.
Muchos se preguntan cuál será la próxima gran adquisición o fusión, qué marca lifestyle es y podrá agregar valor a las ya ricas ofertas y marcas de las grandes cadenas hoteleras. Como si de una apuesta de carrera se tratase, os dejo mis favoritos del momento: The Standard, una de las marcas más icónicas cuyo crecimiento está teniendo una fuerte aceleración; Ace Hotels, marca pionera en esto segmento cuya propiedad y control se ha resuelto y consolidado recientemente; Proper Hotels, la más joven, co-fundada por el ex-CEO de Viceroy Hotels y que cuenta con excelentes resultados de crecimiento y posicionamiento en el mercado estadounidense. Y tu que opinas? ¿Cuál es "tu caballo ganador"?

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