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W Hotels are very clearly aimed at a specific demographic, though Starwood also suggest that they do reflect their neighbourhoods and clientele. They’re supposed to be the antidote to cookie-cutter anonymity, an attempt to win non chain-loyal guests and to regenerate the local F&B business that many hotels now turn their backs on (despite it being the most reliable business in a recession).
The new W London, in Leicester Square, for example, will open in October 2010 and Starwood PR heralds:
“W is a lifestyle and quirky brand and what we’re trying to do is put a London insider touch to it. You know with W you’ll be getting a really trendy, edgy brand where you can work and play but there will be some really nice British eccentricities”.
Rob Wagermans, owner and founder of Concrete Architects and Associates in Amsterdam […], which is in charge of the interior design of the hotel said, “The idea was to make guests at the W not feel like guests but to feel as Londoners. To see London and taste London as people living in London taste London and not as tourists. So we were completely not interested in red telephone boxes and double-decker buses and parliament and Big Ben. We wanted to show them and give them a sense of what London is really about. It’s about English people behaving and misbehaving and having loads of fun”
Personally, to pick up on an earlier poster’s comments, I think that most mass-market hotel brands tend to lose some ‘consistency’ in Manhattan and, to a certain extent, London and Paris too. It’s only at the top end (Four Seasons, Mandarin, St Regis etc) of the market that you’ll see a truly no-expense spared attitude to inter-property parity. Even then, I’m not sure that they pull it off universally successfully.
However, this is the second time that I’ve read posts on message boards comparing Ws to Four Seasons-esque hotels, and it does puzzle me slightly. Indeed, I suspect that it might concern Starwood and Four Seasons even more! I appreciate that rates can sometimes be comparable, but I don’t think that either Starwood or Four Seasons are less than clear in their brand propositions.
Perhaps they do need to look at how they communicate then, but for the most part I’m reasonably certain (curiosity aside) that W is a brand that has absolutely nothing to do with my own lodging priorities and, on that basis I can’t ever imagine foregoing a Four Seasons for a W.
Having said that, the general public is a curious beast: I used to work in the motor trade and could never get my head around, for example, customers who would come in to a showroom and seriously consider both a 4-door saloon and a 7-seater SUV at the same time. No wonder that they often used to complain when they’d bought the wrong thing for their real needs!
(Written from a surprise-free Speciality Suite at a very much up-to-spec Luxury Collection property :-))