Langham Hospitality is to reposition its four-star Eaton brand as a lifestyle offering and roll it out across Europe and North America.
The Hong Kong-based group — which operates the Langham and Langham Place luxury brands — operates Eaton properties in the city-state, Shanghai and Toronto, with a Qingdao hotel to open early next year.
Robert Warman, the company's new chief executive, told Business Traveller: "Our next major push is that we're going to redefine Eaton hotels. With the renovation in Toronto [last July the 1,590-room former Delta Chelsea joined the Eaton brand following a US$9 million refurbishment], we started to move the positioning of Eaton into more of a lifestyle hotel – or for no better words, 'hip and trendy'."
Eaton Hong Kong's Metro Lounge
He said: "We'll continue to deploy our capital in Langham but begin making a push to establish the Eaton brand, predominantly in Europe and North America.
"At this point we're looking at projects in London, Berlin, Prague, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, and maybe a potential acquisition of three hotels in Spain. Those would all fall under this new defined Eaton brand.
"We hope to launch the name in London — it's dear to us because Langham was launched here. We're looking at projects right now in London and our hope is that we’ll be able to announce the brand with four or five projects over the next 120 days."
The existing Eaton properties will then be refurbished.
Warman said: "Right now in Hong Kong we're finalising the architecture and design plans. Hopefully by the end of the year we'll begin the process of repositioning the existing property."
Eaton's public spaces will be redesigned: "We are going to make some changes to the lobby, making it a more inviting environment to sit in — re-routing the hotel so that the lobby becomes more of a social hub, [with] a coffee bar and cocktails in the evening. We'll have a bar that might spill out into the lobby and create a more relaxing environment.
"The bar and restaurant are going to be designed to cater to the local market, we'd like them to be fun. We're looking at making the gym a more social environment, having yoga and spin classes so it becomes more of a social hub."
Eaton Hong Kong's Metro Dining Area
At the same time, Warman revealed plans for a new luxury brand for the Chinese market.
"We are going to launch an Asian five-star brand which will be predominantly deployed in China," he said. "We believe that is another market that is capable of supporting its own brand through its own country's travel, much like many of the brands that grew up in North America.
"One day, as we see the growth in Chinese travel leaving China then we will probably begin deploying that brand outside [the country]. We'll start out with a few key Asian cities because there is going to be a lot more corporate travel demand from China."
It would include a property in Hong Kong. The group plans to announce the brand officially in the next six months, Warman said.
At the same time, he said the group would continue to expand its flagship brand (see news, July 2013).
"We're looking at a few more opportunities in gateway cities to continue the growth of Langham and Langham Place. We're looking at San Francisco and Paris. We're under construction in Jakarta [due to open in 2017]."
He added that the group was "poised to move into the Middle East" and was working on a project in Dubai.
There are three Langham Place hotels under construction in China — in Haining and Datong, both due to open later this year, and Qingdao, to open early next year along with the Eaton property.
The group launched a Langham Place property in Ningbo in January and it also plans to expand into the resort market, Warman said.
He said: "In the next five years I would like to see the company have 100 hotels [it has 22 currently, with more than 30 in the pipeline]. In five years we should be able to talk about having 500 hotels in [another] five years."