Le Méridien Hotels and Resorts has committed US$300 million to renovations, new hotels and conversions across its global portfolio, with plans to open an additional 30 hotels in the next four years.
Over the past ten years, the Starwood brand has increased its footprint in North America and Asia by 25 per cent, revamping more than half of its European and Middle Eastern hotels in the last three years.
New fittings in Barcelona, Monte Carlo, Al Khobar and Abu Dhabi have been recently unveiled, with renovations in Vienna, Hamburg and Frankfurt due to be completed this year.
The brand has also entered Charlotte, Chicago, New Orleans and Indianapolis, refurbishing in Montréal, Philadelphia and Dallas. New openings are taking place this year in Riyadh, Taiwan, India, Malaysia and Shanghai.
Speaking with Business Traveller, Brian Povinelli Global Brand Leader Westin Hotels and Resorts and Le Méridien said that the brand was trying to broaden its appeal to business travellers who have limited time in a destination.
“If the traveller never left the hotel, would they still get a sense of where they were? We are trying to redefine the role a hotel can play in this through our Destination Unlocked programme, which looks at exposing a destination through the hotel’s design, soundtrack, art and cuisine.”
Under the Destination Unlocked rebrand, new and renovated hotels have taken inspiration from nearby natural and historical attractions, using local materials and themes in their designs. There is also a greater focus on creating a boutique experience, with signature foods and cocktails that use local ingredients, and made-over ‘lobby experiences’ that have a midcentury modern aesthetic.
The Hub meetings concept is also being introduced into the brand’s new and refurbished hotels: a ‘coffee house environment, designed to promote dialogue’; currently available in two thirds of Le Méridien properties, says Povinelli.
“Along with our boardrooms, the new lobby designs have a more residential feel. The response from business travellers is, that for the same value proposition of a group chain, you can get a sophisticated, ‘boutique-like’ atmosphere to meet in.”
This year, the lobbies of Le Méridien Vienna, Le Méridien Hamburg and Le Méridien Frankfurt will be turned into Le Méridien Hubs.
The highly publicised Starwood/Marriott merger will also play into Le Méridien’s growth over the next few years, says Povinelli.
“We have to ask ourselves, how do we present a total 31 brands to the customer? We have to be very thoughtful so it isn’t overwhelming. But there are so many added benefits to joining with Marriott, like earning points across a broad and growing portfolio, which an OTA [online travel agency] or Airbnb don’t offer.”
The brand’s first property, Le Méridien Etoile in Paris is due to reopen after extensive renovations in September, with the US$20 million conversion of Le Méridien Visconti Rome scheduled to open in November. Le Méridien has 104 hotels and resorts in 37 countries.