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As everyone who travels a lot soon learns, when you stay in the hotels of the big chains, it’s easy to forget where you are, since they’re all alike, offering all the charm of Noplace, USA.
This disorienting sameness has become more dizzying in recent years as the chains have merged and conglomerated. Weary travelers might choose to stay overnight in one of the Residence Inn hotels, or a Courtyard, the TownPlace Suites, or even splurge for a night in a ritzy Ritz-Carlton. In fact, though, you’re in a Marriott – the $14 billion a year amalgamation that owns all of the above chains, along with 15 others. Marriott is among the world’s 10 largest hotel operators that have a combined 113 different chains in their crowded stable of brand names.
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Naturally, as uniformity and conglomeration have taken over the industry, a consumer rebellion has erupted, with more and more travelers – especially younger ones – seeking out independent hotels, unique inns, and local B&Bs. They prefer the un-corporate places that have cool names like the Moxy, Canopy, and Vīb. But, oh crud, guess what? All three of those are chains of “hip” hotels, that opened in the past year and are owned respectively by Marriott, Hilton, and Best Western.
Known in the industry as “lifestyle hotels,” these fake-independent lodgings are the hot new niche for mega-conglomerates trying to nab travelers in search of authenticity. “The big hotel chains are in the business of pretending they aren’t big chains,” says Pauline Frommer, editor of the well-regarded Frommer’s travel guides. “They want you to think they are boutiques.”
Sneaky! But do they think that duping customers is a good business strategy? Not only will we dup-ees quickly see that we’re being sold plastic “authenticity,” but we’ll also be PO’d about it. Good luck with that.
“Hotel chains add brands to serve niches,” Austin American Statesman, April 14, 2015.