NEW YORK – Marriott International Inc. (MAR), the top U.S. hotel operator, said it will create a new brand of boutique hotels in the latest effort by lodging companies to appeal to travelers weary of cookie-cutter accommodations.
Marriott, which manages nearly 2,900 hotels under brands including Fairfield Inn and Ritz-Carlton, is partnering on the as-yet-unnamed brand with Ian Schrager. The style entrepreneur made his name in the late 1970s by creating the famed Studio 54 nightclub with the late Steve Rubell.
Marriott and Schrager aim to have five development deals signed by the end of year and are seeking to open 100 hotels in 10 years.
Big hotel operators such as Marriott have been developing niche brands to complement their traditional offerings and appeal to style-conscious travelers.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc's (HOT) trendy, upscale W brand has set the pace and currently has 21 hotels. Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc (IHG) is rolling out Hotel Indigo, a mid-market boutique chain, and expects to have 12 to 14 properties by the end of the year.
The new Marriott brand is targeting hotels in major cities around the world including New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Tokyo and Beijing. The hotels, which may be new sites or conversions of existing properties, are expected to have 150 to 200 rooms.
The high-end designer hotels are meant to be unique and reflect the local culture, and the chain will mark a departure from traditional hotel branding, which typically emphasizes a consistent look.
"The brand will be about an attitude, about a feeling rather than a look," Schrager said in a statement.
In rolling out the brand, Marriott will focus on development and hotel management. Schrager will lead the design, marketing and branding effort.
"The scale of this brand requires the reach, resources and expertise of a global player like Marriott, while the innovation necessary calls for the experience and originality of the category's most accomplished entrepreneur, Ian Schrager," Marriott Chief Executive J.W. Marriott Jr., said.