Pop-up travel destinations represent one form of experiential licensing that has been on the rise in 2019. These immersive initiatives, which can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, include pop-up hotel rooms, complete hotels, and rental homes:
- Hotel rooms. New York’s Club Wyndham Midtown 45 launched a themed room tied to the Warner Bros.’ film Elf, featuring a decorated Christmas tree, décor such as snowflakes hanging from the ceiling, a selection of Jack-in-the-box toys, and a refrigerator filled with the four elf food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup). It also includes free admission to the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center skating rink. Similarly, the Conrad New York hotel is hosting a pop-up room in partnership with FAO Schwarz that is full of toys such as train sets, musical instruments, hobbyhorses, 10-foot stuffed animals, and the dance-on piano made famous in the movie Big—all of it shoppable. Lisa Frank, meanwhile, worked with Hotels.com on a penthouse in the Barsala hotel in Los Angeles featuring lots of rainbows, sea creatures, and cloud imagery, all in Frank’s signature bright pinks, purples, and teals, as well as a kitchen full of 1990s snacks (e.g., Pixy Stix) and plenty of stationery and pencils.
- Hotels. Ferrero Brands is launching a pop-up Hotella Nutella in January 2020 in Sonoma, California, with enough room for three contest winners and their guests. The temporary lodging includes hazelnut-themed décor, cooking lessons, Nutella-centric gourmet dishes from celebrity chefs, and big jars of Nutella in each room. This venture has some things in common with The Bell, a Taco Bell-themed hotel and resort takeover of the V Palm Springs that popped up earlier this summer, selling out in two minutes. It included taco-themed staff uniforms, taco-centric menu items and cocktails, taco-related lobby and room décor, Taco Bell chips in the rooms, inflatable rafts in the shape of hot sauce packets, and the like. Separately, the Game of Thrones Ice Hotel in Lapland Hotels Snow Village in Finland, created with HBO Nordic, came back for a second year in early 2019. It had 16 igloo suites made of snow, each with a massive and unique ice sculpture in the wall, along with other elements such as the famous iron throne and a realistic-looking dragon.
- Rental homes. Hotels.com and MGM created an Addams Family mansion in Brooklyn, New York, during this year’s Halloween season, timed to the movie release of The Addams Family. It included creepy and kooky snacks and décor, as well as famous artifacts from the fictional home, such as the headless doll, distinctive doorbell, and carnivorous plants. In another example, Mattel worked with Airbnb on Barbie’s Malibu Dreamhouse, with pink-heavy, toy-like décor everywhere from the kitchen to the craft room. It also had luxury amenities like an infinity pool and a walk-in closet full of Barbie’s fashions, including her astronaut outfit and her original striped swimsuit.
Licensors and their partners have implemented pop-up travel destinations prior to 2019. But the frequency of these short-term initiatives has intensified this year, as have the over-the-top immersive qualities associated with them. The trend is logical given that pop-ups (of all kinds) and permanent licensed hotels and hotel rooms both continue to grow as go-to experiential initiatives to support licensed properties and brands.