Branded hotels had been an up-and-coming form of experiential licensing for at least five years prior to the start of the pandemic, and they are back, if the number of new deals and openings announced in the last year or so is any indication:
- Lagardère Group’s ELLE magazine brand opened its first hotel, in Paris, this month. The debut came after the company’s May 2022 announcement that it was founding ELLE Hospitality with the intention of launching new hotels globally under the ELLE Hotel and Maison ELLE brands. Partners include Actur in Mexico (where the second hotel will debut in summer 2023), Studio V in Europe, and Whitney Robinson International in the Middle East. ELLE has already extended into spas, beauty salons, and cafés around the world.
- Luxury fashion and lifestyle label Tommy Bahama announced last month that it was opening a co-branded resort in Indian Wells, California, in partnership with Miramonte Resort & Spa and Lowe, a commercial real estate operator and investment company. The hotel, with 215 rooms, including 23 suites, is a first for Tommy Bahama, which will lend its tropical look and feel to every aspect of the hotel.
- Anta Group, the owner of the Fila athletic footwear and sportswear label in China, paired with Hyatt, in a deal announced in March, to develop a Fila-branded hotel in Shanghai. The location is expected to open in 2024 as part of a five-building complex including offices, restaurants, shops, and sports experiences and retail. The facility will be part of Hyatt’s JDV brand.
- In January, Sanrio and Hyatt, along with Keyestone Group, announced they would open a Hello Kitty hotel, also under the JDV brand, in Hong Kong. The hotel will be part of the Sanya Hello Kitty Resort, opening in 2024, and is expected to welcome guests in 2025. The rooms, restaurants and bars, ballroom, and other components of the hotel are themed to Hello Kitty and other Sanrio characters. Hello Kitty has been part of themed hotel rooms and other hotel tie-ins in the past.
- Warner Bros. and Hilton, along with developer Miral, opened a Warner Bros. hotel in November 2021 in Abu Dhabi. The WB Abu Dhabi Hotel, under the Curio Collection from Hilton brand, is located at the largest indoor theme park in the world, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, located on Yas Island, a destination for theme parks and resorts. The hotel features photo ops, character appearances, restaurants, swimming pools, room themes, and other elements that integrate a range of Warner Bros. film and TV properties, from Friends to Bugs Bunny to Batman.
This burst of activity continues a pre-pandemic trend of increased partnerships with hotels, including both branded examples and other permutations. More recently, a variety of pop-up hotels and other pop-up travel destinations have been added to the list of hotel-related promotions and experiences.
Meanwhile, many of the early players in this space continue to expand. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville lifestyle brand, for example, announced this month it would begin construction on a hotel in Flagler Beach, Florida, in April 2023, for completion in 2024. It also expects to launch a new resort in Belize in spring 2023. Both are new additions to its extensive network of branded hotels and resorts.
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