When it comes to hotels, the chic Waldorf Astoria on Park Avenue in New York is one of a kind, and it doesn't exactly bring to mind the sort of house of horrors you'll find in the movie Hostel, released by Lions Gate Films
Better late than never, though. The hotel chain has announced it will begin branding the Waldorf name on a number of Hilton properties. Three hotels in Hawaii, Arizona, and California -- the Grand Wailea, the Arizona Biltmore, and the La Quinta -- will keep their current designations but will now add the "Waldorf-Astoria Collection," according to Hilton. Most Hilton hotels are not known for being glamorous or posh, so there's been no word on whether the privileged surname will now also inflate the cost of a room.
Turning swanky hotels into palaces of affluence is apparently a trend now. The former CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts
Starwood Hotels has also used the technique of branding the name of a swank hotel. Its St. Regis Hotel now has a dozen properties, including resorts in Anguilla, Aspen, Beijing, Bora Bora, London, and Rome. Other hotel chains have attempted to exploit the cachet of their names as well, including the Ritz-Carlton, with some 70 hotels open or soon to be open, and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
It's a smart move by the hoteliers. RevPAR (revenue per available room), which is a key measure of hotel performance, rose an estimated 14% to 16% over last year in November for luxury and upscale resorts, ahead of the industry in general, which saw 13% to 15% increases. In addition, average annual occupancy rates for luxury hotels averaged 71.6%, up from 69.2% in 2004.
While it's a tricky business trying to expand a brand name beyond the original hotel, since the premier hotel is usually a landmark and carries with it a certain ambience that can be difficult to transfer to other sites, it's a gamble worth trying since it carries little downside risk. That is, unless they call it the Bates Motel.