As hotels are learning it's going to take more than free Wi-Fi, a Facebook account and extra sockets to please the millennial traveler, Marriott is bringing the AC brand to the United States with hopes of locking in the loyalty of the Gen Y business traveler.
It has so far approved plans for 33 hotels in the United States, with the first set to open in New Orleans in September, followed by Kansas City and Miami, said Callette Nielsen, brand vice president for AC Hotels by Marriott.
A number of hotel brands have the millennials in their sights, including Starwood's Aloft, W and Element brands; Intercontinental's Hotel Indigo; Commune Hotels & Resorts' Tommie; Choice Hotels' Cambria Hotels & Suites; Hilton's Home2 Suites; TRYP By Wyndham; and independents such as Yotel, CitizenM; and Ace Hotels.
Marriott already had millennials in mind when it partnered with Ian Schrager on Edition hotels, and recently announced a new European budget line, Moxy. It will now look to lure the business- focused young crowd with its joint venture with AC Hotels, which already runs 51 hotels in Spain, 10 in Italy and two in Portugal.
"If you look at who is trying to compete in that space, no one has a great foothold in that space," Nielsen told CNBC.
In the company's annual report, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson called AC "a design-focused brand inspired by the fashion houses of Europe that appeals to younger business travelers."
The upper-moderate European-designed AC Hotels will have free Wi-Fi throughout all its properties, mobile check-in, 24-hour snack-stocked lounges, fresh, healthy, local food and drink brands, USB charging ports, lots of personalization options and in-room technology that lets guests easily tap into their own entertainment plans, such as Netflix and HBO GO. The hotels will be built with RFID-enabled lock to eventually allow keyless entry when that technology meets AC's standards, Nielsen said.
Prices will be competitive with hotels in the top end of the upper-moderate tier and the typical AC Hotel will have 150 to 175 rooms, she said.
The 33 deals add up to $1 billion of investment from the AC franchisees. Locations include Kansas City South; Miami Beach on Collins Avenue; Cincinnati West Chester; Chicago Downtown; Cincinnati Downtown; Tucson Downtown; New York City JFK Airport and New York City LaGuardia Airport.