Hyatt Hotels Retains Top-Spot Title In Upscale Sector - Business Travel News

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Hyatt Hotels Retains Top-Spot Title In Upscale Sector

February 26, 2001 - 12:00 AM ET


Hyatt Hotels Retains Top-Spot Title In Upscale Sector

By Bruce Serlen

Hyatt Hotels Corp. secured its lock on the coveted number-one spot in the upscale category of the Top U.S. Hotel Chain Survey this year, winning the gold for the third year in a row and in four of the past five years. In the runner-up spot was Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites, advancing significantly three places from its fifth place finish in last year's survey. Fourteen hotel companies this year were represented in the upscale listing, which is traditionally the survey's largest category.

Travel buyers picked Hyatt first in six of 13 survey criteria and tied Hyatt with Marriott on two more. The six included the properties' overall price-value relationship, the chain's meeting facilities, corporate rate program, quality of food, helpful and courteous staff and quality and variety of in-room amenities. Hyatt tied with Marriott on the ease in arranging group travel and the quality of its business amenities. On its own, Marriott placed first for its timely commission payments and the quality of its business center.

As with other U.S. lodging sectors, upscale hotels added properties, enhanced their amenities and service levels and generally polished their images in 2000 in an effort to grab market share from the segment right above them, the upper upscale hotels. At the same time, upscale hotels sought to protect their base from incursions by the brands right beneath them in price point, in this case, the midprice brands.

Scott Miller, president of Hyatt, said the bulk of the chain's development was in its Hyatt Regency category in 2000, though a Park Hyatt, which tends to be more luxurious, opened in its headquarters city of Chicago during the year. Hyatt Regency opened hotels in Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, and Calgary--Hyatt's third property in Canada.

"Our strategy is to open Park Hyatts selectively in key gateway cities that have sufficient international business travel inbound and outbound," Miller said.

Like its deluxe and upper upscale counterparts, Hyatt is focused on improving the quality of the business travelers' stay while they are in the hotel--with a special emphasis on the frequent traveler, who is responsible for a relatively large number of room nights.

This commitment manifests itself in ways small and large. At one extreme, Starbucks is now the chain's official coffee, spa facilities are being added or expanded and technology is being added to guest rooms in "ways that make sense." Regarding high-speed Internet access in guest rooms, Miller said Hyatt "continued to experiment with providers, but isn't convinced the demand is really there at this point."

The chain also has joined an effort to make travelers' lives easier once they return to their offices: Hyatt has begun providing full folio data electronically to travel managers, which will help travelers expedite filing their expense reports. "Starting this month, we're gradually rolling out e-folio, beginning with our hotels in key business destinations," said Miller.

April 2000 was a significant milestone for Marriott Hotels, Resorts & Suites, the upscale brand of namesake Marriott International, because of the opening of the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel, not coincidentally the company's 2,000th property.

In many ways, the new Tampa Waterside is typical of the classic downtown Marriott Hotel: central business district location, adjacent to a convention center, 700-plus rooms, 50,000 square feet of meeting space, two ballrooms and 31 meeting rooms.

"The brand has always focused on the guest experience, but there was a real effort to return to the basics in 2000," said Julie Moll, brand vice president. "Business travelers are on the road so much more today, and productivity is on the rise, so we asked ourselves, 'What could we do to make people's lives less stressful when they traveled?' "

Marriott Hotels chose to underscore the connection between its properties and people's homes. "In upgrading the guest room itself, we've tried to make the room as residential and nurturing as possible," Moll said. "People are upgrading their beds at home, for example, so we started with that, with the intention of keeping one step ahead. This way, we can be sure the look is always fresh and inviting."

Plans call for the design to be included in new Marriott Hotels and those in the development pipeline. "For existing properties, there'll be a gradual rollout with the design in place in approximately 75 percent of the system by 2003," Moll said.

Also introduced in 2000 was an enhanced guest service telephone-based feature that combines the concierge desk, operator and the bell desk. Called "At Your Service," time-pressed business travelers can get housekeeping and other hotel information, directions to local attractions and place wake-up call requests--all from a single source.

In terms of future growth, Marriott continued to set ambitious goals across all its brands. The company has committed to reaching the 2,600-property mark, and 480,000 rooms, by 2003.
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