9 December 2021, Virtual
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John Wallis, Global Head, Marketing and Brand Strategy for Hyatt Hotels, talks about the importance of getting brands right
We have seen a lot of new hotel brands introduced in recent years. Will this continue?
I think it would have continued if it wasn't for the economy because there are many more market segments that are travelling than in the past. I'm always fascinated by looking at how many planes Boeing and Airbus are producing and who is buying them because that's where tomorrow's travellers will be coming from. Globally you are eventually going to have massive outward bound travel from China and Russia, so I don't see a stop in the growth of brands.
For us at Hyatt, we have had a very successful launch of Hyatt Place. I don't think in the history of the hotel business have we ever seen a brand go from zero to 120 hotels, all totally renovated during an 18 month period. It has allowed Hyatt to enter into the select service group and position ourselves as the leader. It's a very good franchise model and we have a good pipeline of them coming out. It's probably the most researched brand that's ever been launched. We spent a lot of time trying to understand what the customer really wanted. To give an example, the research said that people wanted a really big TV, and Hyatt Place has a 42 inch TV. When we were doing some value engineering, there was a school of thought about whether we needed this. But we listened to the customer, and now they are using the room, they all come back and say the thing they like the most is the big TV.
We have also established Hyatt Summerfield Suites, which in a way is a bit of a sleeper brand, which has allowed us to move into the extended stay market in the US, again a market we hadn't been in before. When we bought AmeriSuites which became Hyatt Place and Summerfield, it was always our intention to do a massive rehab. What's fun is that you are now seeing the brand new ones coming out of the ground and you can see the vision has worked.
Will markets outside the United States see these new brands?
We've just signed an agreement in India where we will be building seven Hyatt Places. And I see us eventually bringing the Hyatt Place module around the world and then we can work out what we do in other markets. We see a lot of growth in Europe, Asia and Middle East. We were very conscious of getting it right in the United States first, though.
Hyatt Place Houston
Would you alter it for those markets?
We've changed the kitchen concept in India, but the basic concept is a very modular room. It's a new idea for us, because in all of the other Hyatt brands we've never tried to keep the product similar. In Hyatt Place in India, it will have an identical-looking lobby with the same core basics as the Hyatt Place hotels in the United States. The bedroom has the same 42 inch TV, the same "Cosy Corner" and so on, and I'd see the same thing happening in China. We wouldn't allow Hyatt Place to have big banqueting spaces and the restaurants are really designed for in-house guests. If we start to put those things on, it should be a Hyatt Regency.
You see brand differentiation as crucial?
The winner of the brand battle by 2012/2013 will be the group that has managed to clarify their brand standards extremely carefully and clearly and has managed to sell those standards internally as well as externally. Every person within the company should understand what we're trying to do with the brands. In our case we are a branded house - we have Hyatt everywhere - as opposed to a house of brands, like Starwood, so we have to be even more careful about managing the brands going forward.
Do you think you've achieved that?
I think we've done a very good job with Hyatt Place. It's very clear and I think we are beginning to see the fruits of our labours with Park Hyatt. We're very tight now on what is a Park Hyatt and I think it's tremendous that we managed to launch Park Hyatts in Beijing, Shanghai and Istanbul all in the last three months. Now we are at 25 Park Hyatts with another 24 in the pipeline. But we are also able to develop the right people who want to operate Park Hyatts and, at the end of the day, we are in the people and service delivery business. There are certain people who are better equipped to manage different types of hotels and that's something which we are really stressing as we go forward.
Park Hyatt Moscow is definitely going to be renovated, it's a great time to go and do it and it will be renovated to a style of a Shanghai or Beijing. We only took over the hotel a few months before opening, so we didn't have the opportunity to get involved but I've seen some of the work that will take place there. They will start in 2009, and the renovation will go floor by floor.
Tell us about Andaz, your new hotel brand
When we launched the Andaz brand it was very heavily researched and that showed there was a niche there that wants to have a boutique experience but have all the benefits of being associated with a brand without necessarily having the name attached to it. We were very conscious of how we separated it from Park Hyatt and it was about how to make sure the customer knows the difference, so we worked out every single service angle and every point of contact.
The industry is evolving and I don't think we've evolved our service model along with the technology changes. This is the first time we've been able to make those changes. The key component is you're not going to have the mass check-ins coming into the lobby so you are able to provide a much more intimate form of service.
We designed a lobby without a front desk and the reaction was we lost a lot of the staff. They weren't comfortable being in front of the customer without a barrier. We found other people straight away, but it's a different model and mental approach to not being able to hide away behind a desk looking at a computer screen and having to meet people in the eye. We didn't anticipate any of that, but at least we learned.
The Liverpool Street property isn't a typical Andaz, of course, but it's about how you operate as opposed to the size of the room. When we put that big desk in, initially our hope was that we would have tablets, but we didn't have the technology quite ready, so we put the PCs on the corners of the desks. But the reaction of the customer looking over you as you check them in created a tremendous interaction between the customer and the staff. The uniforms are different, the attitude, the look and the feel. In our recruitment for the people of Andaz we need people with a bit of an attitude. They need to be very confident in themselves. And when we launch our next Andaz this January in West Hollywood, it will be a complete transformation from the old Hyatt there, and it's been very easy to recruit for that property.
What expansion plans has Hyatt for Europe?
We wanted to get the US right, and then India, and then we'll take it from there. The UK is a pretty mature market, so Hyatt Place makes sense in secondary cities. And that would be true across Europe as well. We've had various opportunities in London and we'd love to have a Park Hyatt at the right price and in the right location. But we are relatively conservative about the way we go about our business. We have some city Hyatt Places going into New York. So perhaps our next hotel in London would be a Hyatt Place.
We now have 120 Hyatt Places, and I see that as rising to 500 eventually. Then for Grand Hyatt, which is a tremendous brand in Asia and the Middle East, we haven't reached saturation. We will never grow as fast as our competitors, but we will need to maintain the brand integrity of each sub brand. We would never do a "Collection" brand. It doesn't really work as a brand or create brand loyalty. Where we have a well known hotel such as the Churchill, it's a great Hyatt Regency, but people still call it the Churchill. It was the same when we ran the Carlton Tower for 20 years. Now it's Jumeirah, but the same applies, I think.