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By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
MISSISSAUGA, ON—Marriott International is importing a brand from Europe that will “knock the socks off the competition, if there is any,” according to Michael Beckley, senior VP for Marriott Hotels in Canada.
Marriott introduced AC Hotels by Marriott at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference last month, and since then the uptake has been enthusiastic. In the first month, eight U.S. locations have been approved in Chicago, Cincinnati, San Diego, Greenville, SC, San Francisco, Tucson, New Orleans and Raleigh, NC.
“The level of interest has been phenomenally high,” says Manlio Marescotti, VP Marriott International. Beckley and Marescotti envision a dozen or more AC Hotels, one or more in each Canada's nine major urban centres.
“It's a stylish hotel for urban spirits,” says Beckley, adding that it would fit perfectly in Vancouver's Gastown or Toronto's entertainment district. “Part of the concept is to have the hotel as a hub. We're looking at beverage and food, not food and beverage. There's a social bar with tapas-type food, rather than a restaurant. The idea is that guests would explore the area, but then come back into the same type of atmosphere that they experienced outside.”
Designed to compete in the upper midscale sector occupied by Courtyard by Marriott and SpringHill Suites by Marriott, AC hotels is nevertheless quite different from those brands.
“It's European stylish, focused on gen Y and the millennials. There are a number of companies and a number of independents that have tried to do this, but they don't have Marriott behind them,” says Beckley. “The interesting thing is that although the design is classic European with simple, clean lines, the operating model is more along the lines of a Courtyard than a full-service hotel.”
Hotels range in size from 80 to 150 keys, at an estimated cost of $114,000-$150,000 per key.
Marriott International and AC Hotels formed a joint venture in 2011. Founded in 1998 by Antonio Catalán, AC Hotels has 79 properties located in Spain, Italy, France and Portugal.
Over the last two years, Marriott International has developed a more global focus. “There's a opportunity to double or triple our size on a global basis,” said Beckley, adding that 70 per cent of hotels outside North America are unbranded. And while part of the global mandate is to export Marriott brands from North America to other countries, another part of the initiative is to import brands to North America.