Expert’s Voice: An insider’s guide to Hilton’s lifestyle hotel brands

by | 06 Jul 2021 | Expert's Voice, Experts

Phil Cordell, global category head of lifestyle brands at Hilton and global brand head of Canopy by Hilton, explains how the company is targeting this fast-growing category.

Here, Phil Cordell, global category head, Hilton Lifestyle Brands, shares his insights on the lifestyle sector, provides details on Hilton’s three lifestyle brands and explains how he connects with local communities when travelling.

Cordell has more than three decades of travel industry experience, launching iconic Hilton brands such as Hampton, Home2 Suites and Tru. He now oversees the strategic growth and development of Hilton’s lifestyle category, which includes Canopy by Hilton, Motto by Hilton, and Tempo by Hilton.

Can you give us some history on the lifestyle concept and explain Hilton’s take on the category?

When it started, lifestyle hotels represented more of the ‘cool kid’s club’. They had dramatic lighting, loud music and were considered by many people to be unapproachable. At Hilton, we wanted to make lifestyle approachable but still aspirational, design-driven and culturally relevant.

Our target audience doesn’t want a cookie-cutter approach. They want a great vibe and an authentic experience. So, we created properties that are comfortable yet also have that unique Instagrammable factor.

How is staying at a Hilton lifestyle hotel different than a traditional hotel experience?

Certain hotels have a very distinct feel. It’s as if everything came from a catalogue. The furniture is almost overly curated and matching, and the space is very segmented. At our lifestyle hotels, there is a managed inconsistency. There’s a sense of familiarity, but there’s also a sense of novelty.

We use this idea of 60-30-10. 60% of the experience delivers enough familiarity that a customer will feel comfortable. The next 30% makes someone think, “that’s more than I expected”. And the final 10% is the wow factor. For example, a craft cocktail from the bar would be slightly different than what you would expect, but not so unusual that you don’t want to try it.

At our lifestyle hotels, guests can expect somebody at the front desk who’s plugged into the local neighbourhood, who knows the fun spaces to check out and can be a resource throughout the stay. The hotels are intimate and approachable and have public spaces that invite you in. You can be casual and comfortable, yet still feel a bit pampered.

Can you describe the different brand personalities of Motto, Tempo and Canopy?

Motto is targeted to the urban explorer and for those who want to be in the city centre. The rooms have a smaller, more efficient footprint, yet also provide flexible layouts and the ability to connect up to nine rooms for larger group travel. Our hotels provide a launchpad to the local scene, not the tourist attractions. Motto is for someone who is more cost-conscious yet wants to enjoy quality, locally driven food and drinks. It’s designed to be a community hub in the heart of up-and-coming urban areas.

Tempo targets a bit of a broader guest demographic, providing an elevated yet approachable experience that meets both professional and personal travel needs. You’ll find more consistency here, but there will be some unique touches at each property, whether through design or food and drink offerings. Tempo hotels, which will be in suburban-urban areas, have a more contemporary design and uplifting atmosphere.

Finally, Canopy is all about experiencing a destination like a local. It’s a vibrant, boutique hotel brand for those who want to explore but also prefer a more elevated and upscale experience. Each property feels like an extension of the neighbourhood, with locally inspired design elements and team members who are experts on the newest hotspots in town. Canopy provides a sophisticated yet comfortable reprieve.

How do you foster innovation and creative thinking among your Hilton team?

I view our lifestyle space as an area where we have license to play around, test, learn and innovate. We are thoughtful and directional but not prescriptive. We give ourselves permission to try a lot of things. If you allow your team to think differently and encourage that type of thinking, cool stuff will happen.

We find inspiration everywhere. For example, one of our colleagues was walking in New York, looking down at her phone, and some guy said to her, “do you ever take a minute to look up?” When she shared that story, it resonated with us.

We thought about how to incorporate the ‘look up’ ethos into our brands. It fit perfectly with the motivated, driven mindset of Tempo’s target audience. So, we now incorporate ‘look up’ moments into the guest experience – whether through a unique piece of art on the ceiling or a front-desk interaction where our team members will always look up and make eye contact with a guest.

You’re a seasoned traveller who has spent most of your adult life at far-flung locations. What’s your personal travel style like?

There are a few travel habits I’ve acquired over the years. For one, unless it’s an extremely long trip, I never check a bag. I also reuse the plastic dry-cleaner bags, layering them in to keep my packed clothes from getting wrinkled.

On a more meaningful level, on every trip I take, I do at least one thing that connects me to the local community. It could be going across the street to a new local coffee place or visiting a cool little doughnut shop that just opened. It makes every trip a learning experience and a bit of an adventure.

This is an edited version of an article that appeared on the Hilton Newsroom site.

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