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Getting Your SWOT Analyses Right

Most of us have probably taken part in a whole boatload of SWOT analyses. Certainly, in my time, companies and staff have shared numerous SWOT analyses with me. They all seem rather basic, Marketing 101 kind of stuff. Yet, just because SWOT analyses are basic does not mean that most companies carry them out well, or that they even get them right.

In fact, most people carry out SWOT analyses very poorly, and they get them wrong, no, very wrong. Let me share with you why so many people mess up their SWOT analyses, and, more importantly, how to get them right.

Getting SWOT Analyses Wrong

In order to explain why so many companies get SWOT analyses wrong, let me describe how most companies develop their SWOT analyses. I admit that what I am about to share with you is a parody, but it is only just a parody…

Most people start their SWOT analyses with their strengths, which the participants in a SWOT analysis session typically feel pretty good about. They know that they have to admit to a few weaknesses, so they move onto that next, but nothing that would be politically problematic. At that point, the participants are feeling somewhat tired, so they pull together a few opportunities, and finish up with a handful of potential threats.

At this point, it is close to lunchtime, so the group arranges for a junior staffer to type up the results. The staffer circulates the document and places it on a company server, where it is promptly ignored until it is archived and deleted a year later. The end result of all of this effort is, to be precise, nothing.

Getting SWOT Analyses Right

So, how do we get SWOT analyses right? The answer to that question is to remember that the purpose of a SWOT analysis session is to identify the opportunities that we are going to pursue over the following year.

We should therefore, start any SWOT analysis by focusing on opportunities, and by that I mean only those opportunities that are likely to be substantial enough, and doable enough, to be worth pursuing. In practice, as we will see, we will end up spending the bulk of our time on opportunities, and very little on anything else. After identifying opportunities, we should then list any serious threats. Just as with opportunities, we should only focus on those threats that are likely to be material enough, and probable enough, to be worth considering.

My basic advice when it comes to strengths and weaknesses is to spend very little time on them in any SWOT analysis meeting. While identifying strengths and weaknesses may be an interesting exercise, it is rarely time well spent. The only reason why we spend any time at all on either strengths or weaknesses in a SWOT analysis is to make sure that we can realistically attain our chosen opportunities, and deal with any serious threats. I wish to emphasize in this context that a strength means absolutely nothing, unless it enables us to pursue a sizable opportunity or deal with a significant threat. All other so-called strengths are not actually strengths at all, but merely irrelevances.

At this point, we now have the raw material for a successful SWOT analysis. But we have to take it a level deeper if our SWOT analysis is actually going to be useful. We have to remember that “we can only do three”…

We Can Only Do Three

Steve Jobs would gather together his lieutenants each year to lay out the opportunities that Apple could pursue over the following year. Inevitably, the Apple management team would come up with a long list of potential opportunities that Apple could go after. Jobs would then say that “we can only do three”, and he would list the three opportunities that Apple would focus on over the upcoming year. What I would suggest is that if that is true for Steve Jobs and Apple than it is true for all of our organizations. Realistically, we can only do three.

We should make sure in a SWOT analysis meeting that we select the Top Three opportunities that we should go after, and the Top Three threats that we need to deal with. Because we cannot focus on everything, we should then ignore the rest for the time being.

From SWOT Analysis To Actionable Results

As in any other project management meeting, we should finish up our SWOT analysis by allocating responsibilities, milestones and deadlines for each of the three threats and opportunities.

My approach to SWOT analyses may not be quite what we have all learned in business school. On the other hand, if we go through the approach to SWOT analyses that I have just laid out, then our SWOT analysis meetings will be much more productive, and they will actually produce focused and actionable results.


Just How Unique Are Luxury Hotel Guests? – By Marissa Rasmussen

Our latest hotel report, From Search Engine to Booking Engine, in collaboration with Google, garners a view of the hotel guest’s journey over the entire path to booking. However, not every guest and their pre-booking behaviors are alike. Here we highlight our findings on the luxury hotel guest and offer ways hoteliers can influence these guests on their path to booking:

1. On average, luxury hotel guests conduct more searches than more economical segments.

A luxury hotel booking is usually a more expensive purchase, and these travelers want to make sure they are making the best decision. Ensure you are staying top of mind during these extra searches by creating ads that reassure them that your luxury hotel will create the most enjoyable experience for them.

For example, Solage Calistoga does a great job showcasing their luxury property through their ads while reassuring guests that their vacation will be a getaway.

2. Luxury hotel guests start their hotel planning much further in advance than other segments.

60+ days out, luxury travelers perform more searches than other segments. Consider how your hotel segment impacts the path to purchase so you can increase your brand’s presence at moments when travelers are likely to be influenced. For example, if you know your luxury guest will begin searching 60+ days before arrival, start impressing them with ads while they are at the top of the funnel, and continue to nurture them throughout their entire path to book.

Loews Hotels “Room You Need” campaign did a great job of reaching travelers at each stage in the funnel by using certain Instagram photos taken by guests as the basis for its print and digital ads. It was a way of showcasing real-life images of authentic guest experiences at Loews, and that’s the perspective that a potential guest wants to see.

3. Luxury hotels see lower shares of mobile searches, averaging 45% of all searches, but mobile queries are growing rapidly with 23% YOY growth.

It may not be surprising that mobile searches are on the rise since smartphones have enabled us to have information at our fingertips no matter where we are. According to Skift, 40% of global travelers use mobile devices to shop for travel. To capture these luxury travelers early on in their planning and dreaming phases, implement a multi-platform strategy: prospect and retarget users with display, mobile, YouTube, Facebook, native ads, and more.

Conrad ‘Stay Inspired’ initiative turns team members into curators of 1, 3, and 5 hour experiences

Conrad Hotels & Resorts announced the launch of Stay Inspired (, a global, brand-wide initiative that marks a cultural shift and overhauls the way the brand trains its team members as storytellers of their destinations. At each one of its 24 global properties, Conrad now offers guests who seek out inspired experiences a more customized and curated collection of 1, 3, and 5 hour experiences available through Conrad Concierge mobile app and at

Spearheading the Stay Inspired initiative is Nilou Motamed, the luxury brand’s first ever Director of Inspiration, who is responsible for developing and implementing the Stay Inspired vision and what it means for travelers. Nilou joins Conrad having previously served as Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast’s digital food brand, Epicurious, and Features Director and Senior Correspondent for Travel + Leisure.

As Director of Inspiration, Nilou has traveled to Conrad properties worldwide to create the initial series of Stay Inspired experiences. Catering to the modern traveler’s desire to merge work, life, and pleasure, now offers experiences in convenient 1, 3, and 5 hour increments, or what the brand is calling the Conrad 1/3/5. Each Conrad 1/3/5 recommendation reflects an inspired view into each destination covering food, shopping, art and design, culture, family, and adventure.

“Today’s luxury traveler wants to discover destinations where they can be truly inspired. So we are shifting how not only our concierges communicate and connect with our guests, but all of our team members,” said John T.A. Vanderslice, global head, Conrad Hotels & Resorts. “Through our partnership with Nilou, we have trained our team members and empowered them to make thoughtful recommendations within our destinations, stepping away from the standard transactional relationship between a concierge and a guest. We now have become more like storytellers.”, accessible via mobile device through the Conrad Concierge mobile app, offers a modern luxury traveler on any schedule the ability to browse activities in 1, 3, and 5 hour itineraries, or by interests. Using, travelers can now save and share their Conrad 1/3/5 itineraries, access custom content in the form of photos, videos, and maps, or book a room and an experience through the hotel’s concierge. On property, concierges will be equipped with tablet devices to guide guests through the itineraries.

“Guests want to use whatever free time they have while traveling to discover something new. They want to find those hidden gems that are off the beaten path and that can’t be found in the pages of a guidebook,” said Nilou Motamed, Director of Inspiration, Conrad Hotels & Resorts. “This collection called the Conrad 1/3/5 curates content and experiences in a way that aligns with the way our guests live their lives.”


Chip Eng Seng partners with Park Hotel Group to buy Maldives resort

Singapore construction and property group Chip Eng Seng Corporation Ltd will make its foray into the Maldives together with Singapore-based Park Hotel Group with the acquisition of Kodhipparu Island Resort for US$65 million. JLL was exclusive advisor on behalf of the resort owner, Kodhipparu Investment Private Limited.


Located in the North Malé Atoll, the resort has 120 villas and is a 15-minute speedboat ride from Malé International Airport. Set to open in second quarter of 2017, the resort is under development by world-renowned hospitality design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates, and will offer two restaurants, a harbour beach club, an infinity pool and bar as well as comprehensive spa facilities. The Resort will be managed by Park Hotel Group as Grand Park Kodhipparu, Maldives as the Group enters Indian Ocean’s most dynamic hotel market.

“As an investment destination, the Maldives provides a transparent policy-making environment and generous incentives for foreigners, including full ownership rights, legally-backed investment guarantees and the ability to fully repatriate profits. This paired with its positive economic outlook is attracting Asian investors seeking to enter the international market,” says Nihat Ercan, Executive Vice President, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group, Asia.

“As a result, we’re starting to notice a rising trend of Southeast Asian, and in particular Singaporean property developers, who are drawn to the market because it offers high yields underpinned by healthy trading fundamentals.”

Excluding the Kodhipparu sale, the Maldives has seen more than US$120 million in investment transactions so far in 2016. Tourist numbers to the island nation reached 1.23 million in 2015, a 2.4 percent increase on the previous year according to JLL’s report Hotel Destinations Indian Ocean.

This deal will mark the ninth resort JLL has sold in the Maldives since 2012, taking the group’s resort sales in the archipelago to US$500 million and over US$600 million in the Indian Ocean region. In February 2016, JLL also advised on the sale of Zitahli Kuda-Funafaru Resort and Spa to Singapore-listed Roxy Pacific Holdings Limited.



Hotel Food and Beverage Trends

In past articles, PKF Hospitality Research (PKF-HR) has labeled the period 2000 to 2010 as the “lost decade” for the U.S. lodging industry.  During this volatile period, hotel revenues remained virtually flat through two major recessions and one extended period of prosperity.  On the surface, it appears that hotel food and beverage (F&B) revenue followed a similar pattern.

To understand recent trends in hotel food and beverage departments, PKF-HR studied the financial performance of hotel restaurants, lounges, and catering departments for the period 2000 to 2010.  The information came from a same-store sample of full-service hotel operating statements taken from PKF-HR’s Trends® in the Hotel Industry database.  These hotels average 413 rooms in size, and offer multiple F&B outlets and extensive banquet facilities. Hotel data was estimated for 2010.

Total hotel food and beverage revenue decreased slightly from 2000 to 2010 within the study sample.  Measured on a compound annual basis (CAGR), F&B revenue declined 0.6 percent.  This is comparable to the 0.5 decline in total hotel revenue experienced by these same properties.  However, when analyzed on a dollar-per-occupied room basis, hotel F&B revenue increased 1.6 percent on a compound annual basis during the decade.  This is significantly greater than the 0.1 percent rise in total hotel revenue per occupied room.  During the study period, the number of occupied rooms declined 0.5 percent CAGR.

The relative stability of F&B revenue per occupied room can be partially explained by the ability of hotels to attract local patrons to their restaurants, lounges, and catering facilities.  This is especially evident during the recessionary years of 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2009 when the declines in food and beverage revenue were less than the decreases observed in rooms revenue.

Conversely, during the prosperous years of 2004 through 2007, total hotel revenues grew stronger than F&B revenues.  During these years, stout increases in both occupancy and average room rates boosted total hotel revenue.  This implies that the ability of hotel managers to raise room rates is greater than their ability to increase F&B prices.

Sources of F&B Revenue

Averaging 413 rooms, it is not surprising that banquet related revenue was the greatest source of F&B revenue for study sample in 2010.  The combination of catering revenue, public room rental income, audio visual fees, and banquet service charges accounted for an estimated 55.5 percent of total F&B department revenue.  Other sources of F&B revenue included restaurants (30.2%), lounges (5.6%), and room service (4.4%).  It is interesting to note that the combined beverage sales within the hotel restaurants were twice as great as the liquor revenue generated at the bars within these properties. Whole bottle wine sales in the restaurants partially explain this disparity.

Due to changes in the Uniform System of Accounts in the Lodging Industry(USALI) it is not possible to equitably compare changes in F&B revenue by source over the 2000 to 2010 period.  However, changes in revenue can be estimated for 2009 to 2010.

From 2009 to 2010, total F&B revenue increased 8.6 percent.  This compares favorably to the 6.5 percent increase in total hotel revenue for the study sample during the same period.  The greatest increases were observed in beverage revenue (9.4%), followed by food revenue (9.1%) and other F&B revenue (6.2%).  Other F&B revenue consists of public room rental, audio/visual, and service charge income.  Of note is the fact that the majority of growth in beverage revenue came from catering events as opposed to the hotel bars.

Expenses and Profits

Food and beverage profitability is dictated by management’s ability to control the prime costs of labor and costs of goods sold.  From 2000 to 2010, the prime costs of F&B departments in our sample averaged 64.3 percent of total department revenue.  Labor costs during this period averaged 43.4 percent, while the cost of goods sold averaged 20.9 percent.  This cost of goods sold number includes expenses associated with the other F&B revenue sources.  If you examine the combined costs of goods sold for just food and beverage sales, the average ratio rises to 29.1 percent.

Hotel departmental profit margins averaged 26.4 percent from 2000 to 2010.  In accordance with the USALI, this ratio is calculated before undistributed expenses such as marketing, maintenance, and utilities.  Once again, the depth of the recession becomes evident.  The lowest level of F&B departmental profitability was experienced in 2009 (21.6%), while the greatest profit margin was observed in 2000 (32.6%).

Haves and Have Nots

Food and beverage operations within the lodging industry have become a story of haves, and have nots.  The vast majority of new properties and brands entering the U.S. lodging industry offer either limited, or no F&B service at all.  On the other end of the spectrum are full-service hotels with multiple restaurants, lounges, and banquet facilities.  For these full-service hotels, the offering of F&B is not just a source of revenue, but an amenity used to position the property within the marketplace.

Losses within the F&B department are no longer tolerated by owners. F&B managers struggle to contain costs and grow revenues.  The ability of management to attract local patrons, boost catering revenue, and increase beverage sales within their restaurants are examples of successful tactics that have generated profitable revenue.



Marriott International Caps 2016 With Historic Global Expansion

Marriott International announced that 2016 represented the strongest year of rooms growth in its history. Marriott opened a record 55,000 rooms in 2016, excluding the 381,000 rooms gained with the Starwood acquisition.  The combined company signed 880 new hotel deals, representing nearly 136,000 rooms, under long-term management and franchise agreements, and opened over 400 hotels with more than 68,000 rooms around the world. Marriott now operates or franchises over 6,000 hotels and nearly 1.2 million rooms.

“2016 will go down as a remarkable year in Marriott’s history.  We completed the acquisition of Starwood and posted record growth that underscores the strong preference that owners and franchisees have for our unmatched brand portfolio, best-in-class sales and marketing platforms, and the most dedicated associates in the industry,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our accomplishments this year position Marriott for continued success and create greater opportunities for our guests, associates, development partners, shareholders and the communities where we do business.”

“We achieved strong global growth across both established and emerging markets in 2016,” said Tony Capuano, Marriott’s Executive Vice President and Global Chief Development Officer. “According to STR as of December 2016, Marriott’s North American pipeline accounted for a leading 36 percent of industry rooms under construction and 14 percent of industry rooms open. For the first time in Marriott’s history, more than half the rooms in our development pipeline are outside of North America, with 44 percent of those rooms under construction.”

The combined company’s global distribution of select-service hotels included nearly 4,000 properties at the end of 2016. The combined company’s select-service portfolio continues to experience strong global momentum with 275 openings and over 640 new deals signed last year. Growth should accelerate with nearly 1,800 select-service projects in the pipeline. The powerful, select-service growth trajectory was led by the established Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield Inn and Suites, and Residence Inn by Marriott brands and bolstered by the newest members of the company’s select-service portfolio, Aloft and Element, each of which recorded their highest number of signings ever.

The combined company further strengthened its leadership in STR’s high value luxury and upper-upscale segments with the signing of 236 new hotels, representing over 50,000 rooms, and the opening of over 100 hotels, representing over 27,000 rooms, in destinations such as Singapore, Houston and Sanya, China as a new generation of travelers seek distinctive experiences around the world.  Marriott’s share of the industry’s luxury rooms pipeline is 29 percent.  Independent hoteliers have more options than ever to leverage Marriott’s powerful loyalty and distribution systems with the Autograph Collection, which last year exceeded 110 open hotels, as well the Tribute Portfolio and The Luxury Collection brands.  Combined, these three brands generated nearly 80 signed deals during the year, contributing to the opening of 28 hotels in 2016.

“Marriott is well-positioned for continued strong growth in the years ahead,” continued Capuano. “We offer our development partners the benefits of scale and competitive advantages that can help them maximize their returns on investment. We also offer the broadest portfolio of brands and the industry’s leading loyalty platforms. We have the right brand for the right place, whether a new hotel development or an opportunity to reposition an existing asset.”



Mandarin Oriental to Acquire Boston Hotel

Mandarin Oriental International Limited will acquire the freehold interest in the property that houses Mandarin Oriental, Boston together with its hotel business for US$140 million.  Mandarin Oriental has managed the 148-room Hotel, which is situated on Boylston Street in Boston, under a management contract since its opening in 2008. The Group also manages 85 privately owned Residences at Mandarin Oriental connected to the Hotel.

Mandarin Oriental has exercised its right under its long-term management contract to acquire the Hotel from CWB Hotel Limited Partnership. The Hotel had been offered for sale by auction, and a number of bids had been received. Under Mandarin Oriental’s management contract, it has the right to acquire the property for a sum equivalent to the highest bid. Completion of the sale and purchase of the Hotel, subject to final court approval of the terms agreed at auction, is currently expected to take place in the first quarter of 2016.

Edouard Ettedgui, Group Chief Executive, said, “We are delighted to acquire the property that houses our luxury hotel in the heart of Boston. This acquisition ensures the continuity of our position in Boston, and we look forward to maintaining our award-winning service in this key gateway city.”

Mandarin Oriental’s total investment of US$140 million will be funded through a mixture of existing cash reserves and debt. The acquisition of the Hotel is anticipated to have a positive impact on the Group’s earnings. For the year ended 31st December 2014, the Hotel generated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (‘EBITDA’) of US$5.0 million. For the same period, the Group received management fees and other contributions of     US$2.3 million, which were charged against the Hotel’s EBITDA.



Embracing Domestic Tourism in Africa

Domestic Tourists

For a long time, Africans have perceived traveling as non essential especially within the continent thus only reserved for the high net-worth persons. Attributed mostly to their supposedly low spending power, Africans are said to believe that money should be spent on ‘more important priorities’ which exclude traveling (in this case considered as leisure). Therefore, spending on travel is only for purposes of unavoidable occasions such as burial or wedding ceremonies either within or without the home country.

Euromonitor International however says this trend is gradually changing, as more Africans are now embracing domestic tourism both in their countries and within the continent. This is highly as a result of efforts by respective governments to ease travel measures, with favorable packages that are affordable for the locals as well as visa free restrictions within many African countries.

Kenya: A Case Study

After a significant period of severe decline in the influx of tourists in Kenya, due to, among others, the election related challenges and impact of international economic and financial crises as well as security related challenges, the Tourism Sector is gradually stabilizing. This was largely attributed to the lifting of travel advisories by the United Kingdom, especially towards the country’s 2015 peak season. The relative security across Kenya during the 2015-2016 period has also gone a long way in restoring confidence among both domestic and international tourists.

American President Barrack Obama’s visit to Kenya in July last year (approximately a year ago), as well as major international conferences; notably the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference held in Nairobi in December 2015 and the just concluded UNCTAD 14 Conference (July 2016), were great endorsements towards restoring the country’s Tourism Industry. In supporting the claims, Estelle Verdier, East & Southern Africa’s Managing Director of Jumia Travel, Africa’s leading online hotel booking portal, depicts the global trust in the Kenyan tourism industry as a great milestone in encouraging locals to explore the country’s great tourist treasures.

The zeal by Kenyans to save the dwindling industry cannot be overlooked. The Kenyan government has come out to strongly encourage Kenyans to embrace domestic tourism. Recently, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said that Kenya should not rely on foreign markets to boost the tourism sector; rather they should come together and promote domestic tourism. Among the measures put by the government to encourage local tourism is by providing that corporate and business entities (employers) pay vacation trip expenses for their staff on annual leave in Kenya and deduct such expenditures in their taxes. This would bring to total over 300,000 additional Kenyan guests in Kenyan hotels throughout the country.

Being the enthusiasts they always are, Kenyans took up the spirit to rise above its dependence on foreign tourists to grow the industry. The introduction of campaigns like ‘Tembea Kenya’ (A Swahili statement for Tour Kenya), is a true reflection of Kenyans patriotic spirit. With an aim to promote tourism particularly among Kenyans, Tembea Kenya, led by local Radio host Maina Kageni, sets to tour 53 locations around the country. Corporates have also not been left behind, with campaigns such as#KenyaYetu by Jumia Travel, aiming to encourage Kenyans to share photos of their travel experience from across various destinations in the country. This move is also seen to motivate others to tour the same destinations to first hand experience the country in all its beauty.

With such initiatives by Kenyans for Kenya, domestic tourism has become significant as it is expected to cushion tourism during low periods of international arrivals. In Kenya’s Vision 2030, tourism has been identified as one of the top priority areas for driving a double digit economic growth and development.

However, while enthusiasts remain optimistic, early political campaign rallies this year in preparation for the 2017 election might cause an alarm in the tourism sector. Yet, despite these numerous challenges, Kenya remains a top travel destination in the world; and hopefully the aspect of domestic tourism will place Kenya at an even better position.


Kenya is just but one of the many African countries striving to cash in on domestic tourism, especially during turbulent times. Figures by the Domestic Tourism Growth Strategy (2012-2020), show the volume of domestic holiday travelers in South Africa rising from 3.9 million in 2010 to a target 6 million in 2015. The trajectory shows a possible 9 million domestic tourists by the year 2020.

Other factors highly contributing to the increase in domestic tourism in Africa are the presence of local airlines offering affordable air fares for locals traveling from one domestic short haul destination to another. Provision of discounted boarding rates for resident tourists by major hotels has also gone a long way in encouraging locals to travel; not to mention the flexible mobile payment options like EcoCash in Zimbabwe, Tigo Pesa in Tanzania and M Pesa in Kenya among others.

According to UNWTO Tourism Highlights 2016, as a worldwide export category, tourism ranks third after fuels and chemicals and ahead of food and automotive products. In many developing countries, tourism ranks as the first export sector. As an emerging tourism destination from the traditional favorites of Europe and America, Africa has proved resilient to the occasional shocks and is set to receive a three-fold boost in its tourism revenue with the continued domestic tourism initiatives.


The hostel grows up: 'Poshtels' make their way to USA

The hostel grows up: ‘Poshtels’ make their way to USA

636023043286790741-Poshtel-1For many people, the word hostel evokes images of grungy backpackers, uncomfortable beds, shared bathrooms and snack machines.

But that’s a hostel for another era. These days, hostels are more like boutique hotels at a bargain price.

The upscale hostel trend was born in Europe. To attract younger travelers, hoteliers started outfitting hostels with bars, coffee counters, game rooms and full-service restaurants.

This type of accommodation has become so common that it has earned a name: poshtel, short for posh hostel.

The idea has made its way across the Atlantic, with the introduction of such brands as Freehand and Generator. Rates for shared rooms can be as low as $25 a night. Many offer private room alternatives as well as free Wi-Fi, breakfast and activities to promote interaction among guests. Some even have swimming pools.

“Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the variety of the look and feel of hostels,” says Netanya Trimboli, director of communications and public relations for Hostelling International USA, a non-profit, member organization. “With just the sheer number of hostels in Europe, there has been a natural creation of various niche products.  Just as the hotel market saw the introduction of life-style boutique hotels 25 or so years ago, we’re now seeing the same in the hostel sector.”

Trimboli says there are more than 360 hostels in the USA. According to the global organization Hostelling International there are more than 4,000 hostels worldwide.

The demographics of a poshtel vary, but for the most part they attract Millennials, those in their 20s and early 30s who are highly coveted by the hotel industry because of their increasing purchasing power and desire to travel.

“We find Millennials are especially drawn to our emphasis on social interaction among people of diverse backgrounds to serve our purpose to create a more tolerant world,” Trimboli says.

The popularity of hostels is growing, says Jeremy Crider, manager of public relations for North America for Trivago, a travel booking website.

In London, hostels accounted for about 3% of all accommodation searches for summer 2016, based on data collected from January to June for travel between June 1 and Aug. 31. Last year at the same time, 2% of searches for London travel involved hostels, Crider says.

“As more and more travelers seek out a local, authentic experience, we can expect to see interest continue, as poshtels and smaller, independent hotels often allow visitors more of an opportunity to immerse themselves in the city,” he says.

Here’s a look at a few poshtels that are upping their game in the USA and abroad:


This non-profit organization has 54 hostels in the USA, in cities such as New York, Boston and San Francisco. Trimboli says many have added amenities such as free breakfast, Wi-Fi and regularly scheduled tours and activities to help them compete with other poshtels. The Boston and San Francisco properties offer each guest a “bed oasis” featuring a private charging station, lamp and shelf.  At HI Boston and HI Richmond, guests can charge devices in the protection of a private locker next to the bed. HI Boston has a washer and dryer that will text guests when done. Beds at HI NYC have privacy curtains. HI San Diego plays host to a quarterly art show. And HI San Francisco Downtown has a movie room.

Dorm beds range from $20 to $49 a night.

Freehand Miami/Chicago

The company bills its properties as a “hotel and hostel,” with shared and private rooms available. The Freehand Miami offers a complimentary breakfast that includesCuban pastries and locally roasted Panther Coffee. It also has a pool and an award-winning cocktail bar called Broken Shaker.

The Freehand Chicago is housed in a classic 1970 building in the River North neighborhood. An event coordinator plans outings and activities for guests. The company teamed with design firm Roman and Williams to give the property an upscale yet comfortable look.

Rates for shared rooms start at about $40 a night.

“People are looking for good value and the shared alternative is a way for people to travel and spend money on food and experiences rather than spend much of their budget on accommodations,” says Andrew Zobler, founder and CEO of the Sydell Group, which developed the Freehand. “People are staying in school longer. They’re staying single longer. And so they’re looking to travel but not to spend a lot of money.”

Zobler, who is also behind the ritzy NoMad hotel in New York City, says he wanted to provide that affordable alternative without compromising style or comfort.

“Some people have this idea that hostels can be more like army barracks and cot-like,” he says. “All of our beds are solid and made from Amish craftsmen. We’re trying to bring that NoMad spirit to the Freehand.”

The Bivvy, Breckenridge, Colo.

This ski hostel has an outdoor hot tub overlooking the Ten Mile Mountain Range. A hot breakfast is included. All rooms, including shared ones, have private bathrooms. Wi-Fi is free. Draft beers and wine are served each night. Guests pay as little as $29 a night depending on the season.

Hotel manager Balazs Jarai says skiing can be an expensive hobby and the Bivvy gives travelers, especially younger ones, the opportunity to indulge in it.

“There really wasn’t an affordable way to do it,” he says. “You were looking at peak season, a $200 hotel room. Or you’d have to get up at 5 a.m. for one day of skiing. We’re basically aiming to offer a little bit more and still have the hostel atmosphere,”

While most guests tend to be 18 to 35 years old, the hostel attracts older people too, he says.

“It’s a really nice scene,” he says. “You’ll have a couple of in their 60s talking to an 18-year-old backpacker from Australia and getting along quite well.”

Space Hotel, Melbourne

Poshtels are now popular all over the world. This budget hotel offers shared and private rooms. The rooms have a modern design and feature iPod-docking stations, high quality mattresses and flat screen TVs.

There are 44 dorm-style rooms that can sleep up to eight people at a price of $37 a head. Female-only rooms are available. There are 63 private rooms with shared facilities for $89, and rooms with private bathrooms start at $115.

Wi-Fi is free. Guests can play games and lounge around various public areas. There’s also a fitness center, reading lounge and a movie screening room. The Space Deck is a rooftop retreat with a jacuzzi, sun lounges and impressive views of the city.

“A poshtel is like a social hotel experience,” says Yossi Gallor, chief operations officer. “Guests get all of the comforts of staying in a hotel along with the advantages of the social atmosphere associated with hostels.”

The Blue Moon Bar offers cocktails and craft beer. For those who don’t want to eat out, a full-equipped kitchen is available with individual lockers for food storage.

Generator Amsterdam

This global hostel chain is quickly expanding, with a Miami property scheduled to open next year. So far, there are 10 properties. In addition to the Miami hostel, properties are scheduled to open in Rome and Stockholm next month.

The recently opened Generator Amsterdam offers amenities such as a restaurant and two bars. Whimsical murals are painted throughout the property. Private rooms are spacious, with some offering views of a park across the street. Shared rooms have private bathrooms. Each bunk has outlets for charging mobile devices.

Starting nightly rates for shared rooms are about $17, for private rooms about $73 and for luxury suites about $113.

Guests can drink local artisan coffee. They can also borrow bikes.

Built in a former university that housed science labs, the designers kept many of the features including an auditorium used for lectures. That is now the site of one of the bars.

“This is not what you think about when you think of a hostel,” says Fredrik Korallus, Chief Executive Officer of Generator Hostels, during a tour of the property.

Korallus says poshtels are increasingly competing with lifestyle and boutique hotels, such as the trendy Ace and Hoxton.

“For the traveler who can’t afford the Hoxton or the Ace, we offer, from a social perspective, a similar experience, and from the design perspective, a similar experience,” he says.

The food and beverage experience has also become increasingly important at upscale hostesls. The hotel offers a menu with locally sourced ingredients and craft beers. Employees also organize events and curate the music guests hear in public spaces.

“For the first time in my career, I’m not selling sleep. I’m not selling beds,” he says. “I’m selling experiences. The bed and the sleep become secondary.”


Marriott Receives Antitrust Clearance from the European Union to Acquire Starwood

Marriott Receives Antitrust Clearance from the European Union to Acquire Starwood

Marriott-and-Starwood-copyMarriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR) and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide (NYSE: HOT) today announced they have received unconditional clearance from the European Union for Marriott to acquire Starwood in a merger transaction.

In announcing the decision in a press release issued by the European Commission, the Commissioner for Competition, Margaret Vestager, said, “This is an important merger for the hotel industry and its customers. Our investigation confirmed that the hotel sector will remain competitive for customers in Europe following the merger, so I am pleased that the Commission was able to clear the transaction quickly.”

The closing of the proposed merger is subject to obtaining additional antitrust clearances, including in China, and satisfying other customary closing conditions that are in the merger agreement. European Union clearance represents satisfaction of a major closing condition to the proposed merger.

Until legal close, the companies will continue to operate as separate and independent entities.

Stockholders of both Marriott and Starwood overwhelmingly approved proposals related to the transaction on April 8 and Marriott and Starwood anticipate closing the transaction in July 2016.

Note on forward-looking statements
This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of U.S. federal securities laws, including the parties’ plans for closing the transaction; plans and expectations; and anticipated future events and expectations that are not historical facts. We caution you that these statements are not guarantees of future performance and are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including the receipt of necessary consents, and other risk factors that we identify in in Marriott’s and Starwood’s most recent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and in the joint proxy statement / prospectus on Form S-4 that Marriott filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on February 16, 2016. Any of these factors could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations we express or imply in this press release. We make these forward-looking statements as of the date of this press release. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.