After a two-year lull in the introduction of new hotel brands, a Florida real estate developer and hotel industry veteran last night unveiled plans for a new upper-upscale lifestyle brand to be known as B.
With a party and a level of optimism that hailed back to the boom times of 2006 and 2007, when lifestyle brands seemed to multiply like rabbits, the group behind the newest contender in that space showcased B at the annual Lodging Conference hotel investment summit in Phoenix.
The brand's flagship will open in December in Fort Lauderdale, said Christopher Tompkins, who is driving development of the brand under CEO and founder Ayelet Weinstein.
Tompkins, who has worked for Starwood, Hilton, Carlson and Hard Rock, helped open the W hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
But he emphasized that B will not be a W copycat.
For starters, he said, B hotels will be smaller than some of the bigger competitors. The first hotel, B Ocean, is being developed in an old but long-empty Holiday Inn and will have just 238 rooms and suites.
Like W, however, the brand plays off its one-letter name. Where W has adopted a "whenever, wherever" motto, B uses its one-letter name with all of its programs. "B green," for example, emphasizes its environmental consciousness, "B activities" its fitness program and "B indulge" its spa.
Still, Tompkins emphasizes, that B wants to be more inclusive than some of the hipper lifestyle brands, targeting a wide demographic of customers ranging in age from the mid-30s to mid-70s.
"The most important element is to be approachable," he said. "Not exclusive or elusive but inviting and warm, where anyone can find a good comfortable zone."
Tompkins described the brand's design as "modish."
"It's classy. It's chic. It's elegant," he said.
And except for a signature B'istro that will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, he said each property would be unique and designed to fit its location.
The Fort Lauderdale property, B Ocean, is in a unique spot between an environmental preserve and the Bonnet House museum and gardens, meaning each room has unobstructed views up and down the coast.
Tompkins said the brand was created with an unusual business model. A private group owns the hotel, which will be managed by a third party. The brand is run by an advisory council of executive from the hotel, airline and cruise industries.
While he said the goal would be to expand in city centers and resort destinations in North America and the Caribbean, he declined to say where the next Bs might be located or how many the group expects to open in the next few years.
"We are looking to buy several additional properties," he said, noting that the brand will be mostly created through conversions.
However, he said the group would not sign deals to bring any third parties into the brand until after the Fort Lauderdale property opens in December.
"It's not just about changing a flag to our brand," he said. "We want them to be engaged and truly believe in our culture."
He insisted the brand will be able to differentiate itself from all the other lifestyle brands that have been introduced in recent years.
"There are a lot of lifestyle brands out there," he said. "They all speak to the senses, to the sensory experience. We take it to the next step, and we talk to the individuals' desires and passions. We really feel, when it said and done, that the industry will say we actually established a new type of brand."