|By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 18, 2007 - PLANO -- Inside the lobby of the Nylo Hotel, glass chandeliers are made to look like antlers, a pod chair hangs from the ceiling, guests check in at an electronic kiosk, and staff members are decked out in chic uniforms designed by Project Runway alum Daniel Vosovic.
Around the corner, the "Game Room/Library" has a polished stainless steel bar reminiscent of an airplane wing, pink cowhide area rugs, ultrasuede upholstered banquettes and space for a disc jockey.
This is not your father's business hotel.
It's Atlanta-based Nylo Hotels LLC's first property, opening Tuesday in Plano's Legacy development. It's also the latest brand in the emerging "lifestyle" hotel segment, whose hallmarks include modern decor, clublike lobbies and bar areas, and loft-style rooms that can accommodate tech-savvy travelers' myriad gadgets.
Lifestyle hotels have gained popularity, thanks largely to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.'s stylish W Hotel and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants LLC's chain of small, sophisticated boutique inns, such as Dallas' Hotel Palomar.
Until recently, those high-style rooms were mostly limited to full-service hotels -- and guests with a hefty travel budget.
But Nylo, along with its peers at Hyatt Place, Cambria, Hotel Indigo and Starwood's soon-to-open Aloft, are taking aim at travelers who stay at select- or limited-service properties. Nylo's operators, like their peers, believe those customers will pay a premium -- up to 20 percent more -- for a hotel with a distinct personality.
"People want something different," said John Russell, Nylo's chief executive. "I could probably blindfold you and put you in 20 hotel rooms, and you couldn't tell me if you were in a Marriot Courtyard or Hilton Garden Inn. But you'll know right away you're in a Nylo room."
Mr. Russell is targeting suburban markets, where land is cheaper than in gateway cities and where there's little competition in the way of hip, stylish hotels.
In Plano's Legacy development, Nylo hopes to capture its core business from its roughly 50 neighbors who have corporate or regional headquarters there.
The $22.8 million, 176-room property was designed to look like an urban loft, complete with brick walls, exposed ductwork and polished concrete floors. Ceilings exceed 10 feet, and windows take up almost an entire wall of the guest rooms.
Tapping into the interest in "green" efforts, Nylo hotels will get about half of its energy needs from wind power. Lights in rooms will go on automatically when a guest arrives and shut off automatically when the guest leaves.
Nylo also hopes to tap into more sensitive travelers. The hotel's second floor has beds and pillows outfitted with allergy-free cases and high-tech air filters to kill any stray bacteria.
The hotels will have a local feel, using artwork from local artists and decor that taps into regional sensibilities. Nylo's Plano hotel will have an urban cowboy look; its location in Rhode Island, which is on a river and near the Atlantic, will have a water theme.
Nylo has also created a line of clothing and music, in hopes of creating marketing buzz.
Lifestyle hotels are a sharp turn from the development approach of the last few decades, when hotels built their brands around offering a consistent look, no matter the city.
"They institutionalized the guest experience so there would be no surprises," said Mark Woodworth, an executive vice president of hotel consultancy PKF Consulting in Atlanta, who added that lifestyle hotels now are the "hottest category, development-wise."
By using a conservative approach to design and style, hotels hoped to appeal to as many customers as possible, a strategy that lifestyle brands have set aside.
"Now hotels are targeting a discreet group of travelers who see a lot of value in the experience, driven by the look and feel of a hotel," Mr. Woodworth said.
Dan Williams, development director for Carrollton-based Aloft developer Aimbridge Hospitality LP, said customers in the lifestyle segment are looking for more of an experience -- rather than just a place to sleep -- out of their hotel stay.
"People are looking for more than just another business trip," Mr. Williams said. He pointed to similar shifts in consumer habits, such as going to Starbucks instead of a standard coffee shop or visiting a Whole Foods instead of a traditional grocery store.
"Across the economy, you see people going for more of an experience," he said.
Aimbridge has Aloft hotels under construction in Plano, Las Colinas and Frisco. The company hopes to break ground soon in Houston, Long Island, N.Y., and downtown Atlanta.
In addition to its Warwick, R.I., location under construction, Nylo plans to break ground in Las Colinas early next year. The chain, which will begin franchise sales in January, hopes to have 50 locations open or being built by 2010.
Locations: Plano; Las Colinas (building begins next year); Warwick, R.I. (under construction)
Expansion plans: The company hopes to have 50 locations open or under construction by 2010, largely through franchising.
Typical room price: $109 introductory rate
What: A stylish, boutique feel at the price of limited-service hotels
Competitors: Traditional hotels including Marriott Courtyard and Hilton Garden Inn, along with lifestyle brands such as Aloft, Hotel Indigo and Hyatt Place
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