One of America’s long-running brands gets an all-new look, new logo, and new hotels.
Sheraton was a brand of firsts back when it debuted in 1937: the first hotel chain to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange; the first to have a centralized electronic reservations system; the first international chain to open a hotel in China (no longer a Sheraton, Chiel). Today, with 450 properties around the globe, it’s one of the world’s most recognized hotel brands, a household name. But what, exactly, does that name stand for now?
For the past few decades, Sheraton has suffered an identity crisis, and it’s been the brand’s biggest struggle. Unlike the Ritz-Carlton, synonymous with luxury and legendary service, or the EDITION, known for its lifestyle-driven, design-forward hotels, the chain has struggled to communicate a clear and distinct personality—if it even had one at all. At the heart of the problem was the confusing disparity between the different types of Sheraton properties: from its grand business hotels in cities like Sydney and Hong Kong, to its (now-defunct) highway motor inns, introduced in North America in the 1960s. This led to inconsistent perceptions of the brand that still prevail today: In Asia, Sheraton is seen as an upscale luxury hotel chain; in North America, it’s viewed as an outdated, middle-tier property. For the new generation of traveler—discerning, demanding, tech-savvy, social media-obsessed—Sheraton struggled to remain relevant, doomed to be written off as “our parents’ hotel” unless they made some serious changes.
Turns out, they were already ten steps ahead of us.
In June 2018, at the NYU International Hospitality Industry conference, Sheraton—part of the Marriott International company as of 2016—announced a bold plan to completely reinvent the brand, revealing a new vision in an interactive, 4,200-square-foot mock-up of its future lobby and public spaces. Then, in October, it announced the relaunch of six existing hotels—in Seattle, Cairo, Sydney, Santos, Brazil; Bengaluru, India; and Beijing—that had undergone extensive renovations to reflect many elements of this new vision. Now, Condé Nast Traveler has learned exclusively that the brand has plans to launch six new hotels that will be the full manifestation of the reinvented Sheraton brand, starting with Phoenix in late 2019, followed by Santa Fe; Dallas; Toronto; Nice, France; and Tbilisi, Georgia in 2020. And, though it’s early days yet, we’re liking what we see.
The new Sheraton is reminiscent of an understated EDITION with a touch of Ace: sleek, modern, and design-forward, with a mix of mid-century modern and minimalist decor. Rooms won’t feel like traditional hotel rooms at all, but breezy, light-filled condos with lots of natural wood and stone finishes, designed to make guests feel like they’re at home (that is, if your home had been styled by a Scandinavian interior designer and then meticulously Kondo’d out). In a genius move, its lobby and public spaces will blend together seamlessly in an open, sprawling, one-stop-shop layout, which seems less like a lobby and more like a modern-day town square.
Guests might start the day by grabbing a flat white at the coffee bar, setting up their laptop at the enormous wooden co-working table (outfitted with power outlets, USB ports, and lockable drawers for laptop storage and personal items), and then taking a lunch break at the lounge. After an afternoon conference call in one of the soundproof booths, they might make their way over to the coffee bar—which, by this time, will have transformed into a cocktail bar—for a pre-dinner drink. By knocking down the walls traditionally separating each space and allowing guests to work and play among like-minded travelers, Sheraton is creating what they believe will set apart their brand from the rest: a sense of community for the business travelers and digital nomads of the world. (Which, really, is just about the nicest thing you can offer a traveler who’s perpetually on the road).
“The Sheraton is a gathering place for guests and locals, a place where people can come together,” says Indy Adenaw, Sheraton’s Vice President and Global Brand Leader. “It’s got the soul and vibrancy of a mercado [market], with warm, welcoming spaces that blur together intuitively. Though you’ll be given cues on how to use them, ultimately, you’re free to make them completely your own.”
The “cues,” which come in the form of their digital app and the on-site Community Manager (a concierge of sorts who’ll help guests navigate the spaces and can assist with virtually anything, from getting you complimentary office supplies to booking you a cool restaurant for dinner), allow guests to completely personalize their stay with barely any effort. “We have this new, modernized design, and so of course the service needs to follow it,” says Adenaw. Even Sheraton’s food and beverage program, which favors small plates over heavy entrees and traditional three-course meals, is reflective of its commitment to an easily customizable guest experience.
“Hotel food is just too structured,” says Adenaw. “We’ll still have a restaurant, of course, but you’re free to customize your dining experience however you like. For example, you might be doing work at the desk, or on the phone inside a booth. Instead of having to go to a restaurant and sit down for a full meal, you can order food from the app or just gesture to the Community Manager, and it will be brought straight to you. Dining at a hotel should be arranged around you, not the other way around.”
Design and service aside, the biggest change to the brand is arguably its new logo, which has been changed for the very first time since the Sheraton was established 82 years ago. Though the changes are subtle—the laurels in the original crest were redesigned as a circle to represent the globe; the “S” features a more modernized font—Adenaw explains it was a deliberate move to pay homage to the old Sheraton that many still loved and recognized, while setting the tone for the brand’s future.
Though it’s still early days, the future’s looking promising for the brand. Of course, travelers won’t be able to experience or weigh in on the full reinvention until Phoenix, and even then, only time will tell whether its positioning as “the world’s gathering place” will click—or stick. But everything we’ve seen so far, from its sleek, Instagram-worthy design to its tech-forward features, shows that it’s paying attention, that it no longer wants to be “our parents’ hotel,” and—as the millennials would say—we’re here for it.
From: Condé Nast Traveler