Marriott hires Richmond firm to design millennial-friendly hotels


The new venture is part of an effort by Marriott to woo travelers in their 20s and 30s. AC Hotels by Marriott will offer free WiFi, an extensive selection of craft beers and work by local artists. (Danny Johnston/AP)

Marriott International has tapped the Richmond-based architecture firm Baskervill to design a line of trendy mid-priced hotels aimed at young travelers.

AC Hotels by Marriott, a collaboration between the Bethesda giant and the Spanish chain AC Hotels, aims to open its first U.S. location in New Orleans at the end of this year. A hotel in Miami is scheduled to follow soon after.

“Both New Orleans and Miami are good markets to build a brand,” said Lionel Sussman, vice president of architecture and construction for Marriott Endorsed brands. “We want to be in high-profile areas.”

The venture is part of an effort by Marriott to woo travelers in their 20s and 30s. AC Hotels by Marriott will offer free WiFi, an extensive selection of craft beers and work by local artists.

More than 30 such properties are already in the pipeline.

“As a company, we’re focused on the next-generation traveler,” Sussman said, adding that the company is working with Baskervill to help reach a younger demographic. “We needed a partner to help us bring both the design and the functional parts of the hotel to U.S. standards.”

AC Hotels has 79 locations in Spain, Italy, Portugal and France. The company’s partnership with Marriott looks to add an additional 300 hotels over the next 10 years.

Across the industry, hotels have begun looking for ways to attract younger guests.

In 2008, Marriott teamed up with entrepreneur Ian Schrager to create Edition, a boutique brand geared toward affluent millennials. With AC Hotels by Marriott, executives say they hope to attract a slightly different demographic: young travelers who will spend more time in local bars and restaurants than in their hotel rooms.

Sussman says there’s no reason the two new brands can’t coexist.

In Miami, for example, the AC Hotel by Marriott will be across the street from the Miami Beach Edition, a luxury beachfront property opening this year.

“You can have a drink at the AC Hotel and then walk across the street to have dinner at the Edition,” Sussman said. “The two brands really complement each other.”

Capital Business is The Washington Post’s weekly publication focusing on the region’s business community. Read more about Washington business at capbiz.biz.

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section.
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