But just one month after announcing plans in 2009 for a brand to be called Denizen, Starwood hit Hilton with a corporate espionage lawsuit that killed those plans and kept Hilton on the lifestyle sidelines while competitors like Marriott International ...
The brand opened hotels last month in Dallas and Portland, Ore., bringing to five the number in its portfolio. It expects to open 30 more by 2024, including three this year and four in 2019.
With that growth in key cities beyond the uniquely located inaugural property in Reykjavik, Iceland, hospitality consultant Bjorn Hanson said Hilton "may have had a slow start but now is reaching a base from which to start to accelerate."
But it wasn't easy.
At the height of the rush to create lifestyle brands to compete with W Hotels, the popular brand then owned by the former Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hilton in 2008 hired two key Starwood executives to develop its response.
But just one month after announcing plans in 2009 for a brand to be called Denizen, Starwood hit Hilton with a corporate espionage lawsuit that killed those plans and kept Hilton on the lifestyle sidelines while competitors like Marriott International, Hyatt and IHG got busy developing a host of new lifestyle offerings.
A settlement of the suit in 2010 prevented Hilton from building lifestyle hotels for two years. The Canopy brand was finally unveiled in 2014, a less than ideal time, Hanson said, as few management contracts were up that year and the industry was still suffering a slowdown in construction from the recession.
"It was not the best of times," he said.
In the end, however, there's usually a silver lining. And now, while early lifestyle entrants are scrambling to renovate to remain relevant, Canopy is tapping into one of the hottest trends in travel: being local. A key element of the brand standard is to be located in interesting neighborhoods, not necessarily big city centers.
The two newest hotels are in Dallas' Uptown neighborhood and Portland's Pearl District. And there are more to come in areas such as Atlanta Midtown; the Minneapolis Mill District; the San Antonio Riverwalk; downtown Grand Rapids, Mich.; Yorkville in Toronto; the Commons in Ithaca, N.Y.; and the Chartrons district in Bordeaux, France. The brand debuted late last year in the new Wharf district of Washington.
Gary Steffen, global head of the brand, said the new hotels represent well the "thoughtfully local choices and surprising extras [that] have been part of the brand's DNA since its inception."
"Each property is a natural extension of its neighborhood as seen through local design, food and drink and culture," he said.
The Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District is in the heart of a revitalized industrial zone with indie boutiques, art galleries, microbreweries, green space and eateries -- the type of neighborhood, Steffen said, that is "perfect for a new lifestyle hospitality brand."
"The Canopy by Hilton Dallas Uptown draws guests to Dallas' most walkable district, featuring more than 100 shops, restaurants and entertainment," he said. The property "emphasizes its locale by telling the story of the Uptown district throughout the hotel, including artwork, vintage bricks from McKinney Avenue and a refurbished piece of the M-Line Trolley."
Decor at the Canopy by Hilton Portland Pearl District includes raw steel, Pendleton wool fabrics, industrial touches and artwork procured through Portland galleries.
Another brand feature, he said, is Canopy Central, an open lobby where the properties feature events such as tastings from local brewers and distillers.
All Canopy properties also offer WiFi, artisanal breakfasts, bike rentals and access to a transfer lounge with self-storage for luggage, changing areas and restrooms.
Also in the interest of keeping things local, both the Dallas and Portland properties participate in Canopy's Paws in the Neighborhood program, which, in partnership with Planet Dog, offers four-legged guests a Just-Right dog bed and a welcome gift that includes a Planet Dog Orbee ball, a locally sourced dog treat, a pickup bag dispenser and a fleece-lined leash and collar.
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