Cornering The Market
White Lodging Continues To Ramp Up Its Presence In Austin, TX
Monday, August 14, 2017
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Legendary rock guitarist Keith Richards is reported to have had this to say about Austin, TX: “I like it here in Austin. Anybody got a room?”
Suffice it to say there are plenty of rooms in Austin for everybody these days—whether you’re a founding member of the Rolling Stones or just a traveler wanting to see what ‘keeping Austin weird’ is all about. That’s thanks in large part to White Lodging Services, a 32-year hotel management company with more than a dozen properties in the capital city of Texas.
“We’re smart hoteliers. We go to where the business is—and Austin continues to develop,” said Jay Spurr, director of sales and marketing for White Lodging Services, which continues to grow with the city that is the centerpiece of the Texas Hill Country.
For example, White Lodging Services, based in Merrillville, IN, earlier this month opened the Aloft and Element hotels in downtown Austin. The additions brought White Lodging’s portfolio to more than 165 hotels around the country, including properties by Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt. They also enlarged White Lodging’s footprint in the Austin hotel marketplace, which already included the JW Marriott Austin and the Westin Austin Downtown.
“Austin has all the right pieces for us to want to build hotels,” Spurr said. “It has high-tech corporations, the University of Texas and a lot of leisure activities. It’s always got something going on. And it’s a great destination to attract conventions.”
The downtown Austin Aloft (278 guestrooms) and Element (144 guestrooms) hotels each are in a 32-story development that features “Caroline,” an on-site restaurant, coffeehouse and bakery, as well as “Upstairs at Caroline,” which White Lodging Services describes as an “urban background playground,” complete with a bar for locals and guests.
The Aloft Austin Downtown features loft-like rooms with high ceilings, oversized windows, as well as a 24-hour grand-and-go kiosk for food and snacks. The Element Austin Downtown has studios as well as one-bedroom suites featuring fluid designs, modular furniture and custom-designed closets. The hotels share amenities, including a 24-hour fitness center and nearly 1,380 square feet of meeting space.
The Aloft brand can be generally defined as an urban inspiration brand that is driven by the experience-seeking guest. The Element band is more simplistic and sustainable and attracts guests who are into the wellness and fitness lifestyle.
“We are a destination built by city culture,” said David Meisner, general manager of each downtown Austin brand. “It’s all based on being able to pull through the amazing and eclectic culture of Austin.
“From our standpoint, we think that keeps with the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ mindset. We offer two very distinct experiences under one roof. Our goal is we kind of activate the DNA of Austin within our DNA. We want to stay true to each brand, the Austin market and operate coherent experiences at the same time.”
Caroline and Upstairs at Caroline are examples of White Lodging Services’ putting a local spin (or spins) on hotels based on destination. Want another? The downtown Element and Aloft hotels have teamed with iconic Austin-based western wear company Allens Boots on the “Boots to Borrow,” program, whereby guests at each hotel can borrow a pair of boots daily.
Guests also can receive a private fitting with a boot expert at Allens. Now that’s real Texas hospitality.
In addition, the architecture and design of the host building, Spurr said, makes guests feel like they are in Austin as opposed to just any other city. “The high energy of the music and entertainment with a Texas flair,” he said.
The dual brands, Spurr said, provide the right amounts of amenities for that segment of guests who aren’t looking for a truly full-service experience but want all the comforts of a great hotel.
“They are great additions to our portfolio,” Spurr said. “We are looking at a lot of the new brands you see coming up—Element being one. Aloft continues to grow in popularity. The Moxy brand is another. We’re looking at additional brands to keep diversifying our portfolio.
“What we have done as company since 1985 is develop a trust and loyalty with our owners. They know we can build fantastic hotels. When you look at guest satisfaction surveys, we always are in the top 10 percent. We add a flair to each property we open and help expand the brand.”