Cool stops being cool the moment it feels deliberate, and a boutique hotel isn't boutique if its “originality” can be mass-produced. That’s why Hilton won’t use the B-word to describe Canopy, the company’s newest lifestyle brand, as it builds momentum for an early 2016 debut in Reykjavik, Iceland. But there’s no doubt that it’s taking cues from the independents, which attract a growing market share of travelers seeking authenticity and personalization. (Hilton's not alone; just this year, Starwood Resorts unveiled its four-star Tribute Portfolio, while Marriott introduced a millennial-centric Moxy brand to North America.)
Don’t worry, there’s more than an Instagram-able vibe to Hilton’s new brand. Canopy execs started a conversation with consumers -- hitting the streets of up-and-coming neighborhoods, tasting the carrot cake at that new bakery everyone’s talking about. The result? Modern hospitality, where sense of place and the spirit of boutique hotels meet years of industry experience and the perks of a robust rewards program. Here’s what you should know about the brand.
1. Design is left to the designers.
While it's part of the official brand name, “by Hilton” isn’t on the Canopy hotels’ signage -- and they won’t look like chain hotels. There will be brand consistencies, of course, but Hilton isn’t dictating details. Each property is built by an independent hotelier, averaging 160 rooms and using natural materials true to its surroundings to blend into the neighborhood. Canopy Reykjavik is all cool silver and concrete, while a hotel in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter might be an extension of the neighborhood’s red brick and Victorian-era street lights. Rooms are homey-chic -- think: mismatched end tables and a smart-looking chaise. As Gary Steffen, Canopy’s global head, puts it: “It adds the power of Hilton to a small, lifestyle hotel that someone wants to build anyway.”
2. You won’t spot a Canopy in Times Square.
In fact, New York is conspicuously missing from the list of more than 20 properties currently slated for development, and Steffen says it’s because they’re still on the hunt for the perfect address. Location is the backbone of the Canopy brand -- the hotels will be in areas where locals want to live that probably aren’t on the tourist circuit. What is currently on deck: Nashville, New Orleans, Portland’s Pearl District, and downtown Denver.
3. Cue the welcome committee.
A local treat greets guests at check-in -- if you’re in Washington, D.C., you might nibble on a bacon maple Jefferson doughnut from hotspot Founding Farmers -- and nightly beer and wine tastings from area producers encourage mingling. In each guestroom, an “art board” announces farmer’s markets, concerts, exhibits, and other events about town. Staff share the scoop on that awesome yoga studio or hidden dive bar down the street. The conversation also takes place on a much larger scale -- consumers can connect directly with local tastemakers through a #MeetTheNeighbors hashtag on social media.
4. Expect good vibes, zero attitude.
Canopy emphasizes positive energy -- and achieves it through an atmosphere that isn’t aimed at a specific demographic. In other words, skinny jeans are not required. The mentality is: “We’re glad you’re here. Hang out if you’d like, or cozy up with a movie just like you’d do at home.”
5. Intuitive perks are included.
The key to breeding positivity? Good listening skills. Canopy grew from a foundation of consumer research that yielded smart and relevant touches. WiFi is free, as is breakfast -- served with artisanal flair in the cafe or delivered in a to-go bag hung on the door. Handy smartphone shelves and open-plan closets add a modern element to room design.
6. It's all about smart luxury.
If you're looking for an upscale experience that won't cost a fortune, Canopy will be a good bet. In the words of one executive, rates will be “just a tick higher” than the typical Hilton, Marriott, or Westin -- but lower than a Waldorf or Conrad.