When was the last time you actually used the clock radio in your hotel room? Or needed help getting the bag you carried on to the plane into your room? That’s what we thought. Which is exactly why you wont find a clock radio or a bell desk in a single AC Hotel.
If you’re not familiar with AC Hotels, Marriott’s hip, new offshoot, you will be soon: According to Toni Stoeckl, the company’s Vice President for Lifestyle Brands, more than sixty AC Hotels are in the pipeline for the U.S., including properties in Chicago, Miami, Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. Considering the predominantly European brand didn’t exist in the States until late 2014, with the opening of the AC Hotel Bourbon in New Orleans, that’s as speedy as the free WiFi standard at all its properties.
According to Stoeckl, quick WiFi is just part of a master plan designed to draw the “next generation of travelers” -- tech-savvy professionals who want to see a city through local eyes. “They want a rich experience, but they’re not going to chase it down,” he says. “They’re looking for purposeful design and a little tranquility.”
That ethos comes courtesy of Antonio Catalan, who founded the brand in Spain in 1998. Catalan wanted to give travelers a true escape -- not just from the mundane, but from irritants like poorly lit workspaces, overly complicated showers, and dull hotel bars. He made his new hotels stylish, but also affordable. The formula worked so well that by 2011, when Marriott and AC Hotels launched their partnership, there were more than seventy AC Hotels across Spain and Italy.
Its latest property, the AC Hotel Atlanta Buckhead -- the first new hotel to open in Atlanta in eight years -- features the same smart, sleek aesthetic. Streamlined rooms are intuitive and adaptable: coffee tables on rollers are easy to move; leather-and-wood benches can serve as anything from extra seating to suitcase storage; mini-fridges have plenty of room for your leftover pad thai. You’ll also find Netflix on the (flat screen) television and USB ports and outlets galore. Breakfast, the only meal served in the AC Kitchen, is a European-style affair of sliced-to-order Spanish-style ham, cheeses, yogurt, and homemade breads. Lobbies are comfortable and filled with art, libraries are set with books that encourage a pause, and an inviting AC Lounge -- which functions as the co-working space Startup Grind by day and a bar at night -- buzzes with friendly energy.
But what sounds like a category-bending experiment actually translates into a package that works remarkably well -- largely thanks to a shift in service. Staff members, particularly bartenders, have been trained to connect guests to the neighborhood, offering advice on everything from restaurants to jogging routes. At the Atlanta location, for instance, we picked up a great recommendation for dinner, as well as the safest walking route to get there -- the sort of added touch that's likely to do well among next-gen U.S. travelers looking for more one-off experiences.