Checking In: For One Classic Hotel Brand, a New Renaissance

by  Laura Motta | Jul 3, 2014
Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile / tifonimages/iStock

If you think that DJ sets, mixology events, sleek common spaces, LEED certification, book signings, and lightening-fast internet don’t sound like hallmarks of most big-brand hotels, you’d be right. But the Renaissance hotels, owned by Marriott, are striving for a more boutique aesthetic these days. Of course, that means having to shrug off the stereotypes of outdated rooms, subpar restaurants, and uninspired common spaces that people associate with big corporate hotel chains. And that means making its newest properties less cookie-cutter and more bespoke than ever.

That’s especially true for its new hotels outside of the United States, which are either newly opened or soon-to-be opening in destinations like Bali, Aix en Provence, and Santiago. We headed (way) south for the opening of the latter property last week to see just what Renaissance has planned for its present and future. Just some of the things that it’s focusing on right now:

Younger travelers
We’ve heard a lot from hotels that want to cater to millennials. Renaissance’s spin on this is creating beautiful, comfortable common spaces where younger travelers can park themselves with their laptops and phones, whether they’re working on a presentation or looking at cat pictures on Facebook. The idea isn’t just give to people a place to zone out, but to let them connect to both their machines and the people around them. No more locking down in a hotel room to do work or check email; the devices, after all, move with the traveler.

Ready to hear a new local band or attend a wine tasting? In previous decades, many branded hotels would fall silent in the evenings -- save some elevator music in the lobby. Renaissance is striving to keep things lively, and even loud. It opened its Santiago, Chile property on something it called its Global Day of Discovery, which happens on June 25 each year. Celebrations at the hotel included a DJ set by Passion Pit, an auction of local photography to benefit fire victims in the city of Valparaiso, and dancing until 2 a.m. Travelers arriving on other dates won’t necessarily get the same experience, but the idea is to get them out of their rooms and into performance spaces, restaurants, and bars to have an experience, not just a place to lay their heads.

Highlighting the destination
If your hotel frames your entire travel experience, Renaissance wants to give you a frame that looks like what’s outside the hotel. Its new properties are filled with local art, restaurants that use local ingredients, and are done up in the colors of the natural landscape. The hotel’s Navigator program works as a kind of souped-up concierge, giving travelers recommendations that go beyond basic sites and restaurants. Navigators can help travelers find trendy shops, quirky restaurants, and places where locals go about their daily business.

Some of the new Renaissance hotels are beach properties. Others, like the hotel in Santiago, are built into slick, glass-covered high-rises. Others yet, like the brand’s London property, the St. Pancras, are built into classic old architecture that’s been refurbished. The goal is to do what really fits the destination.

Internet that doesn’t require fifteen passwords and approval screens? Check. A strong signal on every floor, in every room? Check. iPads in the rooms and mobile check in? Coming soon. Electricity used to be the lifeline that people couldn’t do without. Now it’s internet access. Renaissance is looking to end the days of endless passwords, slow connections, and dead spots in hotels.

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