Autograph introduced at the St. Ermin’s

    150 150 Daniel Fountain
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    A heavyweight crew from Marriott last night formally launched the St. Ermin’s as the latest addition to the Autograph collection marketed by the company. Flanked by Tina Edmundson, the Global brand Officer for the non-brand that is Autograph, and John Licence responsible for Autograph Europe, Steve Eckley, the Senior VP of Amerimar who redeveloped the St Ermin’s reported a strong rise in room sales since the switch from Accor. Now some 25% of bookings now coming from Marriott Rewards clients.

    My involvement with hotel design goes back nearly 40 years. In those days of the mid to late 20th Century a guest was fortunate if his expectation of an en-suite bathroom would be met by his hotel. Indeed such provision was known once upon a time as an ‘American Room’. When I founded my practice in 1982 for the next ten years our bread and butter work was converting hotels to have en-suite facilities. It is easy to lose sight of how guest expectations have risen, and the launch of Autograph by Marriott in late 2009 was a clear indicator that rising expectation of the nature of the hotel experience continues to dominate the thinking of regular travellers.
    Creating Autograph, said Marriott, gave “them the ability to capture a broad audience that would not have typically considered a branded concept – appealing to guests who want to stay in independent hotels”. No longer satisfied with what is now a minimum expectation at 2 star level of an en-suite bath or shower room, the seasoned guest is increasingly looking for an hotel experience that compliments travel experience. This rising expectation, first identified in the wealthy luxury end of the market by Anouska Hempel with Blakes in 1981 and followed by Schrager with Morgans in 1984, is causing many groups to look hard at how they can replicate the appeal of the ‘boutique’ hotels. IHG are flying their Indigo brand; Starwood, after failing to capitalise on the start given by Barry Sternlicht with the original ‘W’ still struggle to grow in this end of the market. Autograph represents a simple way for Marriott to leverage their brand strength and cement the loyalty of their Rewards clients whilst serving this demographic.

    In essence the Autograph collection allows a good boutique to remain a good boutique whilst providing a brown paper wrapper that enables the use of Marriott’s great marketing muscle without the labels popping out at the guest everywhere in the hotel, or even, possibly, in the booking process. As definitions of luxury shift to the nature of the experience and the cohort with the money to enjoy the experience becomes older, then the rôle of the hotel in the experience changes. No longer is it sufficient for the hotel to provide a great place to sleep, it now has to perform the supporting rôle in the theatre of travel.

    Each hotel in the Autograph collection is intended to be independent and unique, to have essentially a boutique type identity and not be clearly branded. To independent owners like Amerimar, owners of the St. Ermin’s, this is an attraction. Previously flirting with Accor, Steve Eckley of Amerimar confirmed the decision to move to Autograph had been driven at least in part by their desire to market into the strongly recovering US market rather than struggling to sell into a Europe still in the deep throes of the depression the Euro is reinforcing.

    The evening was rounded off by a tasting from the suppliers of the hotel, including a display of the honey produced by the hotels own bees in their own rooftop hives. The hotel offers bee keeping classes from September…

    To book St. Ermin’s click click

    Patrick Goff July 17 2013

    Daniel Fountain / 17.07.2013

    Editor, Hotel Designs


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