Hilton Launches New Indie-Themed Curio Brand

Curio: Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, SD
Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, SD, Presidential Suite Large

After years of rumors and stories about those rumors, Hilton Worldwide officially announced the launch of Curio – A Collection by Hilton today, one of two new brands it’s developing to meet leisure and group demand for less corporate-style hotels.

Curio is a curated collection of existing upscale hotels offering a unique story and highly local experience, much along the same lines as Marriott’s successful Autograph Collection.

As of this morning, Hilton is bringing the new brand to market with SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino; The Sam Houston Hotel in Houston; Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City, SD; The Franklin Hotel in Chapel Hill, NC; and a property in downtown Portland to be named shortly.

“Our customers and owners have expressed strong interest in a brand from us that includes hotels that can retain their unique identity but also deliver the many benefits of our system, including our Hilton HHonors guest loyalty program,” said Christopher Nassetta, president/CEO of Hilton Worldwide, in a prepared statement. “That desire, combined with the current size of the independent hotel market and demand for differentiated hotel stays around the world, made for the right timing for this launch. Curio is an exciting new brand for us, one of two unique concepts we’ll introduce this year.”

The second concept will be a much anticipated lifestyle platform to compete with brands like Starwood Hotel’s W chain and Hyatt’s Andaz properties.

What’s interesting here is that Hilton Worldwide clearly sees an opening in the marketplace in second and third tier cities. More and more of these indie-themed and/or lifestyle-oriented brands are delivering stylish hotels outside major markets at a much more approachable price point, based on heavy demand from groups across all age segments.

Although it’s too early to gain any indepth appreciation of the overall brand strategy based on Curio’s product options to date, Hilton Worldwide’s choice of hotels for Curio is a little curious. SLS Las Vegas, The Franklin and Alex Johnson seem like entirely different experiences catering to wildly disparate audiences.

Hilton runs the risk of diluting the brand story without a common narrative, but for now, we’ll wait and see as new hotels come online. The idea of embracing secondary markets, ostensibly on a global level, is intriguing. However, the hotels themselves need to be as interesting as well to answer today’s massive demand for experiential, 21st century design-conscious hotels aligned with their local neighborhoods.

There will also have to be a significant investment in new photography to be able to create any type of engaging online platform and potential RFP engine.