HotelChatter:: It seems like all of the sudden, Hard Rock is on an expansion binge with openings in Cancun and Panama and several more like Riviera Maya, Abu Dhabi and Aruba in the works. What has been the impetus behind all these new properties?
Michael Shindler:: It doesn’t feel "all of a sudden" to us! Our impetus has been the result of a lot of effort in a number of areas.
First, there is no doubt that the Cancun, Vallarta and Riviera Maya hotels are a continuation of our relationship with the All Inclusive Collection of the Chapur Family which commenced with our (and their) Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana. Our joint success there (in converting an existing, newly built property to the Hard Rock brand) enabled us to extend the relationship to the two newly-launched Hard Rock Hotels in Cancun and Vallarta and the to-be-converted Aventura Spa and Cove properties into Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya.
Second, our development team’s efforts in reconfiguring transactions that have been deferred due to the global economy and in locating new opportunities (Aruba is a terrific example) are paying off and third, our brand initiatives – like The Sound of Your StayTM and its constituent programs (PICKS, TRACKS and MIX) – resonate with our guests and, just as critically, with developers and investors looking for a fresh idea in the hotel and hotel/casino space.
HotelChatter:: As new Hard Rock hotel experiences open worldwide and with each one so different from the other--i.e. an all-inclusive beach resort in Cancun versus the Hard Rock in Orlando--what can guests always count on from Hard Rock hotels? What are the brand standards that you are committed to giving each guest?
MS:: In the Americas, every one of our properties – hotels and hotel/casinos – has achieved the coveted AAA Four Diamond award, many for years in succession. Our operating standards, for management and franchise/license transactions alike, are consistently high. Our marketing programs, like The Sound of Your StayTM, are brand-centric and guest friendly, we remain relevant in the music arena, and we work with our properties to present the brand in a consistent and energetic way while allowing each property to put its best foot forward. And, our soon-to-be-launched “Hard Rock Rewards” will tie the properties together in a new and exciting program.
HotelChatter:: Who is the Hard Rock hotel brand right for?
MS:: We say we appeal to the “bald to the bald” – from babies to the elderly. Some properties appeal to families (Hard Rock Hotel Orlando), some to a slightly grayer demographic (Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa), and some to business people and convention groups (Hard Rock Hotel San Diego and Hard Rock Hotel Chicago); our Asian beach properties in Bali, Pattaya and Penang appeal to a great mix of international tourists ranging from families to honeymooners. Our appeal runs universally to music lovers; after all, the baby boomers are the first generation in the world that grew up with rock ‘n roll.
HotelChatter:: What are some unique amenities or services that you offer to guests that no other hotels have or do?
MS:: There are many hotels that say music is in their DNA, but ours is part of our core being. Our PICKS, TRACKS and MIX programs (comprising The Sound of Your StayTM) are unique to Hard Rock Hotels and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino properties, and they shout out the connectivity to rock ‘n roll; every hotel offers a VIBE manager, who impacts the sounds in the public spaces, the lighting, the overall sense of being in a Hard Rock Hotel.
HotelChatter:: Any plans for Hard Rock hotels in more major U.S. cities like New York or Miami or Los Angeles?
MS:: In fact, we have been searching for the right opportunity in every major US city, these three (NYC, LA and Miami) in particular, as well as major cities around the world. With the economic challenges, we have seen the lack of new supply bolster both the performance and the values of existing properties in our and most international major urban areas. The price of admission to build a new or purchase an existing hotel is quite robust, and we continually monitor opportunities to bring the Hard Rock Hotel brand to these important destinations.
Thanks Michael for taking the time to answer our questions. Now, readers: Sound off in comments below about your recent Hard Rock hotel stay!