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After acquiring Starwood hotels last year, Marriott has been mostly content to maintain the status quo of Starwood’s various brands. Marriott rolled out reciprocal benefits for members of both their own program and the very popular SPG program, but that has been the bulk of the changes thus far.
However, Marriott has recently announced that they will be making changes to two former Starwood brands, one of which is Element hotels (the other brand is Aloft).
The big change coming to Element is the introduction of communal living room and kitchen spaces to select hotels. Each space would be at the center of four rooms. It would include a kitchen and living room area and would be a social hub. It would be like the living and/or kitchen space for a multi-bedroom suite, but with the potential for each adjoining room to be independently booked.
The change could certainly be a huge plus for people traveling in a large group. If you reserved all the rooms around one of the communal spaces, it could make for a fantastic vacation. You’d have all the benefits of renting a multi-bedroom condo, but with the privacy and services of a hotel, including the free breakfast offered at Element properties. Plus, you could be earning (or burning) reward points (not often possible at condo-style properties). The Element communal space could really be an appealing option for group travel.
But what about those not traveling in a group?
For others these changes could be quite negative. Imagine sharing a common kitchen with a bunch of other guests you’ve never met in you life. Talk about awkward. It’ll be like college all over again, but this time with random people while on vacation. No, thanks. If this communal kitchen replaces the in-room kitchenette offered at Element-brand properties (and I am assuming it would), it might completely break the brand for my wife and me. We most often travel as a couple and not with friends or family, and the introduction of communal spaces as a standard part of the hotel experience would cause us to steer clear of Element in the future.
There is probably nothing to fear, however, as I cannot imagine Marriott will roll out these changes to *all* rooms at their Element hotels. I am sure the company will hedge their bet and maintain a good number of rooms without the communal kitchen and living spaces. So overall I do consider this move to be a good one by Marriott.
Element hotels are already a solid brand. Starwood’s extended-stay brand was the first to seek worldwide LEED certification, and it has billed itself as a great option for eco-conscious travelers. The SPG-keyless brands also includes Element. The brand holds its own against Marriott Residence Inn and Hyatt House, in my opinion. My wife and I have stayed at one Element property and absolutely loved it.
This new twist on the brand by Marriott is certainly unique. Time will tell how innovative it is. The “connection factor” of the communal living room/kitchen spaces is something Marriott’s “innovation lab” claims travelers want. It could certainly be a boon for larger travel groups, but it could be completely off-putting to other potential guests.
You can find out more about the changes to Element here.