Segmentation is a term every hotelier intimately understands. Since the 1970s and 1980s, when a proliferation of brands first occurred, the industry has regularly refined and introduced new hotel product, leading analysts to wonder just how specialized the landscape can get.

Segmentation used to mean choosing between full- or limited-service hotels, but now there’s a long list of segments available to developers including all-suite hotels, vacation ownership, boutiques and extended-stay. A new themed hotel has even opened in Liverpool, England, celebrating all things Beatles. Each of the 110 luxury and deluxe rooms feature exclusive memorabilia and specially commissioned Beatles artwork. Though not a novel concept (Hard Rock Hotels built themed properties years ago), it’s clear developers are being more creative as to what types of properties they’re building, and hoteliers are more focused on who they’re marketing those hotels to.

In the U.S., visionary hoteliers Ian Schrager and J.W. Marriott Jr. recently joined forces to create “Edition,” a lifestyle boutique brand. Defined as “a modern genre of hotel, focusing on personalized service in an environmentally responsible way,” Edition is set to open its doors in 2010. Clearly, the trend to segmentation is still gaining traction around the world. But are these properties truly servicing a specific segment of the population, which could not have otherwise been met by traditional full-service hotels?  

As we move into an era dominated by customization, where discerning tastes fuel new genres of products across various industry sectors, one wonders what segments will surface over the next decade. What’s to stop a company, for example, from creating a hotel brand exclusively for women travellers? Several years ago Ramada Hotels introduced a designated floor for female guests — a new idea at the time, but one that never truly took off. Yet statistics show that in families, women are responsible for 85 per cent of all consumer decisions, and 70 per cent of travel decisions. Perhaps a female-only hotel isn’t too far down the road.

What would such a hotel focus on? According to a 2006 survey by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell, women want the following in a hotel: security; cleanliness; transportation (complimentary shuttle to and from the airport and to outlying areas); express check in and check out; creature comforts (full-length mirrors, make-up mirrors and hair dryers, spa services, and more diverse restaurant offerings); ambiance (small boutique hotels and distinctive decor); and frequent-guest points. If that list can serve as an effective starting point for a brand-specific hotel for women, can we expect to see hotels in the near future positioned toward baby boomers, Gen-Xers, gays or the disabled?

In these days of niche fever, at what point does a specialized market suddenly warrant its own market segment?    


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