It Takes Confidence To Announce A New Hotel Brand During A Pandemic

by joeheg

It’s one thing if you’ve been developing a hotel for years and just before the grand opening, a major catastrophe happens and decimates the number of travelers. What else can you do but open as scheduled and hope to ride it out until things recover? We’ve seen this happen in Orlando with the Marriott Grande Lakes Resort and Disney’s Pop Century which were well towards the end of construction during the 9/11 downturn in travel. The Marriott, featuring Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott branded hotels opened as planned, but it took almost a decade before phase 2 of Pop Century opened as the newly named Art of Animation.

Just recently, the second JW Marriott opened next to Disney World just as travel slowed to a fraction of its previous levels.

Once you’ve committed to building a hotel and it’s almost finished, there are not many other choices. But who would choose to launch a new hotel brand in the middle of a pandemic?

Say hello to the Univeral Music Group and the UMusic Hotels. That’s right. Universal is launching a new hotel brand centered around live music when hotel occupancy is in the basement and concerts are limited to Zoom events and drive-ins.

The first UMusic hotels will be located in Biloxi, MS, Atlanta, GA and Orlando, FL. The press release gives this information about what we can expect from the hotels.

Embodying each location’s unique spirit, the hotels will draw inspiration from their respective local culture and serve as creative hubs in communities around the world – promoting positive social change, education and innovation through the power of music. Guests will discover the soul of each city through its rich local music heritage.

If the goal was to build hotels in cities with a rich musical heritage, the first three locations are a bit of a head-scratcher. The Biloxi Sun Herald newspaper sums it up the best.

If it were purely about music, one of the first three UMUSIC Hotels might be coming to Memphis, Tennessee, or Austin, Texas. What Biloxi brings is both a rich music history and an approved casino site.

The Biloxi, MS location will be part of the previously announced $1.2 billion redevelopment of the Broadwater area, which includes a hotel, casino, indoor concert atrium, golf course and marina.

a large building with a large screen

The Biloxi location is slated to open in the summer of 2023.

While that hotel is part of an already announced project, there’s much less knows about the hotels in Atlanta and Orlando. For the other two hotels, all the info we get is that “In Atlanta, the UMUSIC Hotel will include a holistic entertainment venue. UMUSIC Orlando’s design will similarly reflect a music-first experience for guests.”

Your guess is as good as mine what that means. No locations for the hotels or timeframe for the opening were provided.

Final Thoughts

I don’t know what to think about these projects. Other brands have tried to expand into hotels with varied success. The Hard Rock brand has greater name recognition and brand identity than the Universal Music group. If you’re staying at one of their hotel/casino properties, you know what to expect. The same goes for the opening of several Virgin Hotels around the US. Each hotel is different, but they all adopt the distinct Virgin design aesthetic to the local feel of each city.

Universal Music Group doesn’t have anything unique about it. They’re a recording company that spans all genres. While this gives them a huge music catalog, the brand itself is quite vanilla. Contrast to if there was a hotel brand based on record labels like Sun Records, Motown, Def Jam or Sub Pop.

What do UMusic hotels bring to the table? Is each hotel going to feel the same or will they all be different? If it’s the latter, what’s the unifying theme, besides all of them featuring music. If the goal is to focus on the local music scene, why pick Orlando? Unless you want to focus on our short time as the center of the “Boy Band” universe.

Until we know an answer, I’ll mark this story as “to be continued.”

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


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