Stamford, Conn.: Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Inc. (NYSE:HOT) today announced the launch of new family programs rolling out at more than 300 Le Méridien and Westin Hotels & Resorts around the world. In response to the growing global demand of family travel and their evolving needs, both programs reinvent the kids club concept, reimagine family experiences within the hotel and introduce more meaningful branded amenities for young travelers. With multigenerational family travel on the rise, the programs specifically cater to the new way modern families travel, with any combination of parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents traveling with children of all ages.
Le Méridien Family Kids Club at Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Spa, Barcelona, Spain (Photo: Business Wire)
“Today’s family travelers are more active, more global and more socially-connected than ever before, and the way they travel together has changed dramatically,” said Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader, Le Méridien and Westin Hotels & Resorts. “In speaking with our most loyal guests, we know that the new dream vacation – for many – looks like an active adventure, exploring new destinations and experiencing a new culture. To help us develop these new family programs, we also zeroed in on insights from our littlest travelers, who will define expectations and inspire the future of family travel.”
From interactive programming and signature amenities offered at all hotels to physical play spaces at many resorts, both programs celebrate “the Universal Language of Play” – a concept that connotes that playing knows no borders or language barriers but is a vehicle to explore, learn, develop new skills, express ideas and build relationships with others. The Westin Family program draws inspiration from nature to promote a sense of well-being; while Le Méridien Family channels the inherent creativity and curiosity of children to unlock destinations through the brand’s Filters of Discovery—Coordinates, Culture and Cuisine.
Design-Savvy, Eco-Conscious & Culturally-Connected:
Today’s Small Travelers Set a High Bar for Next Gen Kids Clubs
The Westin Family Kids Club is informed by the brand’s Six Pillars of Well-being, featuring dedicated space for children to eat well, play well, feel well, work well, move well and sleep (or nap) well. The thoughtful design of the kids clubs was created with a focus on biophilia, which suggests that a connection to nature enhances well-being. The colors found in nature inspired the playful but sophisticated palette, creating a space that feels youthful and energetic. Meandering pathways guide kids to explore and learn, building on the idea that there are no straight lines in nature. The design also includes an extension of the brand’s Vertical Garden, which allows kids to experience nature and gardening hands-on. Like Haven, Westin’s design-driven lobby concept, the approach to The Westin Family Kids Club includes thoughtful zoning and elements designed to promote well-being as well as playing, relaxing and achieving.
“Gone are the days where children want to spend time surrounded by over-stuffed book shelves, plastic chairs and cartoon characters plastered on the wall,” said Erin Hoover, Vice President, Global Brand Design, Westin Hotels & Resorts. “Westin has taken special care to create spaces that are both good for the environment and healthy for younger guests. We consciously used responsibly sourced, recycled and low-impact materials with the goal to improve indoor air quality, encourage exposure to natural light and promote outdoor activity.”
Similarly, the narrative of Le Méridien Family Kids Club stays true to the design principles of the brand and as such, is the first hotel kids clubs inspired by mid-century modernism. The dedicated children’s spaces feature impactful arrival art work, flexible seating and styling elements that playfully mirror the Le Méridien Hub – the brand’s innovative lobby concept, reflecting its creative spirit, inspired by coffeehouses, travel and culture.
“From big to small, our guests are creative and curious-minded travelers, and the design and programming at Le Méridien Family Kids Clubs allows for children to express their creativity in unexpected ways and learn about the destination they are visiting,” said Julie Frank, Global Director of Design, Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts.
Le Méridien Family Kids Clubs draws inspiration from each hotel’s destination, bringing a layer of local culture and allusions to iconic landmarks into the design, while the programming continues to “unlock the destination” with local musical instruments and artful yet playful games and toys. For instance, stylized life-size maps harken to coordinates and encourage kids to note where they are from in the world, creating icebreakers and conversation starters. Even the snacks served at the Kids Club have a level of interaction and embrace exposure to local cuisines and ingredients as an enriching experience.
Families Disconnect to Reconnect:
More Mobile with Less Free Time, Families Value Shared Experiences
Designed through the lens of accomplishment and wonder, The Westin Family program offers a variety of interactive activities that help children of all age groups connect with their environment. Both urban and resort hotels encourage exploration, from crab-hunting at The Westin Blue Bay Resort & Spa in Hainan, China to cooking activities fostered by the brand’s partnership with SuperChefs at The Westin Hilton Head Resort & Spa in South Carolina.
The family program echoes the Westin Mantra that all guests should leave feeling better than when they arrived, not only the adults; though the wellness experiences have proven popular with parents and grandparents as well. “Generation X now loves health and wellness travel, too—especially coming out of the 2008 recession and as they age,” Julia Cosgrove, VP and Editor in Chief, AFAR Media, which has partnered with Westin on local city guides. “As one travel advisor put it, it’s all about ‘kale, quinoa, and cardio.’ These travelers want to get away, quickly disconnect, get in shape and bond with family.”
Le Méridien Family aims to ignite the imagination, so that young and old travelers can discover together. For instance, Le Méridien Ra Beach Hotel & Resort in Barcelona offers families of all ages the opportunity to unlock the destination with bicycle tours and photography lessons with access to the brand’s exclusive UNLOCKArt art partners in the area. Many hotels, like Le Méridien Phuket and Le Méridien Monte Carlo, offer experiences like Pétanque and a coffee and cocoa workshop that playfully harken back to the roots of the Parisian-born brand.
Part Playful, Part Educational:
Partners like the LEGO® Group and Imagination Playground Drive Booking Decisions
Earlier in the year, Le Méridien announced a global partnership with the LEGO® Group to offer a welcome amenity to children checking-in to any of its more than 100 hotels and resorts worldwide. Children up to age 12 will be greeted with a LEGO® toy to enjoy during their stay and take home as a keepsake from their travels.
Le Méridien has also engaged Imagination Playground, created by David Rockwell in cooperation with KaBOOM!, whose goal is to create play spaces that allow children to create, inspire, and imagine. A perfect fit for family-focused hotels like Le Méridien Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Golf Resort & Spa, Imagination Playground encourages kids to be designers, using the multiple pieces to create their own play space and tell their own story.
“More than two-thirds of our guests look at family programming when making hotel booking decisions, and increasingly, they value educational and cultural activities that promote outdoor play,” continued Povinelli. “The goal of our partnerships is to foster togetherness and broaden a child’s perspective of the world. Whether unlocking a destination with Le Méridien or connecting with nature at Westin, we hope to strengthen bonds and create memories among families and our youngest guests that are sure to last.”
Family Focus Groups & SPG Members Survey Inform New Global Family Offer
In partnership with C Space, a customer collaboration agency, Starwood surveyed SPG Members around the world as the Westin and Le Méridien brands were developing new family programs. Roughly half of guests surveyed with children are traveling differently now than they were five years ago. They tend to travel farther and stay longer, and increasingly, the cost and amount of guestroom space have become factors in their hotel booking decisions.
With these trends in mind, Westin and Le Méridien have introduced a global family package, where children eat free and have complimentary access to kids clubs, and families can receive a discount when booking a second room or have the option to book connecting rooms, based on availability.
The Future of Family Travel for Westin & Le Méridien
In conjunction with the global rollout of Westin and Le Méridien family programs, celebrations will take place globally, including family activities such as language lessons, shell-painting, star-gazing and local exploration tours in some of the world’s most exciting destinations from New York to Dubai, Panama to Phuket.
Additionally, both brands plan to introduce new kids clubs in new markets, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, Mauritius, and Thailand with more in the pipeline for 2016. Early next year, The Westin Tashee Resort in Taiwan will fete families with the grand opening of the hotel, which will feature the largest Westin Family Kids Club in the world.
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