LE Miami - defining the evolution of contemporary travel

John Wagner Piers Brown Uploaded

LE Miami breezed into Miami Beach for the 2015 conference, and changes our opinion of one rather special lifestyle hotel.

Billed as the world's first travel trade event to reflect the shift in luxury, and defining the evolution of contemporary travel by connecting a curated crowd of nonconformist travel brands, LE Miami breezed into Miami for the 2015 conference and trade buyer and seller event. Hosted at the Miami Beach Convention Center, the event attracts the world's leading creative class travel buyers, international media, creative visionaries and industry influencers 

Ideas were shared on the first day as hotel and extended stay brands, buyers and media came together to fuse creativity at the Ministry of Ideas - a one day conference style format, hosted at the New World Symphony. Speakers included Niki Leondakis, CEO Commune Hotels; Will Deague, CEO Art Series Hotel Group; Brad Wilson, president Ace Hotels and David Bowd, founder Salt Hotels, among others.

Juliana Shallcross, managing editor at Hotel Chatter moderated one of the most interesting sessions :

'Keep them keen' - Once you've identified and curated your crowd amongst today's fickle traveller, how can you keep them coming back for more? In a world where 'cool' is constantly changing, we'll discover what it takes to win the loyalty of the notoriously disloyal trendsetting crowd, while maintaining your individuality and authenticity.

Panelists were Jason Pomeranc, co-owner Sixty Hotels and Ben Pundole, VP of brand experience Edition Hotels.

Shallcross started the session by asking Pundole and Pomeranc "what defines 'cool' today"?

Both felt it was pretty much subjective and understated. "It's difficult to measure, and there's a strange balance to getting it right," said Pundole. "it means different things to different people. 'Cool' used to be a point of reference - it's now more nuanced and purposeful, more conspicuous. It has subtlety, intelligence and thought," said Pomeranc.

Bringing the conversation back to a more on-property perspective Pomeranc said: "It's easy to be sloppy and lazy, it needs to include some type of local, site-specific (experience). We appreciate here and now, not what we think is going on somewhere else - you can't set brand standards for 'cool'."

Pundole highlighted the individual and differing ethos' behind two EDITION hotels as an example: "It's nightlife in Miami; cocktail and dining first, nightclub second in London. Each has a sense of place, location is everything, there's an emphasis on each discipline."

"Venue marketing is not all about heads on beds - it's about locals, food and beverage and constant communications locally, nationally and internationally," added Pomeranc - "people create cool, people (the hotel team) implement programmes to create environment - you can't train a general manager to create a vibe."

Pomeranc encouraged boutique and lifestyle hoteliers to identify the taste masters within the local area - the subculture. He felt there were lots of brands falling short, mainly based on the people hoteliers hire, they should be "personalities of the creative class, the people you hire will keep your hotel cool". Pundole echoed Pomeranc's sentiment citing Josh Wagner, director of culture and entertainment, EDITION Hotels, as an example of the person within the hotel ecosystem who has the freedom and mandate to anticipate cultural shifts bringing together the hotel's events and culture program.

Pomeranc highlighted the importance of taking social equity in the local community to ensure the hotel stays relevant, and that this can be difficult to manage with excitement on property not always being tangible, and one can never truly anticipate response to a fresh project, "it's just gotta have soul!" Pundole proposed that all activity should have a "fun element with added levity - like our copper pineapples" and making sure each initiative stayed focussed on the specific objectives, "add in 'why' as opposed to 'who', and ensure the communications are naturally aligned with the brand. You get a little caught up with numbers, be qualitative and remember it's not an unlimited audience."

To wrap up the session, Juliana asked what the future of 'cool' looks like with both panellists agreeing that successful 'cool' hotel brands will branch out to other entities, "workspace, private members clubs, restaurants and translate into other disciplines" said Pundole.

On a personal note, I was privileged to be part of a small media group brought together by LE Miami to spend an afternoon with Wagner, touring some of Miami's up-and-coming culinary, fashion, design, retail and hospitality areas, offering a different perspective of Miami.

We stoped off at Wynwood's Coyo Taco - great tacos! Freehand Miami - a 'poshtel' on Indian Creek Road and Vagabond hotel in the heart of MiMo district. "I want you to not only come back to Miami but to give you the courage to tell other people that we're doing special, special things here."

Spending time with Josh, you quickly understand his knowledge, style and approach and it changed my perception of Marriott's EDITION brand for the better - gone was the element of elitism I'd expected prior. "I wouldn't want any other job in the entire world, I work for one of the largest companies in the world and we're doing something rebelious, and I'm proud, I'm prideful of Miami too," he tells me. I ask him to sum up the EDITION experience: "EDITION is not from a place, it's where it exists. When you have continuity of quality product and service in a place that aspires to be an instant classic while embracing and supporting the local community." It rolled off the tongue, and I get it.

It's as if Wagner has been given free reign to rip up the brand standards book by Marriott HQ and to not just represent and do great things for the hotel, but to help transform people's perceptions of the whole of Miami. "Guests don't just come to EDITION South Beach to bathe and party, they arrive with a clutch bag and take away a whole suitcase," (of memories, experiences) says Wagner.

I'd sum up a visit to EDITION Miami Beach as a granular and engaging experience if you want it - you can ice skate, bowl or sip cocktails from copper pineapples if you would really like to as well - congratulations.




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