Aloft Hotels opens in Virtual Reality

This September, aloft, A Vision Of W Hotels(SM), will become the world’s first hotel brand to place a 3-D computer generated replica inside a virtual world when it debuts an aloft hotel inside the popular online game Second Life. A virtual environment in which players create digital alter egos and exchange virtual currency for digitally rendered goods and services, the Second Life metaverse is currently inhabited by more than 350,000 people worldwide.

Come September, Second Life’s visitors will be able to enter an aloft hotel and interact with others as they get a sneak peek at its urban-inspired, loft-like guest rooms, landscaped outdoor spaces and energetic lounge scene before the first aloft opens its doors.

Beginning today, visitors can now follow the development progress of building the 3-D virtual aloft hotel online via a companion weblog at www.virtualaloft.com. Each week the weblog will be updated with daily diary entries from the 3-D developers as they build the virtual hotel.

“The aloft brand is about providing an escape from the ordinary and reinventing everyday experiences,” said Brian McGuinness, vice president of aloft brand development. “Our debut within Second Life will give digital travelers a chance to dream in another dimension, and unwind their virtual selves in our social spaces, such as w xyz, our aloft bar. They will be able to provide feedback on our designs and self-service features like the re:fuel grab & go gourmet food area - all before the first groundbreaking.”

Created in 2003 by San-Francisco based Linden Lab, Second Life is a virtual online world where trendsetters are flocking to exchange ideas, egos and virtual property using “avatars,” or highly-customized 3D representations of themselves. The act of placing a real-world entity, such as aloft brand, into the fantasy realm of Second Life has becoming a growing trend. Most recently, American Apparel became the first retail chain to open a virtual store in Second Life. Major League Baseball also created a “Baseball” island on Second Life, which hosted live television coverage of this year’s MLB Home-Run Derby on virtual stadium Jumbotrons while the event was simulated on the virtual field.

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Through Second Life, the aloft brand is educating thousands of potential customers about its differentiated lifestyle brand. In the same way W Hotels broke through the clutter of conformity in the upscale hotel arena, aloft will raise the bar in the select-service category, offering loft-style guestrooms, bright, airy environments with 9-foot ceilings, oversized windows and energetic social centers. By the time the real-life hotels open, aloft hotels will already feel like home for many.

In addition to the aloft brand’s debut inside Second Life, the new brand’s technology focus includes large, HDTV ready flat-panel televisions, plug & play (the aloft brand’s one stop connectivity solution incorporating power and audio/video connections for multiple electronic gadgets), and Wi-Fi internet access throughout the hotel.

Carrying the DNA of W Hotels, aloft hotels, Starwood’s much-anticipated new brand in the select-service hotel category, delivers stylish design, accessible technology and a hip urban attitude to another outdated hotel segment. Starwood anticipates the first aloft hotels to open in early 2008, with 500 properties worldwide expected by 2012.
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