The Hard Rock Hotels chain will bear little resemblance to the Hard Rock Cafe concept that people are familiar with, Sol Melia`s managing director of investor relations Jaime Puig has told TravelMole.
It follows the June announcement of a joint venture agreement between Sol Melia and the Rank Group to develop Hard Rock Hotels in the Americas and Europe, with up to $1 billion of financing.
The first of their Hard Rock Hotels is due to open in Chicago by early next year - and will be Sol Melia’s first US property. But Mr Puig said that rather than having guitars, T-shirts and other rock memorabilia plastered in every inch of wall-space the look would be chic and minimal.
He told TravelMole: “The market is looking for new experiences. This will be four or five star but be very different from a normal business hotel.They won’t have Hard Rock Cafes but will have a China Grill. The bar will be a place to see and be seen.”
Sol Melia is to offer up three management contracts from its hotel portfolio for the joint project. Mr Puig said the specific hotels had not been decided yet, but that Sol Melia was eyeing New York, Madrid, Barcelona and Miami as possible locations.
Aiming at a different market, Sol Melia is also in the process of opening a series of Flintstone-themed hotels through a joint venture agreement with Warner Bros. Two have already opened - in Menorca and Mallorca. The two locations will each get a further hotel next summer, with another Flintstone-themed hotel also due to open in Benidorm in 2004. Features include staff in Flintstone costumes, a check-in desk for children and Flintstone toiletries in the rooms.
Mr Puig said: “We are not going to build a whole chain - maybe up to eight hotels. In these locations where you’ve got up to around 60 hotels which all look the same it’s about differentiation.”
Aimed primarily at the Spanish and UK markets, Mr Puig added that it also meant greater profits - with families prepared to pay more to stay somewhere distinctive.
Sol Melia is also looking to reinvent the concept of timeshare, and is due to announce a further joint venture at the end of the year which it claims will make it the largest timeshare company in the world. The company already operates the Melia Vacation Club and now plans to add the Sol Vacation Club with properties in the Caribbean and Spain.
For Sol Melia he said the aim was to squeeze as much revenue out of the assets it already owned. He pointed out that if a hotel averaged 70% occupancy even a determined sales effort could only lead to an increase of a few percentage points. However - providing the location was suitable - then Sol Melia could instead look to timeshare as a way of filling the empty 30%. Alternatively timeshare properties could be built on land that the hotel group already owned.
Mr Puig said the fact that Sol Melia was a well-known brand should mean it could overcome any concerns about the timeshare concept. He said: “There was a big scandal about timeshare in the late 1970s. But it’s like everything in life - you can buy it from someone you know and trust - or buy it from Joe Bloggs.”