It was a mere five years ago that Starwood took over Le Meridien, taking on a new direction for the global hotel leader, which today boasts 105 properties in 50 countries. After exiting 45 properties that weren't up to par with the brand, Le Meridien now boasts double digit growth each year, and added 20 new properties in locations like Panama City, Bangkok and Taipei. But it was in Philadelphia, in a former YMCA building that Le Meridien recently celebrated their big anniversary, at the flagship hotel that encompasses the brand's new mantra of old and new.
"It's a design led lifestyle," Eva Ziegler, Global brand leader of Le Meridien tells Luxist of the new direction. From the lobby's historical oak walls to the contemporary art hovering over the mantels, it was a scene taken straight from Paris, a city that has perfected the idea of aligning old with new. "We were going for the same elements that you find in the Louvre, for example, this very heritage foundation surrounded by a very modern element. It's a foundation of our design, having a wonderful historical building juxtaposed with a wonderful new design style." The landmark Philadelphia hotel marks just the beginning for where Ziegler and her team are taking the Le Meridien brand in the future.
2011 marks the triumph of a very successful social experiment in building a travel hub for the creative class. With Paris as her guide, Ziegler is continuing to focus Le Meridien properties everywhere on targeting creative minds and their cohorts and opening them up to a new experience through the lens of arts and cuisine.
This strategy began in 2006 when Le Meridien hired mastermind Jerome Sans as Global Cultural Curator, aligning an authentic cultural inventor to the brand. Out of that relationship grew LM100, a carefully chosen family of cultural innovators who work together to create interactive experiences unique to the hotel. The LM100 are filling Le Meridien's worldwide with a singular creative portfolio from food to drink to art to fragrance to set the new look and atmosphere of the brand against the more traditional landmark buildings they're housed in. The brand is currently working with 24 artists, including sommelier Linda Grabe, video artist Marcus Kreiss, master barista Fritz Storm, chef Jean Georges Vongerichten, artist An Xiaotong, and perfume designers Le Labo.
"When it comes to scent, for example, when you enter, we wanted a specific atmosphere to be created," explains Ziegler. "For Le Labo, culture is expressed by old books. So they created a scent for Le Meridien that is inspired from this idea." The result is when guests walk in the doors they're welcomed with a delicate Le Labo cedar-based creation that just about recalls an ancient library. Although they may potentially reach 100 artists, she says, they will only do so if it's right for the brand.
Sans then created Unlock Art, turning the room keys into literal pieces of art. "It's another touch point where we said normally it's a piece of plastic, so let's make it a collectible item," says Ziegler "And then the key card doesn't only unlock your room, but also a cultural center in the city so that the hotel is also linked to a contemporary cultural center in town, which Jerome helps to select."
In 2011, Le Meridien is turning its hotel lobbies into creative hubs to encourage creative environments from the moment you walk in the door. Based on Le Meridien's careful research that a guest's mindset is formed from the first ten minutes when they come through the door, the brand focused on redefining the arrival experience. Through high impact curated art and a coffee culture (the drink of the creative class), this careful spin on the welcoming hotel lobby has already taken effect in key Le Meridien hotels around the world and will continue to roll out during the year.
"What I want to get out of Le Meridien is I want to make it a destination in the destination," says Ziegler. "I want to make it a social gathering place really targeted toward creative minds and providing this kind of coffeehouse atmosphere as well as an art atmosphere that inspires curiosity. We want to provide a new perspective, a new way of seeing things."
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