Hugh Chandler is General Manager of the soon-to-open AC Hotel Kansas City Westport, an exciting new Marriott brand concept imported from Europe specifically designed for a group of travelers who don’t care much for tradition: Millennials who were born in the 1980s to early 2000s. An important target group for Marriott because Millennials have a lot of purchasing power and are expected to shell out $1.4 trillion by 2020.
The hotel features:
- A partnership with Christopher Elbow to create special chocolates in the hotel store.
- A partnership with Dark Horse Distillery.
- Local artist featured throughout the hotel.
- Local chef events.
- Minimalist design with hardwood floors.
Plus, there are plugs and USB ports by guest beds, Bluetooth-enabled speaker systems and flat screen TVs. Showers are spa-like. And, the hotel lounge serves cocktails on tap and tapas.
In addition, instead of a minibar in the guest rooms, there is a small shop off the lobby with bottles of wine and other beverages and snacks designed by celebrity chef Jose Andres.
And instead of a business center, there is an open library with computers and wireless printers.
Chandler returns to Kansas City after managing hotels in greater Chicago, Nashville, Little Rock, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and most recently in Atlantic City, N.J.
As manager of the Courtyard by Marriott in Atlantic City, Chandler oversaw the renovation of the historic site where the game Monopoly was said to have been founded, developing a 206-room hotel a block off the famed Boardwalk. During his six-plus years there, Chandler was active in the community, building relationships with casinos, time share resorts and other businesses, and creating an internship program as a hospitality advisor for Stockton University. Chandler also steered the hotel through Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
He has received a variety of hotel management awards during his career. Previously, he worked as a hotel training manager, operated a hotel in Overland Park, and oversaw food-and-beverage operations and entertainment as manager of Kansas City’s renowned Phoenix Bar and Grill. Chandler graduated from the University of Missouri, volunteered as a youth boxing coach in New York, and enjoys traveling with his wife and tending to their five rescue animals.
This week, Chandler discussed with me the new AC Hotel Kansas City Westport:
- Question: Why was Kansas City chosen as one of the first markets to launch AC Hotels by Marriott in the United States?
Chandler: When Marriott International began considering potential destinations for the launch of AC Hotels by Marriott in North America, the company was looking for vibrant locations with active dining, nightlife and a rich cultural history. Our Westport neighborhood here in Kansas City seemed a perfect fit for this chic, lifestyle brand. Another element was factor was its centralized location, close to the local business community, making it convenient for business travelers.
- Question: Why is it important for Marriott to create a hotel that will appeal particularly to Millennials?
Chandler: Millennial travelers are poised to comprise more than 60 percent of Marriott International’s business over the next four years. Given that estimation, Marriott International is working hard to develop experiences that meet the needs of this new, growing customer. Today’s guests have an entirely different set of expectations than travelers did a decade ago. Millennial travelers want to be connected and expect fun built into their trips – and that can mean many things, from sampling the best of Kansas City’s cuisine, to seeing a great local musician. In addition, AC Hotels by Marriott are built with today’s business traveler in mind. Our guests are instantly connected through our Bluetooth media salons and Wi-Fi available in every room.
- Question: Tell me about the partnerships with Christopher Elbow and the Dark Horse Distillery.
Chandler: We want to be ambassadors for Kansas City, and that means connecting and partnering with the best the city has to offer. When we started reviewing possible partnerships, Christopher Elbow and Dark Horse Distillery were two names that really stuck out in our minds. Christopher Elbow is developing a collection of chocolates for sale in our hotel store and Dark Horse Spirits will be featured in several of our signature cocktails.
- Question: What do you like about the Kansas City market versus the other cities where you have held management positions?
Chandler: I have Kansas City roots and I’m a Mizzou graduate so clearly KC is special to me on a personal level. But, from a professional standpoint, I get excited about what the city has to offer and what our hotel is able to give back. Right now Kansas City is home to a thriving and vibrant arts scene, the highest speed fiber internet connectivity in the country, has a World Series baseball team, houses countless craft breweries and locally sourced restaurants; the list of what I like about the KC market is endless. And, these are all things the AC guest seeks out and are things the AC staff is proud of. We want our guests from all over to know just how alive Kansas City and Westport are.
- Question: What is different about being a manager today versus when you were a hotel manager 20 years ago?
Chandler: Managing a hotel has changed immensely in the last two decades. Twenty years ago the Internet was just getting started, now guests expect to be connected from the minute they walk through our doors. And, this has dramatically changed the hotel and guest experience. Your average traveler has the entire directory of a city at their fingertips and, is now seeking more “off the beaten path” experiences. At AC we offer tailored recommendations. Want a great BBQ experience? We’ll tell you about the classics, but also offer you our personal favorites that are still great but not quite something you’ll find every day. This is another big shift in the hotel experience. Guests aren’t looking for a traditional visit with meetings all day followed by room service at night stay. The AC guest wants to get out and see the sights. Today’s traveler has a wealth of knowledge in their pocket, it’s our job as a hotel to help pare that information down and help our guests connect to the city in a way that’s meaningful to them as individuals.
- Question: How many rooms will the hotel feature?
Chandler: AC Hotel Kansas City Westport will feature 123 guest rooms, two of which are suites. The hotel boasts some of the most unique room offerings and amenities in the hotel industry. There are more than 940 square feet of meeting space spanning three rooms. Public spaces in the hotel include the AC Lobby, AC Lounge and AC Library, spaces curated especially for working, connecting, exploring and socializing.
- Question: When will the hotel open?
Chandler: We’re targeting January 2015 to open the hotel. Reservations are now being accepted at www.achotelskansascity.com for stays after January 15, 2015. You can also Like us on Facebook, and follow us for more updates.
- Question: What are the hotel’s notable features?
Chandler: AC Hotel Kansas City Westport will offer sleek design, total connectivity and a great location in the city. The hotel will also feature the AC Lounge, which will offer individually bottled cocktails, regional craft beers and draft wines, as well as small plates. In addition, the hotel will offer mobile check-in, USB charging stations, a fitness center and state-of-the art Media Salons with Bluetooth technology. High-speed Internet, comfortable beds and bedding and many more amenities will make visitors’ stays perfect.
- Question: What can AC Hotel Kansas City Westport guests expect from the property?
Chandler: The AC Hotels by Marriott brand features simple, clean and crisp lines, marrying sophisticated European style with approachable design for a distinctly urban feel for each of its locations. Proximity and access to Kansas City’s most popular establishments is an integral part of the AC Hotel Kansas City Westport experience. Kansas City will be only the second AC Hotels by Marriott to open in North America, following the opening of the new AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon just a few weeks ago.
- Question: What can guests expect in the future from the other Marriott brands that demonstrate Marriott’s commitment to adapting with the times?
Chandler: Marriott International offers a broad portfolio of brands within the lifestyle category, all of which are specially designed for travelers who are looking for a more “experiential” stay with a sophisticated, lifestyle twist. AC Hotels by Marriott, along with brands like Renaissance Hotels, the Autograph Collection and Moxy Hotels, area all designed to provide a unique experience through elements like design, culinary and connection to the local destination for travelers – whether they’re traveling for business or for fun. All of these exciting options fall within the Marriott portfolio, which is a brand recognized around the world for hospitality.
Additional News From Marriott International:
Last month, Marriott International announced yet another new initiative — a move to harness the passion of a generation of food and drink entrepreneurs. The new program is called CANVAS. The first-of-its-kind hotel industry program is a global incubator that will help hungry entrepreneurs realize their vision for amazing food and drink concepts in the company’s hotels. The program builds on Marriott’s entrepreneurial heritage dating back to 1927 when the company’s founder J. Willard Marriott opened a nine seat A&W root beer stand in Washington, DC.
The company is inviting entrepreneurs, chefs, bartenders and artisans around the world to visit www.canvas-startup.com and pitch a food or drink concept for a select group of Marriott hotels, beginning with the JW Marriott Shenzhen (China) and Renaissance Phoenix Downtown. During the next six months, the number of locations will grow to approximately a dozen hotels across the globe.
CANVAS furthers Marriott’s focus on the next generation of customers for whom discovering local culture and cuisine play a pivotal role, both in everyday life and in travel. It is estimated that Millennials will comprise half of business travel spending by the year 2020, according to Forbes.