'BED WARS' HIT HAWAII SHORES
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marriott International is spending $190 million to replace its 628,000 beds, including its beds in Hawaii. Above, Marriott International Vice President Ed Hubennette got a feel on Friday for one of the new beds at the Waikiki Beach Marriott.
Hotels want to put you to sleep
The latest tactic in luring guests is to give them a luxurious new bed for a great night's rest
The latest salvo in the hotel industry's long-running bed wars is being heard in Hawaii, as Marriott International Inc.'s chainwide swapout of 628,000 beds reaches the islands.
The company's $190 million global overhaul is using 30 million yards of soft, plushy fabric, or enough to stretch more than two-thirds of the way around the world.
The industry's bed wars began in 1999, with the introduction of the Heavenly Bed by Westin Hotels and Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
The thick, plush mattresses were an instant hit with hotel guests, long used to sleeping on the kinds of wholesale beds that make a person glad to get home.
Then, the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper bed, the Hilton Serenity and Suite Dreams beds and a host of other dream beds came forward.
"A good night's sleep has become the foundation of selling hotel rooms," said Joe McInerney, president and chief executive officer of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Marriott went undercover with their market research to find out what consumers wanted in a bed. The company used labs to help determine the formula to give consumers better sleep than most would find at home.
From the dreams of consumers, Marriott fashioned its Revive bed -- a downy confection complete with 300-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, seven feathery pillows, a white duvet and a colorful bed scarf.
The Revive bed roll-out, which began in 2005 and will become complete this summer, is more about substance than fluff for the hotel chain which operates approximately 2,400 hotels worldwide under eight different brands.
Each will introduce an upgraded bed, although the extent of its luxury will vary with the brand.
Guests at the Waikiki Beach Marriott, where the Egyptian cotton and feather pillow dressed bed became available earlier this year, already have boosted customer satisfaction surveys by seven points, said Ed Fuller, president and managing director of international lodging for Marriott International.
"We set out to find out what our customers wanted and that's what we have delivered," Fuller said.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hotel chains have been installing luxurious new beds over the past few years in an effort to lure guests. Above, new double beds in rooms at the Waikiki Beach Marriott in Waikiki.
The new Marriott bed is beyond fantasy, said Amy Terada, vice president of marketing for Pleasant Holidays LLC
, Hawaii's largest wholesaler.
"I slept in it last night," Terada said. "It's a wonderful, wonderful bed. It looks so inviting and comfortable that you just want to jump in and bury yourself."
If there's an active bed war, Terada said she'd proclaim Marriott's new offering the winner.
"I've slept in the Heavenly bed and the Sweet Sleeper bed and I prefer Marriott's new bed," she said.
Despite wide variations in consumer preference, Starwood and Sheraton can handle the competition, said Keith Vieira, a senior vice president with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
The Westin Heavenly Bed and the Sheraton Sweet Sleeper Beds, which will be in every Hawaii Starwood hotel room by next year, have been so successful with consumers that many have elected to take them home.
"We sell about 200 of these beds a week to guests," Vieira said.
Business at Westin, Starwood and Sheraton is unlikely to change as a result of Marriott's decision to join the bed wars.
"We aren't worried about Marriott's newest bed," Vieira said. "It just validates that we had a good idea and you know any good idea will be copied."
Due to the massive costs in bedding upgrades, Marriott's Revive bed might just be the last of the cycle.
"We've seen the end of the changing of the beds for a considerable period because it isn't cheap," McInerney said, adding that he doesn't expect any more major bed wars for the next four to five years.
When it comes to national brands, the bed wars might be over -- but they're just beginning for boutique and off-brand properties, said Mike Paulin, president of Aqua Hotels and Resorts. That chain is in the process of renovating and changing the bedding at four out of eight of their properties.
"The emphasis on bedding in Waikiki has changed dramatically over the last 20 years," Paulin said. "People spend a third of their time sleeping and they want a cozy experience."
Aqua has invested in top-of- the-line commercial bedding for all of its properties, Paulin said.
"That's what our customers want, and we have to give it to them or be satisfied with losing some of our occupancy or settling for lower rates," he said.