Created by Hyatt in 2007, Andaz hotels are “upscale, boutique-inspired lifestyle properties that distill the best of their locale.” The nine hotels all work with local artists, musicians, authors and designers in their respective neighborhoods. And about once a month, the hotel staff organizes Andaz Salon events where guests and area residents hang out with these creative trendsetters. Global in scale and local in perspective, Andaz offers group planners the reliability of a large global brand and a direct pipeline into everything hip and happening in each destination.
In December, Andaz launched the new website AndazSalon.com. It highlights cool events and a wide variety of creative people doing awesome things near each Andaz, like a vintage clothing store owner in London who created a pop-up shop at Andaz Liverpool Street. The website also features independent content created by award-winning travel magazine Afar, and a group of handpicked “Cultural Insiders.” The overall purpose is to stoke interest in the hotels by providing a behind-the-scenes look at the different communities. For example, the video above follows the daily lives of three Dutch locals living near the new Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht.
The first Cultural Insider is Stephanie Roach, director of The FLAG Art Foundation in New York. The visual arts non-profit organization encourages the appreciation of contemporary art among many different audiences. Roach will be hosting Andaz Salon events at Andaz West Hollywood and Andaz 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and she will be contributing to AndazSalon.com. Here is a Q&A interview about her vision and mission.
I visited the 253-room Andaz Wall Street in 2010 just after it opened. When you walk in, you grab a seat in the David Rockwell-designed lobby where a host brings you a drink and checks you in on a tablet. The host then escorts you to your room while chatting casually about what’s happening at the hotel and surrounding neighborhood. Everything is designed to break down barriers between the staff and guests. At Rockwell’s Wall Street “anti-bar” for example, there’s a series of rectangular bar tables with bottles placed at the end, versus one central bar. The mixologists walk around the room and pour drinks right at your table while discussing everything from the cocktail ingredients to the latest restaurant or club opening in lower Manhattan.
It’s like everyone at the hotel is your personal concierge. Actually, the entire Andaz brand is your personal concierge.
During my visit, I met Rachel Harrison, director of communications for the NYC Andaz hotels. I reconnected with her recently to discuss the brand and unveiling of AndazSalon.com:
PREVUE: Rachel, in your words, what is Andaz?
Rachel Harrison: The Andaz ethos is about locality and supporting up and coming artists, musicians annd local characters. It’s about being a platform to help these people thrive and help them gain awareness through us. Kind of helping the local community.
What was the motivation behind developing AndazSalon.com?
RH: We’ve always had what we call our ‘Cultural Community’—we’ve talked about this internally—you know, whether it’s the artists in New York’s tbd Arts program like Mr. Cartoon, or the millions of artists who’ve gone through Andaz Liverpool Street, even the drag queens that have perfomed there, like Johnny Woo.
That Cultural Community has always been a driving force behind Andaz, the brand. And so what they decided to do was put it together as a visual aspect. For people who perhaps haven’t yet visited an Andaz hotel, they will experience the Andaz experience online to see what we’re doing, to see who we’re partnering with, to learn something. And then hopefully, to come and experience it in one of our markets. Each Andaz hotel is really focusing on local talent to add another layer to the Andaz experience and to that feeling of being a local.
While the Andaz cultural community injects guests into the neighborhood scene, it seems the hotels themselves go a long way to delivering that insider experience too.
RH: Definitely. Whatever Andaz you decide to stay at, the moment you walk through the door, no matter what city you’re in, you should feel like a local. You feel that from the design that is surrounding you, from the materials that were used, the food that you’re eating and the drinks that you’re drinking, as well as the people who you’re connecting with. The people at the hotel are also an important element of the Andaz experience, and that local experience.
What type of group business is attracted to Andaz?
We have a large amount of groups, we have a lot of people in the entertainment, movie, music businesses, for example, who are doing junkets, launches or tours. The creative set loves to stay with Andaz Hotels because they’re casual luxury. It’s so easy to come in here and experience a hotel the way you want to.
But we are also in the middle of Wall Street or Fifth Avenue, depending on which hotel you’re booking. Bank of America is two blocks away. Or American Express publishing is a block over. So we do get our wonderful banker friends, our finance and media friends because our location and our ethos make us very desirable for the business community too. They still want to drink an amazing cocktail and connect with an emerging artist… while learning something new about the New York cocktail scene as well.
Food and drink seem popular on AndazSalon.com, from sushi making classes in San Diego to the Scrap Lab Dinner in Liverpool. Is that a big part of Andaz?
RH: Oh for sure. For example at our Andaz 5th Avenue property, just from a food perspective, when you look at our menu we have a cast of characters. It’s all of the farmers within a 300-mile radius of the hotel, from the Hudson Valley to Sullivan Street Bakery in Brooklyn. Everything you eat at Andaz 5th Avenue is from a local farm or a local New York City purveyor. So when you eat here, you have the best of New York City without having to leave the hotel. Of course, we want you to experience those on your own, and we provide the information about how to do that, but if you’re only here for a day or two, you should be able to taste the best of New York without leaving.
What is the overall benefit of a hotel operating its own blog, like AndazSalon.com?
RH: It’s about establishing a dialogue with our consumers. A lot of times, it’s the opportunity to speak with them online, to interact with them, and figure out what they want and what they don’t. There’s no better way to find out what is making your guests happy, what your guests would like changed, than by establishing that direct dialogue with them. So creating your own blog, creating your own journalism, within the confines of the hotel online is a great way to meet the people who love you, and to meet the people who like you and have the possibility of loving you.