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Art Basel Miami Beach Attracts World-Class Hotel Brands

Suzanne M. Amaducci

Last week more than 75,000 art aficionados and celebrities from around the globe descended upon Miami for the 2014 edition of Art Basel Miami Beach.  What began in 2002 as a winter outpost of the original Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, the Miami Beach show has now overtaken its older sibling as the world’s largest modern and contemporary art show. Today, not only has the show outgrown its home at the Miami Beach Convention Center, it has led to the creation of Art Week Miami and spawned a whole host of satellite events throughout Miami Beach and across Biscayne Bay in Miami’s up-and-coming Design District, Wynwood, and Midtown Miami, as well as its cosmopolitan Downtown and Brickell neighborhoods.

The concept behind the Miami Beach show has proven so successful that Art Basel launched a third show in Hong Kong in 2013. However, while the show has put Miami on the international art map, its reach goes beyond the art world and offers businesses the opportunity to capture an elusive market demographic, the cultural influencers, the very celebrities and trendsetters that can give a product or brand the word of mouth buzz that leads to worldwide recognition and credibility.

With this powerful market segment congregating in Miami last week, new businesses throughout Miami have been in a rush to open their doors to the world for the first time. One notable opening in the lifestyle hospitality space is The Miami Beach Edition, a boutique lifestyle hotel collaboration between two unlikely partners, famed boutique hotelier, Ian Schrager, and the world’s largest hotel chain, Marriott International.

Schrager, the man behind the success of the Delano Hotel and Morgans Hotel Group, as well as the infamous Studio 54 night club, has long been viewed as a pioneer of what has become known as the lifestyle hotel segment. In 1995, when Schrager opened the Delano, one of Miami’s first boutique hotels, he aimed to create a hotel with a distinctively local character bringing together the worlds of hospitality, art and high design, a concept that appeals to cultural influencers and trendsetters the world over. Much of Schrager’s success establishing world famous boutique hotels can be attributed to the innovation and nimbleness that allowed his small hotels to flourish by standing in stark contrast to the perception of omnipresent hotel chains, such as Marriott, as being the safe choice, a mundane hotel which ignored the local character.

As the ability of travelers to research their destinations has increased over the last twenty years, the safe choice perception that enabled Marriott’s international growth has taken a back seat to the travelers’ desire to have a more intimate and personal experience. Now Schrager, who once boldly told a conference audience, “I am the anti-Marriot, I stand for everything that is the opposite of what Marriott stands for,” has joined forces with his former foe to develop The Edition brand and expand it worldwide, with Miami as the launching pad for their North American and international expansion plans.

The launch of the first two Edition branded hotels in London and Istanbul were setback by the recession and a global downturn in travel.  Arne Sorenson, CEO and President of Marriot International, believes that Miami’s position as

 “perhaps the most energetic and vibrantly growing city in the Western Hemisphere”

will reinvigorate the brand and create the buzz to power expansion in international destinations as diverse as New York, Hollywood, China, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok and India.

The Thompson Hotel, which opened November 21, joins The Edition Miami Beach in having beaten the Art Basel rush.  However, for those businesses that didn’t make it in time fpr Art Basel in Miami, there is always another star studded event on the horizon and the accompanying grand openings and brand launches. In February, Miami will play host to one of the nation’s largest food festivals, the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, a four-day event showcasing the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities.

With Miami’s influence and celebrity power, it is no wonder that the city has been chosen as the home of several new domestic brands, including 1 Hotel South Beach, SIXTY Hotel’s Nautilus South Beach, and Tommy Hilfiger’s recently purchased Raleigh Hotel.  However, Miami’s international appeal as a global city has also drawn the attention of Chilean brand, Atton, and Swire Hotel’s Asian brand, EAST, which have both chosen Miami’s Brickell Financial District for their first hotels in North America.

In today’s world of global instant communication, the role of cultural influencers is more important than ever and can make or break a brand in its infancy.  As Miami continues to grow as an internationally influential city, so does the recognition that Miami’s social and cultural cachet offers a launching pad for brands to create a buzz that can lead to international success.

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