On Sunday evening, the scene inside the new AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon was high-energy; an eclectic mix of guests filled the lobby and AC Lounge for complimentary cocktails and bites during the hotel’s Grand Opening weekend reception. Looking around and viewing guests mingling bar-side, it was hard not to miss the significance of the moment for AC Hotels, as this new property marked their entry into the US market.
Located in the former Cotton Exchange building and just steps away from the French Quarter, the new hotel underwent significant interior and exterior renovations before officially opening its doors on Monday, December 8. Founded in 1998 by renowned Spanish hotelier Antonio Catalan, AC Hotels has made its way through the European market with its unique character and sleek designs folded into each property. In 2011, Marriott International and AC Hotels established a new partnership to launch AC Hotels by Marriott in the States.
“When you sign this type of deal, at the beginning you think ‘This is how it’s going to work,’ but you need some time to see if it works or not. And at this time, it’s working. We are not just AC, now we are also Marriott and we’ve been able to arrive to the outcome we wanted, it’s the best of Marriott and the best of AC,” said Catalan. “Putting together both cultures was the challenge, but we’ve been able to do it and be part of this place that we’re at right now. Marriott is a real human company; they listen to everyone, and listen to the AC team.”
For Marriott, the decision to partner with AC Hotels was an easy one. “Seeing the product that they have in Spain, it’s really spectacular. When you see there’s a consistency in the essence of the brand and speaks to the locale and feels quite unique, and we love that,” noted Marriott International’s Tina Edmundson, Global Officer Luxury & Lifestyle Brands. “When we looked at it, we thought about what it would mean for us to bring it to the US. We think that for the purpose that we’re serving—if you think about the space that we’re occupying, a select-serve hotel but also a lifestyle hotel—we think it’ll be quite disruptive in the business. When you think about today’s mindset you want a design-forward brand that enables your technology, you want to stay in a place that is about the experience not just a good night’s sleep. It’s about the entire experience, and we think that AC embodies all of that. With great partners like them, we thought this would be a homerun.”
Likewise, Catalan boasted about Marriott’s ability to really listen and respect his brand, which has made for a harmonious pairing. At its core, AC Hotels are a design-centric brand with a cosmopolitan spirit that hope to give their travelers a real feel for whichever destination they are in. This is immediately evident in their NOLA property. Decorated in neutral shades and modern elements, the public spaces feel young and urban, while still remaining comfortable and welcoming.
This of course, is no accident. “We went to Spain for some time and did some very deep dives into [the AC] hotels,” shared Edmundson. “They explained to us every decision that they made was really made with a purpose of serving the customer—whether it’s the lighting or the way that the beds are situated—everything services a purpose.”
Even the omission of a full-service restaurant on site was intentional. “The purpose of F&B in the hotel is beverage first, bar-forward. We know—and this is from a ton of research and today’s traveler—socializing and the whole bar-experience is really important. So we focus a lot on that,” explained Edmundson. While the AC Kitchen serves a daily European breakfast, guests are encouraged to spend time outside of the hotel exploring the city and its remarkable dining destinations. Staff are eager to recommend their favorite hotspots and will assist travelers in planning out their days to really get the best experience out of their stay. On property, there is also a gym, meeting space and the AC Library (comparable to a business center).
When it comes to the guestrooms, the property has 220, with no suite options. Inside, the décor is modern and minimalist with hardwood flooring, bedside lighting, a complimentary mini-fridge and an open closet which is small in size, best suited for one guest’s luggage. The quaint bathroom includes European spa amenities and overhead rain shower. The space feels charming, not overly superfluous, and offers just the right balance to a city that is bold, wild and at times, over-stimulating.
“At AC, we’re always thinking of our boss, which is our clients, so everything is thought through them. What makes us different are the small details that we have,” said Catalan. “It’s like a blue suit [that you] combine your shirt and different ties [with]; you combine things depending on [where you’re going]. The essence of the design of the brand is a blue suit that is going to work now, 30 years ago and 30 years later.”
AC Hotels by Marriott plans to open almost 60 hotels in the next three to five years in metro- and metro-urban locations, with the next debuting in Miami. And don’t be fooled into thinking AC hotels are geared toward Millennials, the brand is clear that they take a psycho-graphic approach rather than a demographic view. “We think that the brand has legs, yes, for the 20-year-old but certainly for the 60-year-old,” shared Edmundson. AC Hotel New Orleans Bourbon is genuine and authentic, a spirit that any traveler (of any age) can appreciate.