NEW YORK — After sprucing up W Hotels to give it more of a fashion-minded finish, Ross Klein has been promoted to president of the chain by its parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
Klein, who was previously senior vice president and chief marketing officer, will be the go-to executive for the branding and development of “aloft,” a new W-inspired hotel chain Starwood is launching. In tune with the design-friendly ways of companies like Target, MINI, Jet Blue and Gap, aloft aims to “reinvent point-to-point travel” by giving guests style and good value, Klein said during an interview Friday.
“We want to design a comfortable environment that would no longer be an apologetic experience,” he said. “Point-to-point travel can be an isolating experience. After driving for 13 or 14 hours alone in your car, you reach your hotel and are handed a plastic key and put in a cell. We’ve broken that paradigm.”
During his seven-year tenure at W, Klein, a former senior executive at Ralph Lauren and Polo Jeans, has been busy putting his fashion background to good use recruiting designers like Diane von Furstenberg to get involved. Similar alliances are in the works for aloft. Starwood tapped Y-3 to design the conceptual uniforms for its aloft project, but has not yet named a designer for the permanent uniforms.
Klein now reports to Starwood’s chief executive officer Steven Heyer.
The first aloft groundbreaking is planned for next year, with secondary markets like Austin, Tex., Tampa, Fla., and Raleigh, N.C., being among the targeted ones. The company expects to open 150 to 300 alofts within the next three years; the average room rate will be $129 nightly, Klein said.
Earvin “Magic” Johnson has signed on as a partner to open aloft hotels in urban markets and David Rockwell, the architect who worked on two W properties here, is designing the aloft ones as well. Aloft will be loftlike spaces with 9-foot ceilings and each corridor will have sizable windows for plenty of natural light. Aloft properties will have The Commons, a WiFi communal area to encourage guests to interact “to break the boredom and fatigue of being alone in a hotel room,” as well as Re:Fuel, an area for grab-‘n’-go food overseen by a soon-to-be-named well-known chef and The Park, a parking lot with plenty of trees, Klein said.
The hotels will also have fireplaces, waterfalls, swimming pools, gyms geared for stretching to help travelers get the kinks out and areas for car washing.