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Finally, here comes Virgin

I became energized this week when I read the news and saw the new website (you must check out the cheeky videos) providing details about the long, long, long awaited Virgin hotel, the first now scheduled to open in Chicago in January. It’s fun to learn about an organization thinking outside the box, and now I can’t wait to hear about Hilton’s lifestyle brand with news supposedly coming very soon.

Not surprisingly and in typical Richard Branson form, Virgin came right after the rest of the industry in an area that has been getting a lot of negative press — fees. Virgin is marketing itself as the rebellious brand that will not nickel and dime its customers. Wi-Fi, at all tiers, is free. There is no charge for room-service delivery, and minibar prices are set at “street” levels.

Next, they talked about form, particularly in the guestrooms where they have created a hybrid bed with an ergonomic headboard and erectable footboard, as well as an oversized, well-lit vanity outside the bathroom. This outside-the-box approach is obviously something they will try to monetize, and Virgin already benefits from a history of atypical thinking for its other products. It will be very interesting to see how the industry responds.

The Chicago hotel has rates starting at US$209 for what Virgin is calling a 4-star experience. There will undoubtedly be a lot of buzz surrounding the opening if for no other reason than the Virgin name being attached to the building.

Of course, talk is cheap, as we all know, and at the end of the day success will come down to delivery. If Virgin can make a successful launch in Chicago and develop some critical mass (its pipeline has been slow in coming), with a personality like Richard Branson attached it could quickly become the brand to watch.

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