New downtown luxury hotel shows how brands are selling Austin in 2022


On Monday, 1 Hotels announced it was building one of its luxury hotels in Austin, slated to open in 2026. The announcement from S&H Hotels, the Los Angeles-based company that operates 1 Hotels, completed successful Austin’s new bingo: it used the phrase “mixed-use”, mentioned Austin City Limits, and claimed that the 74-story tower it would reside in would be the tallest in Texas when completed.

Without questioning whether Austin needs a huge new luxury hotel downtown amid a housing crisis, or the vagueness of claiming a window into Austin City Limits (the festival, downtown venue or the TV show?), the release was notable for its mush of Austin-specific buzzwords and phrases. One in particular stands out.

Gaze upon this phrase with awe: “Modern, chic Texas bed and breakfasts feature furnishings that incorporate cowboy craftsmanship with the sophisticated tone and tenor of a tech town. “

This Mad Lib evokes, in order, a muddy Ford F-150, the Hermès store entering South Congress, lone dove, and Elon Musk and his various Central Texas concerns. It’s a truly breathtaking journey.

Without invoking the Webster’s dictionary, of course that’s what marketing is: selling something to specific demographics using targeted images and phrases. These metrics are meant to help Austinites and its regular visitors visualize a space instead of a rendering. But it also begs the question, who is it for?

And on a larger scale, what does that mean about how brands sell in – and in – Austin? Is this how the world sees our city now?

This may be the ideal vacationer 1 Hotel Austin.

Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images

For comparison, I looked at the PR language used for the new Hotel 1 in San Francisco, announced just five days ago. San Francisco is characterized as a “vibrant and eclectic city” that “has long been at the forefront of driving lasting change in architecture and design.”

Tackling the first sentence is the parlance of public relations for the city’s large LGBTQ population. More interesting for this exercise, however, seen through the lens of the city I reside in, is the repeated use of the words “design” and “architecture” in the San Francisco version.

San Francisco is, of course, a renowned American architectural city. Along with longtime icons like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco has a slew of Victorian, Modernist, and Tudor structures that dot the city. It’s no wonder the publicity assistants who waved their wands at this release pushed this angle.

Taken holistically, this means that in selling the idea of ​​San Francisco to potential customers – and to the city itself – the owners of Hotel 1 believe that what makes San Francisco unique is its diverse, extravagant and architecturally beautiful city position. Simple enough.

Moving to Texas, I checked out some recent press releases about luxury hotels in San Antonio, Austin’s closest metropolis. But even about an hour away on I-35, the language is completely different. The big buzzword in luxury sales in San Antonio is “history,” because, of course, of the Alamo.

“Guests will be inspired by the historic influences of the Otis Hotel San Antonio,” and The Thompson Hotel is busy “capturing the contemporary spirit of this historic Texas city,” according to the respective press releases. When selling luxury accommodations in San Antonio, it’s important to convey that the Alamo exists. Again, this mostly makes sense. When you think of our hotel, remember the Alamo.

It’s harder to understand what the Austin release says and what the world thinks of our beautiful city.

Rainey Street, rearranging once more.

Rainey Street, rearranging once more.

Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW

The only mention of design or architecture is in the footer of the release, in which Hotel 1 describes itself as a provider of “sustainable design and architecture”. Fair enough, because Austin isn’t particularly known for its beautiful bridges or modernist towers, a kind way of putting it, of course.

And nowhere is history mentioned except to describe Rainey Street, which in fairness is technically a historic district but retains almost nothing of the history (or the people) who made it so.

Austin’s press release relies on a fusion of low brows and high brows, like a blooming onion smothered in beluga whale caviar. Hotel 1 will fit right into Austin because it’s macho, but chic and expensive.

It’s authentic like a cowboy but designed for tech geeks. With so many inverses, it is impossible to extract any definition of the city. Ten years ago, this press release would have hammered home the “strangeness” and the live blues. Today, Austin has too many identities to keep straight.

That’s not to say that one type of person lives in Austin, or that marketers should cater to a certain demographic. It’s just that this press release reveals that no one, not even those paid to define it, knows what Austin is in 2022.

If you find Celine’s bronc buster 6G decked out and unlocking her Cyber ​​Truck in Tarrytown, let me know.


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