I first walked into a Starwood Aloft Hotel down in Charlotte, North Carolina, last summer. It struck me as a “85%” version of their 12-year-old Hotel W brand. Room count was smaller (typically 85-115), and the rooms appeared to be about 15% smaller. Fixtures (bath, paint, linens) seem to be only a shade less nice. The staff seemed friendly, if a little less polished and knowledgeable, than their W counterparts.
The brand extension, launched five years ago, has now expanded to 36 U.S. locations. There are some pretty convenient spots, including one near ONT (Ontario/Rancho Cucamonga) and another only blocks from IAD (Dulles Airport), which is where I’ve been staying since Monday. The Aloft formula seems to be: (1) secondary market, downtown [Charlotte, Milwaukee, etc.] or (2) major metro, near the airport.
My stay at Dulles Aloft was largely pleasant, and at $99/night, it delivers a 2010 business experience at a 1998 price. Bed linens were similar to a W, and the fifth floor room was quiet, if a little chilly. The gym was excellent, and the pool, although small, was warm, and well-appointed. The Bliss cosmetics, and nice-sized shower were duly noted, as was the eco-friendly shampoo and body-wash dispensers.
There were a few service foibles, but the friendly staff at the Dulles Aloft more than made up for them. They neglected to answer my Twitter query as to whether I could be picked up at the airport (and then were not prepared to pickup at 11:45 p.m. after verbally committing to do so, but the hotel agreed to send out a driver. Further, they shuttled me back to the airport area twice to drop me at the nearby Dulles Westin for my conference. That more than made up for the unpleasant surprise. No harm, no foul.
As nice as the lobby looked, food quality in the wxyz self-serve cafe in the lobby left a bit to be desired. My “hot” breakfast sandwich was lukewarm and my dinner Caprese salad was half-frozen. In terms of food quality, it’s surely a notch above what you’ll find at a Hilton Garden Inn, but only one notch.
Aloft is effectively delivering a 3.5-star experience at a 2-star price. And I can generally live with that, on the road.
By the way, what’s up with a $6B hotel conglomerate not owning Aloft.com?