Marketing the Rainbow
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Born in 1998 from the bold attitude and 24/7 culture of New York City, W Hotels, part of Marriott International (when latter took over Starwood Hotels), has disrupted and redefined the hospitality scene for over two decades. "Trailblazing its way around the globe, with more than 55 hotels, W is defying expectations and breaking the norms of traditional luxury wherever the iconic W sign lands."
W Hotels attempt to include the letter "W" wherever possible - the swimming pool is known as "Wet" and the laundry bag in every room is known as “Wash”. W Hotels are known for the trademarked “Whatever/Whenever” service philosophy and pioneered the now popular “lifestyle” hotels
"With a mission to fuel guests’ lust for life, W ignites an obsessive desire to soak it in, live it up and hit repeat. The brand’s provocative design, iconic Whatever/Whenever service and buzzing Living Rooms create an experience that is often copied but never matched. Innovative, inspiring and infectious, the brand’s super-charged energy celebrates guests’ endless appetite to discover what’s new/next in each destination, to see more, feel more, go longer, stay later. W Hotels Worldwide is proud to participate in Marriott Bonvoy, the name of Marriott’s travel program."
W stated they wanted to evolve beyond pride festivals and rainbow flags to create international destinations for LGBT travelers, and launched a series of online travel guides of historic and social destinations around the world that will give queer travelers the opportunity to explore locations that have shaped LGBT history. Remarkably they also chose Istanbul, as gay life there is not very 'easy', which is witnessed by the police violence during Pride. Other guides were made for Atlanta (with
Munroe Bergdorf and Darnell Moore) and Mexico City (with Carmen Carrera).
Sydney Mardi Gras, 2020
W Hotels teamed up with Mardi Gras to "Love Out Loud" in 2020. W inspired travelers to celebrate equality with first-ever Sydney parade float: "Whoever you are, wherever you are, you’re welcome at W Hotels. With inclusiveness at the heart of W since it debuted over 20 years ago, the global, trailblazing lifestyle hotel brand is teaming up with Australia’s longest running LGBTQI organisation, the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, to celebrate equality and inspire travellers to love out loud."
Oscar and Grammy-winning singer Jennifer Hudson was a spokesperson for the W Hotels and the Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) in the Turn It Up For Change: Love Has No Limit initiative. This project aimed to raise awareness about "the battle for marriage equality in the U.S." and funds to "support the ongoing struggle for LGBT in all realms." Her song "I Still Love You" was about a gay man who wants his dad to come to his wedding, held at a W Hotel. The wedding party shown in the video includes models Shaun Ross and Claudia Charriez, actress Leisha Hailey and drag queen Manila Luzon
The International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association announced in 2018 that Marriott International was named a Platinum Level global partner, which places them in the top tier of global brand leaders that have committed to year-round support for the association and LGBTQ-welcoming travel. IGLTA is the world’s leading member-based organization for LGBTQ hospitality and tourism.
They announces the “them. x W Hotels Summer Book Club,” a collaboration with them., the next-generation media platform that provides news and commentary through the lens of today’s LGBT+ community. By harvesting the power of storytelling, W Hotels and them. hoped to bring further attention to queer authors and audiences by shining their collective spotlight on three moving literary titles throughout the summer of 2021.
Guests at select W hotels across North America could request a copy of the book to borrow during their stay simply by calling Whatever/Whenever™ and mentioning the them. x W Hotels Summer Book Club selection of the month.
This article was last updated Mar 23, 2022
For over 20 years, W Hotels has advocated for the LGBTQ community and has marketed their brand to target gay travelers. Next to partcipating in, programming for or sponsoring Pride events, they have collaborated with artists and influencers, produced podcasts and other media to celebrate and support the LGBT community. They score a 9/10.
Late 2021 Gay Times introduced Queer Me Out: Chasing Tales, a brand new podcast from GAY TIMES and W Hotels. Each week, host Harriet Rose and a special guest reminisce about queer stories and experiences from some of Europe’s best LGBT+ friendly destinations. including Ibiza, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona and London.
“Whether through original music, digital art, or dancing in the streets at parades around the world, W Hotels has honored Pride with artists of countless mediums over the years,” said Carly Van Sickle, Senior Director, Global Brand Marketing, W Hotels Worldwide. “This year—in light of smaller gatherings—we wanted to celebrate Pride with anyone, anywhere, who would like to connect through the written word. Together with the incredible team at them., we are excited to support three talented authors with our LGBTQ+ guests and fans.”
For the 2019 Amsterdam Pride Parade, W commissioned fashion designer David Laport to set up their float in the parade. David didn’t want to just celebrate his community – he wanted to give these heroes real capes (and sparkly ones at that!).
W was the first hotel brand to have a float in New York City's annual Pride parade. To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall and WorldPride NYC, the brand hosted a larger than life float. W Pride Ambassador and boundary breaking pop star Hayley Kiyoko was joined by influencers JoAnne the Scammer, The LA Basics, Manscapers NY and Chris Kelmens as well as 250 guests who danced and marched alongside W's LOVE OUT LOUD float.
W invited photographer Danielle Levitt to use her iconic style to photograph the faces of PRIDE for W Hotels’ Queer Me Out initiative – a series of talks featuring leaders in the LGBTQ community. Artists, chefs, performers, musicians, designers, activists – Levitt lets this fierce group of creatives shine, capturing their uniquely proud voices and looks to show the diversity, creativity, beauty and love we all want to see in the world.
Sydney Mardi Gras & WorldPride, 2022-24
Early 2022 we read: “We are so proud to be announcing our three-year collaboration with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras and the Sydney WorldPride in 2023,” said Jennie Toh, Vice President, Brand Marketing and Brand Management, Marriott International Asia Pacific. “We continue to strive to be a global leader in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion through culture and creativity, and Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is the perfect platform for us to showcase this commitment, which is core to the DNA of W Hotels.”
In 2016 W commissioned artist Baron Von Fancy to create an exclusive series of Snapchat filters. Whenever someone uses one of these filters during the month of June, W Hotels will donate a dollar to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The W Hotels x Baron Von Fancy Pride Snapchat filters are a part of the hospitality brand’s ongoing "Turn It Up for Change" campaign to benefit HRC which began in 2014.
Designed by 160over90, the W Hotels float featured special guests, international drag superstar Alyssa Edwards (RuPaul’s Drag Race, Dancing Queen) and Australian singer songwriter Vera Blue, joined by local influencers Alfie Arcuri, Megan Dijkman, Michael Finch, Brandon Kilgour, musician KYVA and Lola Van Vorst.
In 2021, they were sponsor and participant again.
W Hotels celebrated the power of travel to open the dialogue and break boundaries for LGBT+ travelers. #QueerMeOut is the platform for the LGBT+ movers and shakers across the world to fuel their lust for life, explore further, connect with locals and build a community unbound by borders. Here’s a recap of events at W London, W Istanbul, W Amsterdam and W Barcelona.
Even in places like Taiwan Pride was celebrated with Love Out Loud.
For the Pride festival in London W set up a float with Lady Gaga's designer Jack Irving creating a series of bespoke outfits for a troupe of 70 people. There were cocktails, pre-parties, the parade and - in collaboration with Gay Times and Glitterbox - "a series of loud and proud events". Kicking off the celebrations was Queer Me Out, the speaker series that was initiated by W. The hotel lit up in the rainbow.
Audaciously featuring three life-size cocktail glasses with dancers lifted to the sky, the W float took first prize for Best Design thanks to the gilded costumes created by Amsterdam-based fashion duo MaryMe-JimmyPaul, whose extravagant designs paid homage to the gold plated inaugural Gay Pride celebration in 1970s New York City. The designers are no strangers to glamor: they’ve dressed celebrity royalty the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Iggy Azalea and Kylie Minogue. Dutch transgender super model Valentijn DJ'ed for the event.
In late 2004, W Hotels introduced a refreshed version of Pride365, the hotel's yearlong weekend package that celebrates the LGBT community. As part of Pride365, guests receive an "alternative weekend experience" including a late checkout at 2pm, two complimentary cocktails, and a set of Dirty Linens pillowcases from Groovy Q (plus a $10 discount at the Groovy Q store), inspired by the erotic designs of gay artist Tom of Finland and the "Will and Grace: Let the Music Out!" compilation CD, with hits by Cher, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Elton John and others.
The Pride365 experience also includes:
"Because W’s always got it going on with hip happenings and so much more made especially for the proud crowd, that’s why!"
The Pride365 was offered in subsequent years, sometimes called "the annual 24 Hour Pride package", for instance for New York Pride 2013. The promotion included guest passes to David Barton, Bliss Triple Oxygen Energizing Eye Gels and an Eye Mask, a treat from Big Gay Ice Cream, and perhaps most importantly, late check out. There were many more celebrations, for instance in Atlanta.