When the temperature tops 90 degrees at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas, the staff steps out of suits and ties and into lighter, more casual garb. "It’s called Code 90," said the hotel’s General Manager Doug Brooks, speaking at the Ritz-Carlton Luxury Forum, an event for meeting industry media held at Lake Las Vegas last February. "We don’t want our guests to think we look uncomfortable."

Particularly at the newer Ritz-Carlton resorts, the formal, somewhat stuffy style for which the brand is known is being updated with a look of casual elegance more in keeping with the settings in which the properties are located. At the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, for example, the dress code for staff is a Tommy Bahama shirt with a collar. No tie. And the interior design, while still redolent of silk, damask, and marble, feels more relaxed than the typical urban Ritz-Carlton. Ditto for the spectacular but similarly dressed-down Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas. Here, the Mediterranean design aesthetic is completely different.

"There’s a big change in our new properties," said Bruce Seigel, area director of sales and marketing for the Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Atlanta. "We offer more [design] variety, as well as a lot more guest rooms, and large ballrooms and breakout spaces separate from the rest of the physical plant."

According to a Ritz-Carlton spokesperson, the shift is a deliberate rebranding that started about six years ago, "when we began to recognize that we were losing business by being too formal and too cookie-cutter [with design]. But, we’re not going to lose our core customers by allowing people to come to the dining room in flip-flops and crop tops. The look may be different, but at the end of the day, it’s the same Ritz-Carlton experience."