Breaking out of the cookie-cutter hotel room
NEW YORK (AP) — The latest trend in hotel brands is to not be a brand at all.
While in the past, big chains sold themselves on consistency, today they are pushing one-of-a-kind properties over cookie-cutter rooms.
The shortcut to this transformation: get existing independent hotels to join the chain. New brands have been created, letting these properties keep their identity but still leverage the larger brand’s reservation system and loyalty program.
Hotel owners supposedly see more business. Guest get a branded seal of approval for an otherwise unknown hotel. And the hotel chains quickly increase management fee revenue without spending money to develop new properties. Plus, there are only so many new hotels being built each year.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International were among the first major chains to fold independent hotels into their system with Starwood’s Luxury Collection and Marriott’s Autograph Collection. Hilton Worldwide followed with the Curio Collection. Choice Hotels — best known for Comfort Inn — has the Ascend Hotel Collection.
In March, Hyatt Hotels joined the group, launching the Unbound Collection. It now includes six hotels with plans for more.
Sandra Micek, senior vice president of brands for Hyatt, explains what this new brand means.
Q: Why get into this unbranded space?
A: For us, this is about Hyatt as a whole and growing with intent. This is a way for us to really uncover some unique gems in the marketplace that offer something unique to people, where they want to travel — something that is unexpected or gives them a story worth sharing.
Q: What is today’s traveler looking for?
A: They want social currency. They want the ability to go tell a story about their experience, whether it’s about dining, interesting architecture and design or a fascinating past.
Q: Most hotel companies, including Hyatt, own very few properties, choosing to manage most hotels instead. But with Unbound you have taken ownership of several. Why?
A: For us, it is about a mix. It’s about actually demonstrating — like our owners — that we have skin in the game. We really believe in this brand. We just bought The Royal Palms in Phoenix, Arizona and The Confidante in Miami Beach, Florida. But at the same time, we are committed to being great at management.
Q: Why should independent hotels pay you a fee to be part of the portfolio?
A: It’s a combination of things. We bring that quality assurance. We give them the reservation system. But the unique thing is that we don’t actually want to change what the property is. We want to give that property freedom to be unique. I’m not sure you can say that about our competitors’ collection brands.
Q: Why did you sit on the sidelines so long, entering this market well after other companies?
A: With every brand, we want to make sure we deliver that quality that our guests expect. We wanted to get it right. It’s not really about a race for us. It’s about evolving with our consumer in a way that makes sense.
Edited for clarity and length.
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