In her new role as Hyatt’s SVP of franchise and managed development for Hyatt Place and Hyatt House in North America, Julienne Smith will concentrate on growing these two brands. Hyatt Place is moving beyond suburban and airport locations into bustling cities (midtown Manhattan, downtown Austin, Nashville and more) as well as into resort destinations. At the same time, the company is growing its relatively new extended-stay brand, Hyatt House, which launched in 2012 after the rebranding of Summerfield Suites and Hotel Sierra hotels. Here’s Smith’s take on where these brands have been and where they’re headed.
1. Hyatt Place just entered the Washington, D.C., market for the first time and it’s part of a mixed-use development. Give us some details behind this deal, and how much Hyatt Place is involved in mixed-use?
The Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt and Hyatt Regency hotels have been and continue to be successful in D.C., and we felt a Hyatt Place would be a valuable addition. We worked closely with the owner, JBG, to secure the site location [in the growing NoMa district] and branding of the hotel. We have a lot of Hyatt Place hotels within mixed-use developments and more underway. Hyatt Place Flushing/La Guardia Airport recently opened and is a great example of a mixed-use project.
2. Hyatt Place is also on the rise in college towns. What makes these good markets for you?
We have Hyatt Place hotels currently open in markets like Columbus, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; and Champaign, Ill. We have locations under development in Bloomington, Ind. and Bowling Green, Ky. Putting Hyatt Place hotels in mixed-use projects in college towns are some of my favorite projects. From the guest’s perspective, they have everything they need at their fingertips. From the developer’s point of view, they can spread some of the costs, like site acquisition or shared structured parking, across the entire project.
3. Let’s talk Hyatt House. What’s your growth plan moving forward?
Hyatt House hotels are expected to open in locations such as downtown Salt Lake City and downtown Denver, as well as Charleston, S.C., and Pittsburgh. The brand’s first location outside the U.S. will open this fall in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Additional locations are under development in Shanghai, Mumbai and Panama City. Through portfolio acquisitions [in 2011, Hyatt acquired a 24-hotel portfolio from LodgeWorks], we have been able to gain critical mass. We do have a prototype for the brand, but we believe the Hyatt House experience can be delivered in a wide array of physical spaces.
4. Earlier this year the company sold a group of properties including both these brands and will continue to manage them. What’s the strategy for company-owned hotels in these two brands?
We are currently marketing both full-service and select-service hotels. As stated during our most recent earnings call, we believe the transaction market is healthy and we expect to be active on both the buy and sell side throughout the year. We have retained brand or management presence on all hotels and expect to do the same on future sales.
5. This is a new position for you. What are you looking forward to?
First, moving to Chicago! And second, I look forward to stepping into this role with a seasoned team of developers already in place.