Hilton said that its full-service collection brands – Curio Collection by Hilton and Tapestry Collection by Hilton – opened 40 hotels last year.
The company said that it planned to expand further in the coming years, as the global operators continued to lean on their soft brands.
Jenna Hackett, global head, Hilton’s collection brands, said: “Today, Curio Collection and Tapestry Collection offer travellers distinctive experiences at more than 100 hotels worldwide – from enjoying locally sourced seafood from the surrounding ocean waters as part of the Dock to Dish program at Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, to admiring the original chocolate factory design at The Wilbur Lititz near historic Hershey, Pennsylvania.
“Hilton’s collection brands promise our guests an enriching travel experience. Through the introduction of unique hotels to our growing global portfolio, we can maintain that promise on an even greater scale with anticipated openings in destinations like Lisbon, Paris and Madrid.”
The global operators have continued to build their soft brand options. In 2017, the Wyndham Hotel Group took itself to 19 brands with the launch of The Trademark Hotel Collection, a soft brand aimed at upper-midscale and above, which it said was designed for independent entrepreneurs who have built ‘an iconic hotel and are looking to boost its distinctive legacy with unmatched support’.
Lisa Checchio, Wyndham Hotel Group’s VP, brand marketing and insights, said: “A trademark is a symbol of character, an emblem of individuality. Trademark isn’t just another brand: it’s a rally cry for independent entrepreneurs who aren’t afraid to make their own mark. The Trademark Hotel Collection is the next step in our mission to flip the script on existing expectations and champion all hoteliers by offering them an independent choice outside of the current luxury and upscale options available.”
“The explosion of soft brands in the last several years has been focused on luxury and upscale hoteliers – with demand still growing at a rate of nearly 20% – leaving a market void for independent hoteliers in the upper-midscale segment, the largest segment accounting for 18% of rooms in the US,” said Chip Ohlsson, Wyndham Hotel Group’s CDO.
Wyndham’s announcement came shortly after Marriott International said that it would be leaning on its collection brands for growth.
“With our three-tier collection strategy that includes The Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection Hotels and Tribute Portfolio brands, independent hoteliers have more options to leverage Marriott’s powerful loyalty and distribution channels, whether through a new build or conversion hotel, depending on the location and physical product,’ said Tony Capuano, EVP and global CDO, Marriott International. ‘We’re seeing increased demand for Marriott’s collection brands given consumers’ desire to stay at properties with unique stories and independent hotel owners realising that Marriott’s size and scale can drive significant value to their properties.’
‘Size, scale and choice really do matter in the complicated distribution environment that we are in,’ noted Stephanie Linnartz, EVP, chief commercial officer, Marriott International. ‘Independent hotels are an invaluable part of our portfolio, because they make our loyalty programme more compelling, our sales efforts more effective and our overall hotel portfolio even more attractive to guests.”
Insight: When is a brand not a brand? When it’s a hotel which, to the naked eye, appears to be independent, with an identity all its own, but is really linked into the booking system of, say, a Hilton or a Marriott. Not everyone is dead keen on hoisting a flag over their property, but most hotels are eager to access those glorious millions of loyalty programme members.
And for those hotel CEOs staring down the barrel of their next quarterly report, it’s all free pipeline, a plug and play which adds numbers and adds a bit of excitement for those loyalty members looking for a touch of uniqueness in a world of, well, brands. It’s le win-win, non?
Well not always. Easily bolted-on hotels are easily unbolted and this hack has spoken to owners who have signed their unique property into a collection, safe in the knowledge that they can pull it out again if they don’t like it after a year or so. While this isn’t as bad for the operators as a rebadging, it’s a trial. Likewise, savvy owners are also looking at the likes of Leading Hotels, or the OTAs for their route to market, so competition can mean that the operators are being beaten down on fees.
But while we go fishing for our tiny violins, it’s worth noting that for every rambunctious owner, the imminent downturn is likely to see many seeking shelter with the brands. And, with the launch of new soft brands a constant - Accor launched one only last year - there are plenty of non-brands to pick from.