Singapore, Singapore - February 29, 2016: Fullerton hotel building at Marina Bay in Singapore at night. It is illuminated with light and reflected in the water.

Finding Your Flag

Flag selection is one of the most critical decision you have to make when building a new hotel or rebranding, outside of location and financing. It can have sweeping impacts on just about every operation, and yet there are few guides available, apart from speaking to each firm’s sales folks and eliminating those brands in immediate geographic conflict. Accordingly, I’ve arranged a panel discussion with four individuals representing a broad range of experience in flag selection. Below their brief profiles are eight questions I posed to them during the confab. Rupesh Patel (info@smartguests.com), CEO of 3Hospitality. Rupesh is an owner/operator of several Dayton Beach properties. Michael Pleninger (mlp@nhghotels.com), Chairman of Newport Hospitality Group. Michael’s team manages over 40 branded properties primarily in the Mid-Atlantic United States. Vikram Sood (vikram.sood@sbcglobal.net), Principal of Nupala Hospitality Development. Vikram manages critical hospitality projects for owners/operators, primarily in Southern California. Anil Taneja (anil@palm-holdings.com), President of …

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A Case Study in Soft Brand Conversion

The number of properties converting to soft brands such as Marriott Autograph, Hilton Curio, BW Premier, Loews’ OE and the like demonstrate a significant upswing in traction for this hybrid hotel category. Seemingly, a fine balance between the hotel having its own unique identity and gaining in operational expertise, loyalty programs and web booking advantages have wide appeal with both owners and the larger financial community that provides the necessary capital. In Philadelphia, with a new Four Seasons Hotel in the making, the brand’s venerable Logan Square property represented an ideal opportunity for a newly independent hotel to make its mark on the City of Brotherly Love. The resultant property makeover, managed by Sage Hospitality, is now part of the Hilton Curio group. The senior team saw this rebranding as a chance to develop a truly independent, destination property that builds upon James Logan’s historical significance to the city as …

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How the Hotel Industry is Cutting Out the Mid-Tier

At the present, many hotels around the world are under intense pressure for profits. No single factor can account for this, but the broad response has been a tightening of budgets as well as a proliferation of new brands with a focus on lifestyle to target the emerging millennial audience. While it’s laudable to see a bolstering of the full-service spectrum of hospitality, this move lacks strategic substance because it fails to address the two key considerations of most hotel purchases – location and price. Instead, we are going to witness a depletion of hotels in mid-tiers with luxury properties thriving on emotional drivers and true branding while all others slowly shift towards a no-frills model. Echoing the Airlines The airlines faced a similar situation several decades ago. For those old enough to remember, mainstream airlines were rocked by upstart no-frills carriers such as Southwest Airlines that found an underserviced …

lmaadminHow the Hotel Industry is Cutting Out the Mid-Tier
Opened door of hotel room with key in the lock

Flawlessly Boring – An Industry Challenge

A recent stay at a big brand’s ‘core’ product reinforced a key flaw that ails many properties around the world. The property in question was located in the heart of a major city close to the convention center. The non-descript hotel edifice had easy street access with a standard yet intuitive front desk, elevator and signature restaurant layout within the lobby. Door and front desk staff were both courteous and personable. The guestrooms were likewise typical in their design, carved out of the directory of some long-passed interior decorator’s dream of ergonomic living. The idea here is that based upon years of road warrior travel and clad in total darkness, any businessperson could easily navigate his or her way from the front door to the desk, bathroom or bed. On the same note, everything in the room worked correctly – no housekeeping or maintenance shortcomings, a 42” LED TV dominating …

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It’s Never Been A Better Time to Join Associations

For most independent hoteliers, the decision to join an association such as Leading, Preferred, Small Luxury or Relais & Chateaux is a critical and complex decision. All of these organizations have stepped up their game of late, with grand improvements to both their web and sales offerings so that they can all stay relevant as traveler behavior changes. Moreover, the impetus to participate is exacerbated by the proliferation of inventory in the alternate lodging sector – that is, Airbnb – coupled with the marketing behemoths that are the OTAs. The costs of joining an association are not inconsequential, nor are the rebranding and conversion overhead costs, especially with regard to hard and soft goods upgrades to meet predetermined brand standards. For many smaller properties, this association relationship may represent the single largest component of the annual marketing budget. Accordingly, the decision requires due consideration from multiple departments. Here are some …

lmaadminIt’s Never Been A Better Time to Join Associations
ETOBICOKE, CANADA - JULY 24: Walmart Supercentre entrance on July 24, 2013 in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores. It is the world's third largest public corporation, according to the Fortune Global 500 list in 2012.

Lessons for Hotels from Walmart

Years ago, and well before my hotelier days, I traveled to Bentonville, Arkansas selling ergonomic furniture, mouse pads and the like. The Walmart offices were huge then and I can only imagine how much they have grown since. Today, Walmart is the world’s largest company by revenue ($288 billion) and employees (2.2 million), rivaling the GDP of many nations, including some that are traditionally defined as first-world. What’s most interesting to me is that hoteliers, by and large, have never really looked to this retail titan to see what they can glean. Perhaps it’s a stigma whereby Walmart is perceived as ‘beneath us’ or that a discount retailer is totally unrelated to our heads-in-beds raison d’être. In any event, here are a few initiatives that Walmart does exceptionally well that should be on our radar. They advertise. Walmart did not grow on its own. They are among the world’s heaviest …

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Churchillian Inspirations for Hotels

This short column is dedicated to one of the greatest statesmen that ever lived. Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was best known as the Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He served his country valiantly at a time when all hope was just about lost. My parents lived through this period; both served our nation, as did most others of the Greatest Generation. To them, Churchill was among the most influential individuals of their time, and even as he becomes an ever-distant part of our history, his words remain timeless. Specifically for hotels, our current situation can easily be seen as an economic war and a struggle for our industry’s survival. We battle daily for guests’ hearts and minds as they are increasingly distracted by fragmented media, new entrants like Airbnb and bargain basement shopping habits. We fight and bicker over such things as the best rate …

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Consistency in Quality is the Modern Credibility

Soft branding is a popular trend these days, showing no signs of slowing down at all in the face of billion-dollar mergers and acquisitions. Unquestionably, soft brands fill a specific demand within the traveler mindset – those who desire an independent property to add an extra layer of exclusivity to their trips while also expecting certain standards to be upheld. It’s a fascinating space and one that has yet to reach full maturity or capacity. Tapping in for a phone interview to elucidate how properties can succeed within a soft branded space is Filip Boyen, the newly crowned CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) and formerly the COO of Belmond who helped shepherd that organization through the Orient-Express rebrand. With its 520 properties spread across 80 countries, I’ve heretofore considered SLH to be somewhat of the ‘fourth flower’ in this arena alongside Preferred & Resorts, Relais & …

lmaadminConsistency in Quality is the Modern Credibility
Traditional style country house with landscaping

Just Like Home Is A Sham

‘Feels just like home’ or ‘Make yourself at home’ or any other iteration on this phrase is a common copywriting tool for hotels to create an inviting feeling for prospective travelers. While the intentions are all well and good, there is an underlying problem with this language. Namely, what does the average home actually look and feel like? Cramped spaces. Old furniture. Hodgepodges of mismatched art. No cohesive design or vision. Kids toys scattered everywhere. Messy kitchen. Bedsheets changed at a minimum of once a week. Grime in the washrooms. Mediocre garden. Nosy neighbors. Repairs upon repairs. True, the home is where the heart is. It’s where we rest, recharge and reflect, and this is the sentiment that we are all after when we insert a sprinkle of ‘just like home’ into the marketing prose for our hotels. We are subtly communicating that we want our guests to feel at …

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Brands Are More Than A Promise; They Are A Guarantee

Right now, the hotel industry is experiencing a virtual gusher of new brands. There are so many new faces on the logo tree that even as a keen observer of our niche in the world, I am having difficulty placing what brand goes with what house. I imagine that launching a new brand registers some excitement in the corporate head office, adding a somewhat pleasant diversion for the c-suite executives from the real work of fighting the real issues such as the encroachment of alternate lodging providers, elusive millennial travel desires, waning loyalty or the market domination of the OTAs. While these new brands offer intriguing ‘lifestyle’ bolt-ons such as improved lobbies, fancy cappuccino makers and shiny exercise facilities, lost in the designer mirage is the need to focus on the brands that got us to this point in the first place. For a moment, let’s address those core brands: …

lmaadminBrands Are More Than A Promise; They Are A Guarantee