Chains and independent hotels to me are an oxymoron…For one, independent hotel groups tell the stories of their individual hotel members, while chains spend enormous dollars telling their own story, or that of their storied brands.
As the big hotel chains sashay their way into the turf of independent hotel groups (see page 16-17), who will prevail in this new competitive space?
Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Best Western International (BWI), Hilton International and Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group are all looking to Asia as a fertile market for their newly-launched Tribute Portfolio, BW Premier Collection, Curio and Quorvus respectively. Will they give the likes of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Worldhotels, Relais & Chateaux, Design Hotels, etc, a run for their money?
I think the chains have some work to do if they were to steal some of the marketshare of these players, let alone elbow them out of the room. Chains and independent hotels to me are an oxymoron. Strange bedfellows. But you would argue: Aren’t groups that represent the indies also a chain? No, there is a big difference.
For one, independent hotel groups tell the stories of their individual hotel members, while chains spend enormous dollars telling their own story, or that of their storied brands. For another, I can imagine that when independent hotel owners in groups such as Preferred, Worldhotels, etc, get together, there is a real sense of being in a singles club and they exchange notes on everything from which supplier is best for curtains to how they pamper their most loyal guests. In chains, they probably grouse about the chain itself – chaining them to some SOP, charging them hidden fees, blah, blah, blah, so smart these Asian owners have become.
Thirdly, the independent hotel groups are honing their skills further in story-telling and are evolving to cater to changing customer demand for ever more experiential journeys – read what’s behind Preferred’s revamp, Design’s Brand Lab and Worldhotels’ new direction Dream, Dare, Do (on page 18), for example.
I believe however that chains this time round do understand the market has changed and that to have a real go at independent hotels, they need to (a) be clear about where their collection sits (b) be transparent and competitive about their fee structure (c) be sincere in promoting the independent hotels and not the chain’s independent hotel brand and, most importantly (d) just let independent hotels be – i.e., leave them alone, because their quirkiness and imperfections are what make them unique.
Starwood for example has professed that it will be promoting Tribute a little differently from its other brands, with the focus being on the individual hotels’ stories, while BWI has a unique pay-for-performance scheme and if it does not perform, owners have the right to leave BW Premier Collection. Read all about it in our guide.
Best of all, the singles in Asia have a room full of suitors and can take their pick of the handsomest.