Lodging Executives Use Array of Strategies to Get New Brands Built

Locating hotels in high profile urban locations and exhibiting room models in highly trafficked locations are two methods hotel companies are using to gain market share for their new brands, according to hotel executives who spoke on Tuesday at the NYU Hospitality Investment Conference in New York. The executives appeared on a panel, providing a status report on these new brands, which have been launched in recent years to attract the large number of Gen X and Gen Y travelers who are spending an ever-increasing amount of the U.S. travel dollar. For one new brand that has many features that are geared to the younger traveler, Cambria Suites, the company has used a variety of methods to gain the brand greater exposure. One strategy has been to put a model room in an airport near where a Cambria Suites has opened or is soon scheduled to open, said William Edmundson (pictured), president of Cambria Suites, which now has seven hotels open. Also, the new brand will benefit from being built in some high-profile locations, Edmundson said, noting that a new Cambria Suites is being built across from Madison Square Garden. Two of Starwood’s newest brands, Aloft and Element, will open their first hotels this summer. Doing intensive research with both developers and consumers has been a focus at Starwood to make sure their brands fit their target audience, said Paul Sacco, senior vice president of development for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc. Also, Starwood built room models near its corporate headquarters, he said. While these are new brands, they have the backing of major hotel companies, and their large reservation and guest loyalty systems can give a significant boost to these fledgling brands. Guests at both Element and Aloft “can plug into the Starwood global system,” Sacco said. Both of its new brands, Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites, prominently use the Hyatt name, which has been a boost, said Jim Abrahamson, head of development for The Americas for Hyatt Hotels Corp. The Hyatt moniker has proven to be beneficial, as developers of mixed-use projects containing retail or office find that having a hotel with a Hyatt-branded name adds cache to the development, he said. The brands have been tweaked along the way. Panel moderator Stephanie Ricca, editor of Hotel and Motel Management magazine, asked the brand heads if they had any “ah-ha” moments during the rollout of the new brands. James Anhut, senior vice president of franchise development for the Americas for IHG, said for its boutique brand Hotel Indigo, the color scheme was too similar among the first three hotels opened. Design and color schemes are now more differentiated among the new Indigos that have come online. All of the executives agreed that introducing a new brand is worth the effort. “Customers like new product, whether it’s a car or a hotel,” Abrahamson said. “This industry will die if we continue with the same formula.”