Hotel collections that emphasize the unique are thriving

By Jeri Clausing
INSIGHTAs luxury travelers increasingly search out unique travel experiences, private hotel collections that promote individuality over traditional brand standards are flourishing.

From very small collections like the recently announced Triumph Hotels to subsets of large collections like Preferred Hotel Group, executives behind the marketing alliances say interest continues to grow.

Their success is mirrored in the emphasis large brands have put on developing their own collections of independent luxury properties, such as Marriott's Autograph brand.

The Triumph Hotels brand comprises just six New York hotels: the Iroquois New York, Hotel Chandler, Hotel Belleclaire, Cosmopolitan, Gershwin and Washington Jefferson. The six hotels total almost 1,000 rooms. The hotels have been operated by the Horn family and its descendants since 1951.

Jeri ClausingLikewise there is the House of Kooser, a collection of 29 independent boutique hotels put together by industry sales and marketing veterans Greg Kooser and Suzanne Goldberg.

The emphasis, of course, is on "unique style."

"They are not cookie cutter," said Kooser. "We don't want any kind of corporate structure.

"I think of the old days when everything was very Stepford Wives. I think that does work for some products. But because we have such strong individual personalities and style, we seek out those kinds of hotels that complement that."

Service is also key, he said. "Properties where the manager is not afraid to go make the beds or bring room service up if it has to be done at that moment."

Bigger alliances of independent properties are also focusing on niche markets. Preferred, for instance, which launched a boutique collection about seven years ago when the lifestyle craze really took off, has also added a Sterling collection of more affordable but stylish properties and a Summit brand of exclusive hotels and resorts.

And Preferred CEO Lindsey Ueberroth says interest continues to grow independent alliances over traditional brands.

She said the company recently had 11 properties drop brands like Ritz-Carlton, Hyatt and the Luxury Collection join.

"A lot of big hotels are deciding to go independent," she said. "That is something we are putting a lot of focus on."
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