Starwood launches hotel collection called Tribute Portfolio

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Rendering of the lobby rotunda in Tribute Portfolio's hotel in Savannah, Ga., due to open in 2016.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts on Thursday unveiled details of a new hotel collection called the Tribute Portfolio, which will compete in the upper-upscale sector. The Royal Palm South Beach Miami is the collection’s first member.

Starwood is working with Rockbridge Capital Partners to open three new Tribute Portfolio hotels. Properties in Nashville and Savannah, Ga., are scheduled to open in 2016, and in Charleston. S.C., in 2017. McKibbon Hotel Group and Tower Associates plan to open a Tribute Portfolio hotel in Asheville, N.C., in 2017. 

The Tribute Portfolio will be Starwood’s 10th brand, and will be similar to the Luxury Collection in that member hotels will be independent but marketed by Starwood. Customers who belong to the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program will earn points when they stay at a Tribute Portfolio hotel.

Dave Marr, Starwood’s senior vice president of brand management and global brand leader for Tribute Portfolio, pegged the typical nightly room rate in the $200 range, though it would likely be higher in large cities such as New York.

Marr estimated that Tribute Portfolio could have 100 hotels within the next five years. “There are a lot of great independent hotels out there,” said Marr.

So-called "soft branding," in which independent hotels join collections overseen by large hotel companies, is a concept that has gained in popularity. The collections enable hotel companies to grow in cities where their established brands are already well represented.  

Marriott International launched its Autograph Collection of independent hotels in 2010 and has since added more than 80 properties worldwide, including the Algonquin in New York, Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas and Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Hilton Worldwide last year debuted its Curio collection, which includes the SLS Las Vegas and the Highland Dallas.

Marr said that the strategy behind Tribute Portfolio is more about adding properties in cities where Starwood has limited or no exposure as opposed to further targeting cities where it already has a substantial presence. He added that Starwood’s strength in the luxury (St. Regis, W, Luxury Collection) upper-upscale (Le Meridien, Westin) and lifestyle (Aloft, Element) segments gives it an edge.

“If you’re [a hotel owner] paying top dollar for an asset, you want to make sure you’re partnering with a company like Starwood that will bring high-paying customers to the table,” Marr said.

Starwood announced its intention to develop a non-branded collection of properties during its fourth-quarter earnings call in February. A week following the call, Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen, who had led the company since 2007, stepped down amid criticism that the company’s hotel count wasn’t growing at a sufficient rate. 

Last year, Starwood increased its number of hotels by 4%, to 1,222 units. Marriott International last year increased its count by 6.6%, to 4,175 hotels, while Hilton Worldwide expanded its footprint by 5%, to 4,322 properties. 

Van Paasschen was replaced on an interim basis by longtime board member Adam Aron, who had previously served as CEO of both Vail Resorts and Norwegian Cruise Line.

The Royal Palm had been flying under Denihan Hospitality’s James flag before Chesapeake Lodging Trust acquired the 393-room hotel from KSL Capital Partners for $278 million. HEI Hotels and Resorts took over management of the property.

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