Two Roads outlines plans for growth of its boutique brands

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The Marker in San Francisco was moved from Two Roads' Destination Hotels division to the Joie de Vivre brand.
The Marker in San Francisco was moved from Two Roads' Destination Hotels division to the Joie de Vivre brand.

OGUNQUIT, Maine -- Two Roads Hospitality, the new parent of Destination Hotels and Thompson Hotels, outlined its branding and growth strategy at this year's Leisure Travel Advisory Council, hosted here late last month by the recently remodeled Cliff House Maine.

Two Roads oversees 92 hotels under the Destination Hotels, Thompson, Joie de Vivre, Alila and Tommie brands. It is looking to add properties to its Joie de Vivre boutique hotels, expand its Thompson lifestyle brand to Asia and eventually bring its Singapore-based Alila resort group to the U.S.

Plans to open its first two Tommie-branded hotels in New York fell through earlier this year, but the company is slated to debut the microroom brand in Los Angeles' Hollywood neighborhood in 2018.

Two Roads also used the Leisure Travel Advisory Council to further clarify its growth goals to the approximately two-dozen members of its hotels' management teams in attendance. And it delineated its expanded group of brands to the 20-plus travel agents in attendance.

Marie Torres, Two Roads Hospitality's senior vice president of marketing and branding, described Thompson Hotels as best pitched to the "casually sophisticated" guest.

Peter Gamez, the company's vice president of global sales, described the typical Joie de Vivre guest as "modern nomads."

"Anybody can hire a great designer and create gorgeous hotels, but nobody talks about hospitality," said Niki Leondakis, CEO of Two Roads Hospitality. "We're competing by knowing what business we're in."

The company, whose properties collectively generate about $2 billion a year in booking revenue, faces the challenge of unifying a group brought together by three acquisitions within the past five years. San Francisco-based Joie de Vivre Hotels merged with New York-based Thompson Hotels in 2011 to form what would become Commune Hotels & Resorts. Joie de Vivre principal and Hyatt scion John Pritzker then bought out the 50% share of Commune owned by Thompson Hotels' founding Pomeranc Family and co-founder Stephen Brandman. Commune Hotels acquired Alila Hotels last year.

Destination Hotels and Commune Hotels announced their merger this January and named the parent company Two Roads Hospitality (in reference to the Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken") in September.

Two Roads finds itself competing against an expanding group of "soft-branded" four- and five-star hotel collections being marketed and booked by the world's largest hotel companies. Marriott International launched its Autograph Collection of upper-upscale and luxury hotels in 2009, and other companies have since followed suit: Hilton Worldwide with its Curio group in 2014, Starwood Hotels & Resorts (which Marriott acquired in September) with its Tribute Collection last year and Hyatt Hotels with its Unbound Collection in March.

Still, Two Roads, whose brands' histories date back to Destination Hotels' founding in 1972, looks to gain market share via a combination of customer loyalty and expansion and renovations -- recent openings include the Beekman in New York and Thompson Seattle, and the Cliff House is one year into its $100 million renovation and expansion project.

The company said that it won't shy away from repositioning its properties when needed. For example, San Francisco's the Marker, which was previously Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' Hotel Monaco before being taken over by Destination Hotels last year, has since been moved over to the Joie de Vivre group.

And with many of the larger hotel companies focusing much of their marketing efforts on luring prospective guests away from OTAs and getting them to book directly on hotel websites, Two Roads also looks to differentiate itself from its larger competitors through its relationships with the travel agent channel. It expects to upgrade its travel agent portal by next year.

"Just getting a better sense of the brands from the Commune Hotels side was helpful to me," said conference attendee Keith Waldon, founder of Austin, Texas-based travel agency/wine bar Departure Lounge. He added that his firm does extensive business with Destination Hotels because of its luxury-sector focus.

"We don't have a lot of history with Joie de Vivre, so we gained some valuable insight" by attending the Leisure Travel Advisory Council, Waldon said.

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