Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced that its Trademark Collection by Wyndham had reached 100 hotels with its latest signings.
The market for soft brands has continued to grow, with Hilton due to launch another, with the name LXR.
Trademark, which is aimed at the upper midscale and above, was launched 18 months ago, when Chip Ohlsson, Wyndham Hotel Group’s chief development officer said: “The explosion of soft brands in the last several years has been focused on luxury and upscale hoteliers – with demand still growing at a rate of nearly 20% – leaving a market void for independent hoteliers in the upper-midscale segment, the largest segment accounting for 18% of rooms in the US.
“Wyndham is the only hotel company positioned to champion upper-midscale-and-above independent hoteliers so they can compete in an ever-changing distribution environment with brand-backed support and guest recognition and loyalty.”
Commenting in reaching its century, Greg Giordano, VP, brand operations, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, said: “This global momentum is a testament to Trademark’s mounting appeal as one of the most compelling soft-branded offerings for independent hoteliers across the globe.
“These recent landmark additions, located in some of Canada’s most coveted travel spots, underscore what it means to be a Trademark hotel – unmatched character, charm, and individuality. These hotels are now backed by the global distribution power of a leading hospitality name in Wyndham, and a team passionate about driving more travellers through entrepreneurial hoteliers’ doors every day.”
James Bland, director, BDRC Continental, told us: “Does the world need another collection brand? Probably not. Is there space for another? Without doubt. I think that’s the point – they exist not to occupy space, but to boost system. They’re not intended to make lasting impacts on the mass-market, their purpose is to avoid violating competition territory restrictions, appeal to a broader consumer base, flog a few more rooms in a hotel that perhaps finds itself under the radar and – of course – diversify corporate risk should any particular brand turn toxic.
“Brand awareness (which seems to come and go more quickly than ever before) is still the key to the door for the biggest players, but outside of that is not really the main battleground anymore; preference (resulting in conversion) is perhaps more important now, plus price premium and in both cases, there is sometimes something to be said for scarcity; especially when serious volume isn’t really an option.”
At Hilton, July saw the company announce a franchise deal on three hotels in Dubai, with one to be rebranded the Habtoor Palace Hotel, LXR Hotels & Resorts. The group has yet to make a formal announcement, but described the hotel as operating “as an independent property as it joins the upcoming luxury collection brand from Hilton”.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, founding chairman of Al Habtoor Group, added: “Dubai is a safe haven for tourism and investment. The decision of Hilton to choose Dubai as one of the first locations for its upcoming luxury collection brand is a confirmation of Dubai and the UAE’s robustness and appeal.”
At Marriott International, the company now has what it has called a “three-tier collection strategy” that includes The Luxury Collection, Autograph Collection Hotels and Tribute Portfolio brands.
Tony Capuano, EVP & global CDO Marriott International, said: “Independent hoteliers have more options to leverage Marriott’s powerful loyalty and distribution channels, whether through a new build or conversion hotel, depending on the location and physical product.
“We’re seeing increased demand for Marriott’s collection brands given consumers’ desire to stay at properties with unique stories and independent hotel owners realising that Marriott’s size and scale can drive significant value to their properties.”
There remain other options for independent hotels. Last month saw Global Hotel Alliance raise investment to strengthen its platform, taking on the brands and OTAs for a less expensive, more collaborative take on distribution.
Chris Hartley, GHA’s CEO, told Hotel Analyst that he was confident of the GHA’s niche, commenting: “I’m not aware of any of our brands who have talked to the megabrands. They’re simply too expensive – it’s a similar price to a hard brand to join a soft band. We don’t have the distribution they do, but we’re infinitely cheaper and the big brands tend to exaggerate the difference that they make with a luxury or upscale asset – it’s likely to be only a few points in occupancy. As you get to the very, very high end of the market there’s not even that.”
One alternative that isn’t likely is a soft brand from the OTAs, with Expedia Group CEO Mark Okerstrom telling attendees at its annual partner conference: “We’re not building a soft brand, we’re going to try and find ways to leverage the platform to help our hotel partners manage revenues and manage costs.”
HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: Here at Hotel Analyst we are coming to terms with the idea that you should have really more brands than anyone can name, recognise or, really, care about. We don’t get grumpy with Cadbury’s for adding more chocolate bars, far from it.
As one wag commented to this hack recently: they’re not brands, they’re selection criteria. We’re entering, or have entered a phase, of niche brands were know and recognise and those which are part of massive brand stables with distribution front of mind.
The hope for both parties, niche and colossal, is that that customers will follow the former and emit true brand loyalty and, for the latter, that being part of the wider loyalty programme is enough to bring repeat bookings.
For independent hotels, the plan is to try and do both at the same time. As Hartley pointed out, the cost of doing this must be carefully weighed up.