Hotel Brand Standards and Historic Buildings
By John Tess President & CEO, Heritage Consulting Group | June 09, 2019
For years, one of the barriers to redeveloping historic buildings into hotels was the specter of conflicts between the uniqueness of the building and the standardization of a hotel brand standards.
To avoid the problem, some property developers would forgo the benefits of the brand and create an independent. This approach has the advantage of allowing the developer to embrace the quirkiness of the site – sometimes with stunning results. An independent hotel however faces significant market challenges. The value of being affiliated with a brand is the built-in marketing program that includes a reservation system and a brand loyalty program.
Familiarity with the brand and the brand's reputation allows patrons the luxury of not needing to research the individual property. Affiliation with major nameplates as Marriott, Hilton or Hyatt brings instant credibility.
But for many years, hotel brands strongly embraced standardization. That standardization allowed operational efficiencies, a consistent guest experience, and the ability to create management metrics to measure market place success. First popularized by the absolute consistency of the Holiday Inns of the 1960s, brand standards can specify every aspect of the property, from the visual elements such as the monumental sign to the most mundane as the toilet paper holder. Large or small, each brand standard was established with a purpose.
Traditionally, the brands had the luxury of demanding rigorous commitment to their standards when negotiating with potential property owners. Market place drivers were suburban models where land was cheap and available. Vacation road trips placed a premium on parking and staying outside the city core. But these drivers have evolved as America has rediscovered its love for the big city experience and as big cities have worked hard to reinvent themselves into active, thriving destinations. A generation of travelers has emerged that embraces the urban world and has the sophistication to appreciate the nuances of varied regional, local and even neighborhood experiences.
Lodging corporations are not only becoming more flexible in applying their standards, some even "curate" their hotel experience to embrace a unique local vibe. Some of the roots for this lie with the success of the boutique hotels beginning in the 1980s. Some of this also is driven by the increasing segmentation of the marketplace. Also important is the increasing shortage of strategically located land in the urban cores.