A work of art: Hotel execs launch Artistry Hotels

PHOENIX—There’s the Art of War, Art of the Deal and now, thanks to some lodging veterans, the Art of Hospitality.

Out of the gate, seasoned hotel executives W.A. (Chip) Headley III and Bryan Guillot strategically picked development-deal heaven—The Lodging Conference, held here—to let some 1,800 movers and shakers know there’s another new kid in town: Artistry Hotels.

The brainchild of Headley, who serves as CEO of the budding independent boutique brand, the full-service concept is geared to play in the upper-upscale—or as some refer to it, the “new luxury”—segment. 

“We really spent a lot of time looking at where the hotel market was going and the change that the demographic pattern had brought to the hotel business,” said Headley “When we first started looking at it, we were just looking at millennials and how they are different: they book different, they act different, they want different things. But we soon began to realize it wasn’t just millennials; it was people who shared that thought pattern.”

The “we” behind Orlando, FL-based Artistry Hotels at the executive level includes COO Bryan Guillot and just-named CFO Frederick Burford.

“Early on, we were working on a concept for a hotel that was in proximity to a performing-arts center. We had kind of a working title, calling it The Artistry,” said the CEO. “The more we looked at that, we said: ‘Gosh. There’s really something to this.’ There’s a lot of interesting things we can do for a guest and experiences we can curate when you pull in performance art, visual art, music, stationary and reflective art, art that you engage, the spoken word. We would couple that with the art of the delivery—the art of hospitality—taking each of our guests and providing a local, curated experience for them. We said, ‘Gosh, there’s a brand there.’”

At press time, Artistry Hotels expected to have one deal “fully executed” by the end of this month and had an LOI on a deal in the Southeast that will be an adaptive-reuse project.

Headley noted the initial properties being looked at fall into the $300,000 per-key range; other properties would be market-dependent in terms of costs as there is not a prototypical model for the new brand. The CEO felt 200-250 keys would be a max room count to keep a “boutique” feel.

“We want each property to be a unique experience, so we’re not creating a cookie-cutter brand,” said the CEO. “There’ll be a thread that runs through, but our goal is when you walk into an Artistry Hotel the first time, your senses are overwhelmed with everything that’s going on in the public space. Then, as you move up into the guestrooms, it becomes very reflective, with reflective art and things in those spaces. Then, when you go to the second Artistry, you expect to see what you saw in the first, but you get a different experience and you see a different expression of the Artistry brand. When you get to go to the third, now your whole experience is: ‘I can’t wait to get there to see what I’m going to see.’”

Each of the executives has a solid past of experience to launch and wrangle a brand for the future. Headley has provided development, construction and consulting services to major hotel brands, and most recently served as co-managing partner and CIO of Flagship Investment Group, LLC. Guillot has 30 years of experience in hotels and casinos, notably as founder of Thomas Lee Group, a hospitality and gaming marketing company that caters to resorts in Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Turks and Caicos. Among other positions, he was involved with Universal Studios’ The Portofino Bay Hotel and served as a VP for Tishman Hotel Corp.

With fluency in casino/hotels, Burford notably helmed JCC Holding Co. (owner of Harrah’s New Orleans) as president/CEO and worked with Guillot at Thomas Lee Group.

In launching the brand, Headley said, “We wanted a place where community and our guests can intersect.”

Artistry Hotels is focused on urban cores and university campuses as two places that have “a lot of community around them that you can draw into the [hotel]space and create an energy in that space. And then, our guests get to be part of that local community while they’re there with us,” said Headley.

He added research indicated full-service guests want that sense of community and a local, curated experience.

“So that’s led us to look at art and how we could use art in different ways; interactive art that you can touch and feel and that a guest has a reaction to. Then architecture as art where we have—especially on our ground-up developments—unique architecture that in and of itself is a piece of art. Bryan [Guillot] looked at all of this and said: ‘The art of hospitality is what we’re doing,’” noted Healy.

“It’s all art. Art of the building. Art on the walls. Art in the food and beverage. Art in the delivery of all of this to our guests and the experiences they have. It’s kind of a unique value proposition for us,” said the CEO.

Plans thus far include featuring artists who will exhibit their for-sale work in an Artistry Hotel and an on-premises curator who would conduct tours of the hotel’s artwork.

“A lot of the art in the hotel would be for sale but we don’t want it to be like a gift shop with a price sticker on the art. That’s not us. We are looking at having an artist in residence who would have a little studio. We’re looking at all kinds of opportunities,” said Headley.

“We could engage guests in sculpture classes. It’s not just having someone show a piece of art, but we’re talking about guests being interactive with that art,” added Guillot. “There are so many aspects to the word ‘art.’ Some of it’s through education; some of it’s through classes. Let’s give the guest options.” 

Headley stressed, “There will not be any duplicated art anywhere [in any of the hotels]. It’s all original pieces. You won’t go into guestroom 105 or 130 and see the same piece of art.”

Guillot defined Artistry Hotels as having “energy, thoughtful touches, engaged, interactive offerings, vibrant design and the overall pursuit of a multisensory experience that reflect the property and the neighborhood of each location.”

In addition to urban and university settings, Headley saw opportunity to flourish in locations traditionally not top-of-mind for boutique lodging products, citing expanded usage of mobile-driven booking capabilities and distribution channels. “This has allowed us to look at cities like Nashville, TN; Richmond, VA; Birmingham, AL; and places where you traditionally would not have seen this type of property. It’s really the next frontier for boutique and lifestyle hotels in these metropolitan cities that are not New York, San Francisco, LA or Chicago,” he said. “We certainly would do deals in all of those places but our real key initial focus is in those top 50 MSAs located throughout the Sun Belt.”

The CEO noted there is a distinct strategy behind the geographic decision: “We’re launching in markets that don’t have these other type of boutique and lifestyle opportunities, so it’s easier for us to be noticed. If our first property was going to be in Manhattan, we would have a much harder time being seen and heard over the cacophony of everything going on. But in the markets in the Southeast where you don’t have a lot of this opportunity, it’s a whole lot easier for us to get traction. We also see this as a small, boutique brand. We’re not trying to do 100 of these; we’re trying to do 15 or 20 over time. If it grows beyond that, great… But, you can have the best lifestyle brand in the world and once you get a hundred of them, you’re just a different box; it’s a commoditized product of a different type once you get there. And that’s not what we are trying to do.”

The company plans to license the Artistry brand and manage the hotels.

Guillot noted Artistry Hotels would look to run its own reservations platform via its website along with some boutique reservations platforms and other distribution channels.

Artistry Hotels also has engaged hospitality design firm, WATG, and its Chicago-based Urban Architecture Studio practice, to help shape its brand concept.