HB ON THE SCENE: Davidson Hotels & Resorts on the Genius of Soft Branding

CORAL GABLES, FL—Soft branding independent hotels has its benefits; hoteliers are given the freedom to explore and discover a property’s true potential without having to worry about filling rooms on their own. For Thom Geshay, COO at Davidson Hotels & Resorts, a management company, soft branding is “genius when used the right way.”

Soft branding allows hospitality management companies to create stories and personalities for their properties without being restricted by brand guidelines, Geshay told a roundtable of journalists at a press event being held at the recently renovated Hotel Colonnade here, which is soft branded under Starwood’s Tribute Portfolio, a collection of independent hotels. 

This type of branding gives lenders somewhat of a “safety net” when investing in independent properties. While the investment community has always felt safer with branded hotels, it has also been “curious about these cool, independent lifestyle hotels,” he noted. 

Being affiliated with worldwide hospitality groups gives properties such as Hotel Colonnade access to a “distribution that’s just massive,” Geshay said, speaking about a hotel’s relationship with known hospitality companies in the industry.

For example, a guest searching for a room in Miami can find Hotel Colonnade through a Starwood booking system. This creates less work for independent hotels internally, thereby giving them more time to “be as creative as [they]want to be.” 

“The larger convention hotels tend to be branded,” he said. “They tend to be the big Marriotts, the big Sheratons and the big Hyatts. If you can be a soft brand on the same pipe as one of those, you get that spillover effect when there’s great demand that goes on, so it’s kind of really a unique marriage.”

Another benefit of soft branding a hotel is it provides an additional layer of protection for when supply increases. When supply is low and occupancy is high, there’s less competition in an area; hotels aren’t battling each other for a piece of the market. 

“When the market softens a little bit, it gets a little harder to fight for that, and that pipe provides you security on the bottom line, so it’s a genius combination of the two,” he said.

—CJ Arlotta