HB ON THE SCENE: When Should Hoteliers Select a Brand?

LOS ANGELES—There are numerous challenges throughout the development process for the hotelier—one of which is property branding. There seems to be an endless amount of brands for hoteliers to choose from—and brand proliferation isn’t expected to end anytime soon.

During one of the breakout sessions at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS), held this week at JW Marriott LA Live, panelists, made up of varying backgrounds within the hospitality industry, discussed when to consider branding during the development process, how to assess brand success and advantages to leveraging the soft brand.

“We want you to leave here smarter than you got here,” said Chuck Pinkowski, owner of Pinkowski & Company, a hospitality consulting firm. “Our role is to help you do that.”

When to Pick the Brand
Selecting a brand early on could give hoteliers the leg up. “It’s a very competitive environment, more than ever,” said Mitch Patel, president and CEO at Vision Hospitality Group. “Evaluating brand opportunities early on potentially limits room for error later on.”

Lynne Roberts, EVP of capital markets at Aimbridge Hospitality, acknowledged the time, money and effort that goes into exploring brands, and it’s because of this that she advises hoteliers to consider a brand and franchise “pretty close to upfront during the process.”

Choosing a brand early enables the hotelier to align the property with an image quickly. “Not all brands are created equal,” Patel said. There’s a story to every property and the brand impacts this. “It’s very important you find an angle, a story,” he said.

Defining a Successful Brand
There’s value to longevity, from a brand perspective, suggested Ron Pohl, SVP and COO at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, but he also recognized the need to adapt to change when appropriate. Also, a brand can be successful with any number of properties.

It all comes down to the market. Mike McGeehan, North American development officer at G6 Hospitality LLC, noted the importance of a property’s location when it comes to a brand’s success. The passion and support of the brand’s team also play a critical role.

The Soft Brand Advantage
Roberts noted the importance of properties leveraging freed up monies when soft branding, recommending to use the saved money in loyalty fees elsewhere. For example, invest the money in social media by reaching out to the right strategic experts in the field.

While soft branding provides hoteliers with potential opportunities, there are downfalls if the hotelier isn’t careful. “You better be passionate about developing an independent hotel, even if it’s a soft brand,” Patel said, before admitting he needs to spend more time on one of his independent properties than the rest of his property portfolio combined.