Two Roads Hospitality focuses on people, culture

ASPEN, CO—At this year’s Travel Industry Advisory Board Forum in Aspen, CO, held at The Gant, a Destination Hotel, Two Roads Hospitality’s leadership spoke about its portfolio of brands, company initiatives and what’s in the pipeline.

With diversity among brands—including Alila, Thompson, Destination, Joie de Vivre and Tommie—and a range of global locations, one message reigned clear: There’s not a typical Two Roads property, but a typical experience across the brands.

“We’re really a B2B brand,” said Todd Wynne-Parry, EVP of global acquisitions and development for Two Roads Hospitality. “Our growth is strategic, not just for growth’s sake. It’s about finding the right properties with the right partners.”

The Thompson brand specifically, Wynne-Parry said, is growing across the country from Texas to California, with new properties in Miami, Dallas and San Antonio. Others in the pipeline include a Tommie in Hollywood, CA; a Joie de Vivre hotel in Merced, CA; and a Destination property in Holmdel, NJ. Additionally, Alila will make its mark in Asia, the Caribbean and Mexico.

“We really should be in the top 25% MSAs (metropolitan statistical areas) and in gateway cities. We look at that opportunistically and strategically where there are big gaps like in Boston, Atlanta and Miami; we’re looking to fill those,” Wynne-Parry said.

Although Two Roads’ properties in and near gateway cities are in abundance, Peter Gamez, SVP of global sales for Two Roads Hospitality, wants guests to know that the locations just outside these big cities present just as many, if not more, new and interesting opportunities for both leisure and business travelers.

“We’re not just a lifestyle brand in urban centers. People may assume that the properties are in San Francisco or Chicago or New York, but there’s so much more to us. We’re a multifaceted brand, a lot of times just a driving distance from urban centers,” Gamez said.

“For example, in the San Francisco Bay area, we can take care of our Silicon Valley corporate account needs, but now they have a resort in Big Sur or Carmel that they can go to. It’s a collection of hotels that they can identify with,” he said.

This differentiation is what allows a brand to operate two properties in a specific location, Gamez said, as each embraces its own identity. For example, this allows for two Joie de Vivre locations in New York City, as each property honors the surrounding neighborhood.

“You could wake up in a hotel and not know where you are, whereas we bring culture in through artwork or community involvement,” Gamez said. “We don’t deny we’re in Chinatown, we embrace it through food and beverage, services and our culture museum on the second floor.”

This is what makes Two Roads Hospitality distinct, according to Sherri Gilligan, CMO of Two Roads Hospitality.

“We celebrate the individual and the community. As much as the big brands like to talk about their differences, with soft brands—they’re mainly doing it for business reasons because they have restrictions within cities—everything we do, we do with the customer first,” she said. “Everybody feels welcome. You can be yourself when you’re at our properties.”

She continued, “I hear a lot of people say, ‘We let our GMs…’ We don’t ‘let’ our GMs, we encourage our GMs. You’re not our brand if you’re not embracing the community. We don’t want a property to look stale or similar. The service standards will be there. This is why owners like us, why GMs like to work with us. We say, ‘Do what works for your community.’”

Community involvement for Two Roads properties is done through its brand signature touchpoints, an initiative that focuses on local points of interest.

For Destination properties, these are called “Destination Taste”—being changed to “Destination Senses”—where a property selects a local sense to deliver to guests. This includes experiences specific to each property that “elevate the senses” and integrate guests into the community. These offerings can be serving wine from local vineyards, whose proceeds go to local charities.

For Thompson properties, there are four touchpoints: wellness, culinary, fashion/arts and entertainment. These pillars represent different guest experiences happening quarterly.

A wellness experience could be meditation or yoga sessions, or Run with the GM, where guests can join a property’s general manager in a morning run. Culinary experiences range from farm-to-table options and menu offerings from local breweries. Fashion/art and entertainment experiences include featuring local businesses, retailers and artists on site.

Joie de Vivre properties have similar values in connecting locals and guests with “Playful Stays” that can include curated maps for guests highlighting “off-the-beaten-path” type attractions. The brand also offers “Life Stories,” which bring locals into the hotels to talk more about each property’s surrounding area.

For Hotel Kabuki in the Japantown area of San Francisco, the property holds traditional Japanese tea ceremonies to honor its neighborhood, something that wasn’t done before in the area, Gamez said.

“It’s been rewarding to see how we color outside the lines to meet clients’ needs,” Gamez said. “Hotels in the Silicon Valley area didn’t negotiate with travel managers so much. We took a different approach and said we’re here for the long run.”

Two Roads prides itself on connecting guests and locations and getting to know its clientele, but there’s always room for more. According to the company, later this year, Two Roads is rolling out a CRM platform to integrate email, texts and website content.

Coupled with that is a check-in program for hotel employees. When a guest checks in, a pop-up box appears for associates—with the guest’s picture if they’ll allow it—with guest information and preferences.

“The CRM platform is our way of making sure every individual feels like they’re welcome,” Gilligan said. “We can pull it up and say, ‘I understand you stayed at the Thompson Chicago last time—what did you love about that property?’ It’s a way to help our associates really know that guest and really give them the service that’s distinct.”

Also in the works is integrating Amazon Alexa into guestrooms. While using Alexa can feel detached, Two Roads plans to personalize the experience. For example, Gilligan said, when trialing Alexa at the Thompson Seattle property at a hospitality CIO summit, when guests activated Alexa, the organizer of the event greeted them.

“We really strongly believe the more high-tech you get, the more high-touch you need to be. The beauty is that we’re already super high-touch,” Gilligan said. “A lot of people will put the high-tech in and eliminate people and interactions. We’ll always have people; we believe you still need the high-touch.” HB

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